5 steps to improve diversity and inclusion at work

IOE senior staff highlight what steps companies can take to promote and mainstream diversity and inclusion in recruitment processes and business operations.

In our previous blog, we set out how effective diversity and inclusion policies can benefit employers’ business objectives and end longstanding biases. In this blog, we highlight 5 steps the private sector and employers’ organisations can take at the enterprise level to create a workplace that is productive, diverse, and inclusive.

  1. Pursue conscious leadership

"Diversity and inclusion need to be topics that every single employee at the company has a stake in." — Bo Young Lee

Having senior management that is invested in advancing diversity and inclusivity at their organisation or company, is key for creating clear policies, inclusive workplaces, and promoting employee growth.

This means bringing awareness and clarity to the importance of diversity and inclusion, integrating best-practice examples into your leadership, coaching senior leaders and middle management to take ownership of diversity and inclusion strategies, encouraging accountability, highlighting the importance of communication, and be willing to take the time to train or learn about biases.

Cultivating a company culture that understands the need for stronger mandates in hiring, promotions, and development opportunities is essential. As explained in a Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, an organisation or a company must value the merit and individual strengths that an employee brings to the table regardless of gender, colour, age, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and try to utilise these strengths to improve your efficiency and outreach.

Has your internal talent been capitalised effectively? Are learning opportunities being provided equally? Are promotions considered using fair criteria? Have mentorship programmes been considered? Policies with clear criteria that cover these questions are a helpful starting point for any company or organisation.

  1. Examine your recruitment and human resource policies

Having a human resource approach that is diversity-oriented means ensuring a fair hiring process and promoting an inclusive workplace environment that provides equal rights and opportunities.

What should an effective recruitment policy and process that promotes diversity and inclusion include to prevent bias?

Systematically identifying and addressing bias in the recruitment process ensures that applicants of varying backgrounds can bring their talent and qualities to the company or organisation. For example, if your hiring announcements are done by word of mouth, this has the potential to amplify unequal practices because people from the same or similar circles often network amongst themselves. You may end up not hiring the best-qualified talent because applicants will simply not be aware of the existence of an open position at your company. One solution may be to review which platforms are being used and whether it may make sense to also advertise roles on different platforms, or to optimise job postings for internet searches.

Additionally, your company’s job descriptions may include biased text (gender bias, racial bias). Qualified applicants may decide to turn away because of biases in your announcements. Are job descriptions clear or do they include company-specific jargon that outsiders may not understand? This may demotivate applicants into believing they do not have the necessary know-how, although it was an issue with the job description itself.

Your organisation or company can also implement standard scoring criteria for CVs which take simple facts from a CV to a scoring sheet. Such recruitment templates are easily available online and can be adapted to your type of sector or work.

Furthermore, once candidates are at the interview stage, having more than one person conducting the interview, or asking candidates to complete a standard work task that is in line with the job role as part of the interview could also be a good step towards reducing recruitment bias and focusing on skills.

  1. Get the data

Within your own company or organisation, do employees reflect the diversity of your region or country? Is the talent you are hiring mostly from one similar ethnicity, identity group, race, gender, or geographic location? Are accommodations such as flexible working hours or teleworking being made for employees with disabilities or employees with children? The COVID-19 pandemic pushed many service-related jobs towards telework. Given that productivity does not necessarily decline with telework as detailed in an IOE policy paper and an analysis from Deloitte, this should continue to be an acceptable way of working once the pandemic is over.

Increasing awareness of diversity and inclusion is difficult without data. Data that looks at gender balance, ethnicity, race, age, or disability is critical to understanding the level of diversity and paths to inclusion. To capture this information, simple company or organisational surveys that a business of any size can carry out, and which answer the questions posed above can be done internally, depending on your country’s data protection guidelines.

More extensive surveys should also be carried out; however, they can be an expense that enterprises cannot always afford. Small and medium enterprises often do not have the capacity or expertise to undertake this type of research. Therefore, it is important for statistical institutions, through governments and academia and with the help of regional and international institutions, to collect relevant data and information that can be compiled with the private sector in mind. Employers’ organisations can support the work of national-level statisticians, labour, and economic experts with pertinent information that can later be translated to specific policy guidance for companies.

  1. Stay informed, join forces and spread the word

One way for employers’ organisations to implement diversity and inclusion policies could be to consider designating a diversity and inclusion focal point within the organisation. This person could be nominated to attend trainings on diversity. This way, the person can specialise on this topic over time and support the organisation in making better-informed decisions. The focal point can also be responsible for formulating the organisation’s position at local and global events.

At the local level, IOE members can also join forces with partner companies or have joint activities with local government officials, or NGO groups. This could be as simple as starting a joint blog or webinar, as a first step to advocate for strong diversity programmes and advocacy work within the community, the workforce and among clientele. Formal or informal exchange with peers about how to overcome any challenges or better understand what has worked for one company or organisation may be helpful for yours.

  1. Say ‘Yes’ to support

With access to experts at the regional and international level, the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) is an easy first point of reference for further support on diversity and inclusion. IOE has a strong Gender Network which is actively promoting women empowerment and inclusion at the workplace. IOE is also engaged in initiatives, such as the UN Global Compact Target Gender Equality. Additionally, IOE is deeply involved in the ILO Global Business and Disability Network, an employer-led initiative that works to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in workplaces.

We conclude with an interesting quote:

Celebrate your difference. Don’t try to be normal. Be greater than you thought you could possibly be. And together through our diversity we can collectively contribute to a more positive and inclusive societal transformation.

IOE address

71 Avenue Louis-Casaï
1216 Cointrin
Geneva, Switzerland

T: +41 22 929 00 00
F: +41 22 929 00 01