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Top ten practical tips for improving diversity in the workplace

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Improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a key focus for businesses. Having a more inclusive workplace is something to strive for; one that fosters a culture where staff can thrive regardless of their personal characteristics (which includes protected characteristics such as gender, race or disability).

We often talk about the challenges associated with implementing changes to improve diversity in the workplace, not least because many initiatives can be large scale, costly and realistically, it may take some time for the results to show.

With this in mind, the Ius Laboris Diversity and Inclusion Expert Group have prepared ten practical tips that businesses can easily implement to try and improve diversity in the workplace.

1. Establishing network and/or representative groups: Empowering your workforce to work together to improve diversity and create ongoing initiatives that highlight and reflect the values your business seeks to embody. There are many different options, from establishing a Diversity and Inclusion Board which is responsible for championing the business’ culture and implementing diversity and inclusion strategies, to setting up other groups that might be useful in your organisation. For example, creating a Working Families group where parents who are facing the challenges of balancing work and home life can have a safe space to talk and share ideas or establishing women’s networking groups (either purely internal or involving external organisations) where women in more junior roles can be matched with those in senior roles who can act as a career progression mentor.
2. Carry out unconscious bias and diversity training: This sort of training can now be easily accessed and rolled out to your workforce. It sends a strong message of the standards of behaviour expected without your organisation as well as helping to start a dialogue between colleagues on respectful workplace behaviour. Additional training encouraging people to speak up and call out behaviours that are not acceptable is also becoming increasingly common and can have immediate, tangible results.
3. Reverse mentoring: Rather than the traditional mentoring model of someone more senior mentoring a junior colleague, businesses are increasingly looking to implement programmes where senior leaders a mentored by more junior colleagues. Encouraging colleagues at all levels of your business to exchange knowledge and advice in this way can promote a deeper understanding of intergenerational perspectives, as well as improving leadership’s understand of the challenges faced by minority groups.
4. Consider how and where you are advertising roles: Fair and robust recruitment is critical to improving diversity in your organisation over the long term. Many businesses are already looking at how to ensure candidates are considered according to their strengths, seeking to discount ‘experience’ based factors where those from ethnic minorities or lower socioeconomic backgrounds may be disadvantaged, having had fewer opportunities to access such experience. We are also seeing businesses wanting to make clear to recruitment agencies that they expect to be provided with diverse short lists of candidates. Widening the pool of candidates you are reaching out to is also key: the first step is ensuring that the pool you are advertising to is not lacking in diversity.
5. Provide targeted internships: Offering placements which give opportunities to those who might not ordinarily be able to access work in your organisation (because they may be from lower socioeconomic or ethnic minority backgrounds) is becoming increasingly common. In addition, providing opportunities for internships to address specific challenges (such as internships for women in sectors where there is a disproportionately low representation of women in the workforce) can encourage diversity in your workforce.
6. Promote equal and fair pay: This is primarily looking at your pay structure to ensure that staff are paid fairly and equally irrespective of their protected characteristics such as sex or ethnicity. Many countries already have requirements to undertake annual gender pay gap reporting (you can learn more in our International Equal Pay Day: taking stock of the gender pay gapreport) with further consideration being given in some countries to introducing pay gap reporting for a wider set of characteristics (e.g. ethnicity pay gap reporting). In addition, business should think about signing up to any good practice guidance around what amounts to fair pay in their jurisdictions. For example, in the UK employers can sign up to become an accredited Living Wage employer to demonstrate their commitment to paying employees above the required statutory minimum pay to reflect the real cost of living.
7. Promote flexibility: An openness to a range of working patterns and arrangements, particular post pandemic where hybrid working is increasingly becoming the ‘new normal’ in many sectors, is going to be critical to keep your workforce happy and attract and retain diverse talent. Whether that is considering more job shares, remote working, compressed hours or part time working, businesses should be alive to the fact that being open to these arrangements will have a direct impact on workforce diversity.
8. Proper desk assessments for all at work and home: This is a quick and easy way to ensure you are looking after the health of your employees and ensuring you are complying with both health and safety requirements and any disability related needs.
9. Offer benefits that are ‘outside the box’: There are many benefits on offer outside of the more traditional ones which can support and foster a more diverse workforce. This is particularly in the health and well-being space, recognising the challenges of the post-pandemic era where many have struggled with burn out or an inability to switch off. Whether it’s offering your workforce yoga classes, massage or reflexology, counselling, guidance on how to switch off or advice on good mental health wellbeing, the are many options for businesses to think about which can provide valuable support.
10. Lead from the top down:Whatever steps your business takes, senior leadership needs to ensure that they embody the values and initiatives implemented and lead by example.
This article was written by our colleagues from Lewis Silkin, the UK Ius Laboris lawfirm.

Ius Laboris

Ius Laboris is a leading international employment law practice combining the world’s leading employment, labour and pension firms. Our role lies in sharing insights and helping clients to navigate the world of labour and employment law successfully.
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