10 ways you’re getting workplace diversity wrong (and how to get it right)

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for a successful diversity and inclusion strategy, but there are best practices that can ensure you’re establishing a diverse workplace that can innovate and thrive.

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The business case for diversity is well-documented. Diverse teams perform better and develop more innovative ideas, directly impacting a company’s bottom line and overall performance. Ignoring diversity as a business priority can also severely limit your potential customer base. A diverse workforce is better positioned to come up with solutions to the wide range of problems diverse populations face.

While many companies are attempting to solve the lack of diversity in their workforces, many are failing. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for a successful diversity and inclusion strategy, but there are best practices that can ensure you have the appropriate resources in place to not only attract and hire diverse talent, but to support, engage and retain that talent, too.

1. Not creating a safe and welcoming environment for everyone

At this point, most organizations have a basic understanding of where to begin addressing diversity issues in the workplace — through their hiring practices. Where they often fall flat, however, is on inclusion once diverse candidates are brought on board.

“The ‘diversity’ piece of this is actually the easier part,” says Tarsha McCormick, head of diversity and inclusion at ThoughtWorks, a global software, services and technology consultancy.

“You want to attract and hire diverse talent, but then you need to take it to the next level,” McCormick says. “You need to focus on the inclusion part, and make sure you’re being inclusive of everyone.”

It’s leadership’s responsibility to make sure the working environment is safe and welcoming for everyone, but also to take immediate and decisive action when there’s evidence that this is not the case, says Bob Miller, vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton. “One of our values as a company is ‘unflinching courage,’ which means you have to step in decisively so that every employee feels protected, supported and covered,” he says. 

2. Being ‘colorblind’

“Colorblindness” — a practice in which racial identity is avoided — used to be an acceptable approach not only to diversity initiatives but how the success of a D&I initiative was measured. The reality is that “colorblindness” can actually work against diversity and inclusion by ignoring differences and failing to take into account how perceptions, thoughts and experiences are shaped by identity, says Miller.

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