Diversity in the workplace makes sense for both business and moral reasons that cannot be ignored. As the country’s demographics become more diverse and markets expand globally, it’s vital for businesses to be able to understand and adequately serve people from different cultures and racial backgrounds. Angelica Nwandu goes over strategies that businesses can use for hiring a diverse team and why it is so important.

What is Workplace Diversity?

Before you put a plan in place to make your office more diverse, you have to know what it means to have a diverse workforce in the first place. Workplace diversity is based on the idea that a team should look like the general structure of the world around you. In other words, your team should be made up of different types of people who come from different backgrounds and are diverse in terms of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic levels.

Why is Workplace Diversity Important?

While this concept seems simple enough, the sad truth is, many companies in many industries do not put a strong focus on diversity initiatives. However, having a diverse workplace actually brings many benefits. Having a diverse team brings people with different backgrounds to the table, meaning they all have different ways of thinking. The result? Solutions that are more innovative and get better results. In fact, one study found that there was a 3-9% increase in revenue for every 1% increase in gender and racial diversity at the company.

The idea of a diverse and inclusive workplace is about more than business performance, though. Creating a diverse workplace that offers equity to all is the moral thing to do and a step in the right direction.

Strategies for Hiring A Diverse Team

Address Bias in Recruiting

Bias can play a large role in the hiring process, from looking at resumes of potential candidates to making the final concrete decision on who gets hired. While it often goes undetected, this silent influencer can derail efforts to create a more diverse office. One solution is to use software that looks for and prevents bias. These tools may try to remove identifying information about a candidate, such as the person’s name and photo. While this can help in the beginning of the hiring process, the truth is, these tools act more as a bandaid to the problem. The interviewer will still hold implicit biases and will have to meet the potential hire in person at some point.

This is why training that helps your employees to identify their own biases and teaches how to challenge them is also needed to take the right steps towards inclusion in the workplace. This training is not a one time solution either. Because biases are so deeply ingrained in us, your company should employ continual training for your teams, with periodic check-in evaluations. While no amount of training can completely remove bias, it helps employees identify their own and allows them to evaluate how it may affect their decisions.

Choose Diverse Interviewers

People tend to gravitate towards people who are similar to them. While there usually isn’t a problem with this sentiment, when it comes to hiring, this can result in hiring the same type of person each time. In order to combat this, choose a diverse set of interviewers to interview potential candidates. By choosing an interviewer panel with people of different races, gender, sexualities and backgrounds, it helps reduce the risk of bias affecting the final decision.

After the interview, each person on the panel should discuss what they think about the candidate, with a possible moderator to combat any bias that arises in conversation.

Create an Inclusive Environment

Just hiring a diverse team isn’t going to cut it. In order to truly have a diverse and equity-focused office environment, you’ll need to make inclusion for all employees a priority every day. A minority that joins your team may leave your company prematurely if they feel unwelcome and uncomfortable at your organization. Furthermore, if you don’t practice everyday inclusivity, word may get around that you aren’t a comfortable or open environment for minorities, resulting in diverse candidates refusing to apply to your company in the first place.

Creating an onboarding program that goes above and beyond to welcome new employees onto the team and providing resources for people in minority groups are a couple examples of effective ways to create a environment that is welcoming and makes everyone feel valued.

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is not something that will happen overnight. It takes the continuous practice of addressing bias and creating procedures that make for an inclusive everyday workplace. However, although an inclusive workplace takes time to build, it is worth it, as it can benefit your company in many ways and, most importantly, it is the right thing to do.

Angelica Nwandu is CEO and founder of The Shade Room, a website that covers celebrity news and celebrates Black culture. She was named one of Forbes “30 under 30” in 2016 and has created a media company that inspired Refinery 29 to dub Nwandu “the Oprah of our generation.”

Diversity stock photo by Flamingo Images/Shutterstock