Driving Diversity And Inclusion In The Modern Workplace By Melanie Aronson

Buzzwords that make a company sound progressive are the new norm. They are easy to use and on a superficial level, they do check some of the boxes. But proclaiming, “we value diversity” and publishing a diversity policy is quite different from actually prioritising diversity within your team. 

Getting there isn’t easy but the financial benefits of a diverse workplace are clear. Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity, surpass their competitor’s financial performance by 35%. For a company to truly stand out in diversity and inclusion, leaders must rethink their hiring practices and prioritise the social wellbeing of their workforce. Melanie Aronson, Founder & CEO, Panion  explains a few ways in which we can all drive diversity and inclusion in the modern workplace.

Hire with functional diversity, ethnicity, and gender in mind

It seems counterintuitive. Isn’t HR supposed to ignore these things? Racism and gender bias are ingrained in everyone in subtle and nefarious ways and individuals must continuously work to overcome these. To really address the issue, organisational leaders need to keep these uncomfortable concepts at the forefront of their minds. 

Hiring and recruiting professionals must remain conscious and aware of their own innate biases or they may end up hiring people that look and speak like them rather than the person who is best for the job and the company.  

Create a community to maintain wellbeing

Assembling a great team is a wonderful start but it only matters if the culture is inclusive. That is, if each person feels valued, has equal access to resources, and can meaningfully contribute to the company’s success. This can be achieved through community-building. 

Small and informal social interactions that include open and honest communication can be powerful moments that bring people together, forming bonds that lead to fruitful professional collaboration. 

Laughing around a watercooler, team lunches, afternoon coffee breaks and the occasional Friday happy hour can significantly improve productivity, especially amongst workers who have little in common. This kind of community-building improves social wellbeing, which produces a happier work environment and improves employee retention. 

Stop pretending that everyone is the same

Acknowledging differences, not ignoring it, makes people feel valued and recognised. It doesn’t take long to learn the proper greeting for a religious holiday that’s not your own, and when said at the right moment, can be the start of a long-lasting, trusting relationship with a colleague.  

White people can feel awkward about recognising racial or ethnic differences but it’s important to face these uncomfortable issues head-on if we are to find a lasting solution. Acknowledging difference is not just important for social justice, it also helps employees know that multiple perspectives are encouraged. People of colour have different perspectives, and of course, are not a monolith. Leaders should capitalise on the multiple perspectives in a diverse team to avoid groupthink and make better and more inclusive decisions.

Facilitate unlikely connections amongst coworkers

Team leaders and HR professionals also need to find creative ways to help employees explore their commonalities. Community-building can help with this process. Developing meaningful individual connections within a company will also build loyalty and commitment. 

There are a plethora of ways to connect people, break down silos, and engage in community-building activities but they often require effort and planning. Fortunately, there is a simple and intuitive tool to help these types of interactions emerge more organically. Panion Communities acts as a virtual watercooler, bringing teams together for informal chit chat, moral support, and shared social activities. Moreover, Panion promotes genuine one-on-one connections based on common interests and goals, making it easier to meet like-minded people at work.

Hiring a diverse group of people and retaining them is an enormous challenge today and it definitely isn’t just up to HR. Leaders must also commit to a company culture that promotes social connection and wellbeing for their employees. This means devoting time to community-building and activities that promote more human interaction.

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