5 diversity and inclusion best practices your business should implement

By Lina Arshad

Diversity is the word on everybody’s lips right now, especially in the business world. What was once neglected and overlooked in industries everywhere, has become pivotal to business survival, especially for those operating in industries like tech, with deep-rooted stigmas around the profession and what type of person is fit for these roles. In doing this, businesses weren’t only acting unethically towards those from different backgrounds or belonging to different societal groups, but it was severely limiting their talent pool—and further putting off diverse talent from applying.  

Since the pandemic, there has been a huge shift in the behavior, demands, and values of employees and job seekers everywhere, with a significant focus on health and well-being. It wasn’t just physical health that people became more aware of, though. With people being faced with health and financial worries, the loss of loved ones, and loneliness through lockdowns, this health crisis also shone a light on how important it is to take care of our own mental health and in turn, to encourage others to do the same. 

And although we’ve all had our own individual challenges during these trying times, research from the OECD showed there was disproportionate discrimination during the pandemic for certain social and cultural groups. More specifically, the young, migrants, racial and ethnic minorities, and low-wage workers were over-represented in jobs that couldn’t be done remotely and were usually the first to be put on furlough or made redundant. Similarly, more women were leaving their jobs during the pandemic because of childcare responsibilities and are now finding it hard to re-enter the workforce. All of these issues heightened the diversity problem that many industries, including tech, have been experiencing for years.  

As we emerge from the other side of the pandemic, it’s crucial that we fix this problem before it undoes any of the progress we’ve made so far, and removes career development opportunities from already underrepresented groups, but also the chance for businesses to build strong, diverse teams.  

In this blog, we’ll be sharing 5 diversity and inclusion best practices you need to be implementing into your business model to succeed in the post-pandemic world where competition for talent is tougher than ever. 

Why is diversity important for businesses?  

Accepting people for who they are, rather than reprimanding them for who they are not, is always the right thing to do. But how can diversity improve your business success?

1. Improves innovation and productivity

The ways in which your business celebrates people from all walks of life doesn’t only encourage others to do the same and contributes to making the tech industry a more inclusive and welcoming place to work. In fact, a McKinsey report has found that the relationship between diversity and financial outperformance has strengthened over time. This alludes to the fact that more diverse teams have a richer pool of ideas, and therefore are more innovative and successful than those without.  

The way we are and think has long been associated with the environment we grow up in, so it makes sense that having a team of people from different backgrounds would contribute to a richer, differentiated pool of ideas—and more of them! The knock-on effect? Your team won’t be short of great ideas that have the potential to boost your results, making them more productive going forwards.

2. Enhances decision-making and problem-solving

As well as being helpful in drumming up more ideas for product ranges, campaigns, and just about everything else you need help with, diverse teams have the advantage of being better at decision-making and problem-solving. This is because having been faced with different challenges and situations in life can help people to contribute different skills and solutions to a problem.  

When it comes to decision-making, research by Cloverpop found that diverse teams make better decisions up to 87% of the time, and decision-making improves as team diversity does, showing a strong correlation between the two. 

3. Strengthens team skill sets

Every individual on your team will have a slightly different skill set, but this becomes even more differentiated when you have people from a diverse range of backgrounds populating your teams. When people have been brought up in different circumstances, they will have acquired skills that help them to tackle particular issues—and given that different groups don’t all face the same obstacles, you can bet that when you hire people from underrepresented groups, that they’ll have skills under their belt than your other workers. 

4. Improves employee morale

When your workforce feels like they’re part of something where themselves and their peers are celebrated and accepted for who they are, they’re already more likely to be happier. Add more successful ideation sessions and projects into the mix and this is boosted even further.  

When your workplace has an atmosphere of inclusivity, it inspires confidence and positive energy. In fact, research from Gartner has found that the intent to stay within a diverse workforce increases by 20%. And when your workforce is happier staying where they are, they’re likely to be more enthused and motivated to complete their work to a high standard.

5. Creates a sense of community

Nobody likes coming to a workplace where colleagues feel like strangers, so many businesses are focused on building a culture and sense of community that they’re proud of, and that their employees like to be a part of. And your business diversity and inclusion policy can define this. 

When people feel they are welcome and just as much of a part of the company as everyone else, a sense of community builds itself rather than vice versa which makes for a much more authentic and happier workplace.  

5 diversity and inclusion best practices your business needs to implement 

Now you’re versed on the benefits of how diversity can improve not just your employees’ lives, but your business success as well, you may be starting to think whether you’re doing enough. And while all efforts are worthy efforts, there is no end point for tackling diversity and inclusivity. There will always be extra steps we can be making, especially as the world of work continues to evolve even further.  

Here are 5 of the top diversity and inclusion best practices you should be implementing into your business, no matter the size, scale, or age of it.

1. Lay out a diversity and inclusivity policy—and be loud and proud about it!

Although just having a written policy certainly isn’t the solution to everything, it’s important that you have something that you can be held accountable to. The standards you set for your business in terms of diversity and inclusivity efforts need to be visible and it can also be helpful in identifying gaps to fill further down the line—and having a diversity and inclusivity policy can be just the thing you need. Yet, according to our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22, we found that just 65% of the companies that respondents worked for had diversity and inclusion policies.  

As well as being a helpful resource to assess your company’s own shortcomings and what actions are in place, it’s also a great document for candidates to refer to, to see your policies and how you welcome in people from all backgrounds. So, be sure to mention your policy in your job ads or display it on your company website in a visible and accessible place.  

Your policy should include your take on diversity and inclusivity, the measures you have in place to stop things like unconscious bias and discrimination from seeping into your business, and any initiatives you’ve taken part in or any charities you sponsor or are partnered with to help overcome these issues. 

2. Provide diversity and inclusion training for employees

According to our Nigel Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22, just 42% of Microsoft professionals who responded had received equality, diversity, and inclusion training in the 6 months prior to taking the survey. In addition, an even higher percentage (43%) of respondents stated they had had not had any training in it.  

In a world like today’s, where acceptance of all individuals is imperative to a fully-functioning society, it’s alarming that stats as high as these still exist. Plus, there’s no use having a diversity and inclusivity policy if your very best assets aren’t aware of it or practicing what your company preaches.  

Running sessions or having a third-party company to come and train your whole workforce to be better allies to everybody will help to create a better sense of community and a healthier workplace culture, which in turn is sure to make them feel happier and be more welcoming to new starters. 

3. Revisit the language you use in your job ads and marketing resources

It’s no secret that industries everywhere, and particularly within the cloud tech industry, are being impacted by the talent shortage. Although getting experienced talent in this competitive sector has always been challenging, the Great Resignation and the digital skills gap have ramped the competition up even more. So, it’s more important than ever that you’re being as inclusive with your job ads and marketing materials, to attract as wide of a candidate pool as possible in these tough times.  

Not sure where to start? Don’t fret—we can help! Read our tips for writing a great job ad that will attract more diverse talent. 

Even if you’re not actively hiring, it’s still important to make sure any content associated with your business, whether it’s your company website or social media channels, aren’t unconsciously targeting certain groups while ostracizing others. 

4. Create equal opportunities for progression

Our Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22 revealed to us that the top reason for Microsoft professionals to consider leaving a current role was due to a lack of career or promotional prospects—with 41% agreeing this would be the decision-maker for them. Respondents also claimed they would consider leaving to undertake new challenges (32%) and if there was a lack of exposure to the latest Microsoft products (22%). 

What these results show us is that not being given the opportunities they need to progress their career is enough to drive any Microsoft candidate out, whether from a diverse background or not. This makes it crucial to create opportunities for everyone to progress and grow with the company.  

Not sure what this should look like? Think about introducing weekly, or monthly one-to-one meetings so all employees have a chance to highlight anything or discuss any concerns they’re having with their line manager. Having employees fill out a career development document when they start, or as soon as possible, will mean you have a good idea of where each employee wants to be and when, and you can start planning how to get them there.  

Remote and hybrid working arrangements, while being a great way to add diversity into your business, can sometimes create inequality between who gets promoted or given extra responsibilities. This is because when you don’t see someone physically going above and beyond, it can be difficult to recall that they ever did. Having check-ins and noting down what each employee worked on each week will ensure you don’t overlook the effort any team members are putting in.  

5. Make collaboration a core company value

Attracting diverse talent into your company is just the start. Once they’re in, there’s no stopping them from leaving if they aren’t treated with the same respect as everyone else, and this can harm your business reputation significantly.  

While we have already mentioned how important it is to give company-wide equality, diversity, and inclusion training, what is even more important is how they act following the training. Collaboration can be a helpful tool not just for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of projects, but it has the power to get everybody contributing and have colleagues mingling who perhaps wouldn’t naturally.  

But collaboration needs to happen at all levels of the business, including right at the top. If your employees see leaders ostracizing others that are different to them, they’re likely to adapt this behavior and mirror it within their own teams and departments.  

There are many ways you can hold your business accountable for making impactful changes that will not only help your company, but also help the tech industry to progress in its diversity efforts—the above five are just some of the most basic best practices you should have implemented from the start, or as soon as possible.  

Once you’ve built on these, keep on top of their progress and the difference it’s making to your business. You can measure this through things like anonymous employee surveys, forums, or even through feedback in one-to-ones or exit interviews. Looking into aspects like employee productivity, morale and engagement can be helpful to see where you’re at, and plan for where you want to be with your diversity efforts.  

Need support hiring diverse Microsoft talent for your business? We can help.

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