Members of the workforce increasingly expect their employer to foster a culture of action around diversity and inclusion. Consequently, leaders are realizing just how vital diversity and inclusion is to not only their hiring strategies, but the overall value of their organization. According to our research at Canvas, 100% of recruiters on our platform agree that diversity is valuable for their organizations, and 91% of them have established OKRs around diversity and inclusion.
However, hiring great talent from different backgrounds is just the first step in creating an inclusive workplace. Once these employees are onboarded, talent and D&I professionals must sufficiently nurture this new talent in order to ensure their fulfillment and retention. The following are seven strategies that your organization can implement in order to nurture the diverse talent that you’ve hired into your workplace.
- Survey employees from underserved communities. To nurture your employees from different backgrounds, you can start by conducting a survey of those who are members of underserved populations in order to assess what’s most important to their communities. It is likely that they feel differently about, for instance, your current workplace culture than other employees do. You can survey these employees regularly to monitor the progress your company has made and make changes as needed.
- Create inclusive policies. The bedrock of an inclusive culture is a company’s policies. If employees across the organization can’t answer the question, “How are we improving the everyday experiences of underrepresented employees?” then it’s time to adopt policies that will nurture diverse employees. Many organizations start by offering flexible work schedules that allow employees to take time off for caretaking, celebrating different religious holidays, or participating in cultural events. Your diversity and inclusion policies can also address professional development opportunities, transparent processes for promotions, company transfers, executive sponsors and mentors, and fair compensation.
- Train managers to support underrepresented employees. An inclusive culture must start from the top. Organizations should require robust management training on supporting employees from different backgrounds, as employees need to feel psychologically safe in order to do their best work. Accountability systems—such as tying leaders’ diversity and inclusion impact directly to performance, measuring inclusive practices over time, collaborating on ongoing skill-building, feedback, and action planning around inclusion—can ensure leaders and people managers foster inclusive practices that protect and value underrepresented employees.
- Celebrate employee differences. It’s one thing to talk about inclusion, but to really foster inclusion in your workplace, you should be celebrating the differences among employees. You can start by creating opportunities for employees to learn from each other, such as through potluck lunches where people share the food and stories of their culture, and celebrations of different cultural and religious holidays in the office. To further show your commitment to nurturing diverse talent, you can designate a space in the office where people from different religions can pray during the workday.
- Ensure all employees are heard in meetings. If you want to get a sense of which groups in your organization feel the most comfortable, pay attention to how employees behave in meetings. Do members of minority groups speak up and share their thoughts? Are women able to get as much time to talk as men? If you aren’t finding equity in your meetings, you can try conducting meetings in a round-robin fashion where everyone gets the opportunity to speak. This will prevent non-minority employees from dominating the conversations and show minority groups that their opinions are valuable and significant.
- Create resource groups for diverse employees. Employees from underrepresented groups may need extra support from peers who share the same background, especially when they’re first getting started in your organization. Resource groups offer these employees help and mentoring, as well as access to a sounding board for their concerns from people who may understand and sympathize with their experiences.
- Encourage inclusive language. The language that we use in the workplace can be a force for empowerment, or a force for diminishment. All members across the organization can use inclusive language to demonstrate a safe and welcome environment for underrepresented employees. Examples of inclusive language practices include:
- - Writing pronouns in email signatures so that all employees feel comfortable in sharing their identity.
- - Asking non-assumptive questions when unsure of someone’s sexuality or gender. For example, instead of saying, “How’s your husband?” you can say, “How’s your partner?”
- - Using gender-neutral professional titles, such as “police officer” instead of “policeman.”
- - Avoiding ableist phrasing, which tend to creep into our everyday vernacular with words like “blind”, “dumb,” “idiot,” “insane,” and “psycho,” to name a few. One way to use more inclusive language is to be ultra-specific about what you mean. For example, instead of saying, “My director is crazy for thinking we can stay under that budget,” you can say, “This budget is unrealistic.”
If an employee uses harmful language against a member of an underrepresented group, this must be addressed immediately with meaningful action, so that all employees understand why certain language is not tolerated in an inclusive workplace.
Hiring diverse talent is important, but it won’t mean much if your organization is unable to support and retain these employees. Leading companies know that nurturing underrepresented employees with a welcome environment after they’ve been hired is one of the most effective ways to create an inclusive culture and retain the best talent.
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