Hiring managers should be aware of legislation relevant to having a basic level of non-discrimination in the workplace: the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015, and the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2015. According to this legislation, discrimination is defined as ‘treating someone in a less favourable manner than others’, based on any of the following 9 grounds:
- Civil status (married, single, separated, divorced, civil partnership)
- Family status (if the person is the parent of someone under 18 years of age, or the parent or primary carer of someone with a disability)
- Sexual orientation
- Age (this does not apply to someone under 16 years of age)
- Membership of traveller community
Diversity in its broader workplace sense means that an organisation employs a wide team of people that is reflective of the society in which it exists and operates. Differences can be visible and invisible, and cover such characteristics as accent, nationality, personality, culture and language.
Inclusion means having a workplace where all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organisation’s success. Being inclusive is necessary to make best use of a diverse workforce.
So, diversity refers to the traits and characteristics that make people unique while inclusion refers to the behaviours and social norms that ensure people feel welcome.
They are similar but strategies for both need to be implemented to maximise the business potential. They don’t just happen. They must be designed.
Discrimination can affect a person’s health and well-being and their employment opportunities and can cost employers significantly in legal costs and loss of reputation.
The benefits of a diverse workplace can be improved performance, innovation and sales, as well as improved employee retention. The challenge of a diverse workplace is that differences do make it hard for people to connect and empathise but is easily overcome.
Diversity starts at the recruitment stage
Remove biased language from the job description.
In the job advertisement, be clear, but as broad as possible in describing the competencies and experiences needed for the job.
Offer workplace policies that are more appealing to diverse candidates. Flexible policies are one of the best policies to attract diverse candidates. E.g., flexible schedule, working from home, emphasise work/life balance.
Have a diverse interview team, including people who will bring diverse outlooks.
Recognise the potential to bring unintended biases to the process, and address this by having a clear and open discussion among the team before the interview process.
In the interview, ask all candidates the same questions.
Avoid making assumptions about a diverse candidate’s ability to fit in or “feel comfortable” in the position. E.g. do not assume that a female candidate will not be compatible with an all-male team.
In terms of discrimination against people with disabilities, financial grants from the government to make premises/equipment accessible and provision of flexible working arrangements may not be well known among employers.
An example of cultural difference is that Latinos are taught to work hard and keep their head down. To self–promote is seen as boasting. In a US culture however, people are expected to speak about their accomplishments, as those who do not are overlooked for promotions.
Tips on Inclusion
As Tim Cook (Apple) says: “Inclusion inspires innovation”.
Inclusion starts at the top.
Train managers in the meaning of inclusion. We all have conscious and unconscious bias. Good training makes people aware of their biases and emphasises the importance of demonstrating an inclusive behaviour, such as active listening, encouraging different points of view.
Identify under–represented groups needs and give them the necessary supports.
Provide staff with a safe place to voice their concerns.
Before meetings, send out an agenda. This may help those whose English is not their first language, and those with introverted tendencies to absorb the material and contribute meaningfully.
Introduce mentoring and coaching.
If flexibility is part of the diversity strategy, then employees must understand that making use of flexible arrangements will not adversely affect their job. Managers should find a way of showing that sometimes family matters come first.
Inclusivity is necessary to reap the benefits of a diverse work force.
Diversity and inclusion are not one-off projects. They must be continuously implemented and fine–tuned.
Concentrate on fairness and inclusion in all recruitment and development issues, being aware of conscious and unconscious bias.
- Technology is aiding employers become more inclusive and diverse. Computer programmes are now available to scan job advertisements to ensure they are bias free.
- Mental health is now recognised by employers as a health and safety concern as well as an employee welfare issue. More employers are putting in supports to aid their employees in managing stress and their wellbeing.
- Extended Parental leave for men is becoming more common in progressive companies.
- Gender inequality is becoming more visible.
- Salaries, or at least pay bands, are becoming more transparent.