How to Create a Welcoming Environment for Diversity

by Maya Rector on October 22, 2021

While many public sector organizations attempt to up their diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, how many of them are actually facilitating a welcoming environment for diverse employees? 

Even if your workplace is diverse, diverse employees may not feel understood, valued, and represented at every level of the organization -- and they may not feel like there are as many opportunities for growth. Beyond mission statements, there’s likely plenty of room for improvement throughout every stage of your hiring and retention processes.

Keep reading for actionable steps your team can take to foster a more welcoming environment for employees of diverse backgrounds. 

 

Diversity from Day One -- Implement an Equitable Hiring Process 

Creating a welcoming environment for diversity doesn’t just start on a new hire’s first day -- it begins from the very beginning of recruitment. If your organization isn’t taking steps to ensure that applicants from all backgrounds have an equal chance at being considered for each role, you could be doing a major disservice to diverse candidates. 

Asking yourself and your hiring team the following questions can be a good place to start: 

  • Do job postings use inclusive, gender neutral language that apply to candidates of all backgrounds? 
  • Is there a system in place to remove  personally identifiable applicant information on resumes to minimize the chances of unconscious bias among your hiring team? 
  • Is the hiring committee for each role made up of people from a variety of backgrounds and lived experiences?
  • Does your organization rely on the idea of “culture fit” to justify hiring candidates who are of similar backgrounds, therefore limiting the potential diversity of new hires? 
  • Is your organization diverse in some roles and departments, but lacking in diversity when it comes to upper management and managerial roles? 

Answering these questions can help your HR team identify where you need to improve in order to make the workplace more inclusive from the get go, as well as identifying pre-existing diversity pitfalls within the organization. 

 

Commit to an Inclusive Culture With Measurable DEI Initiatives

One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is announcing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and then failing to carry them out. By setting measurable, attainable goals, your organization can have a much better chance of achieving success and making the workplace more welcoming. 

Taking concrete steps by implementing new practices in daily tasks and interactions can go a long way. Committing to applying new procedures to the hiring process to enable a fair playing field can be a crucial first step, as well as forming a DEI committee or hiring for a DEI strategy position to focus on these initiatives across all departments within your organization. In these instances, measurable goals could include increasing the diversity of applicants by a specific percentage, or deciding on a deadline for forming a DEI committee in the next business quarter. 

At a departmental level, department heads and managers can spearhead inclusion initiatives by leading with empathy and encouraging employees to get involved. Plus, making diversity, equity, and inclusion a part of your workplace culture can lead to a more engaged and committed workforce -- as well as attract prospective candidates who value working for a mission driven organization that translates its values into meaningful action.

 

Invest in Ongoing Learning and Development

Not only does a commitment to employee learning and development make for a more productive and skilled workplace, but it can also factor into your diversity initiatives. Consider offering training courses on topics such as unconscious bias, inclusion, and diversity in the workplace. 

It’s important to remember that employees may be hesitant to ask questions or provide feedback they may have with colleagues or managers, especially if their questions or feedback touch on sensitive issues. Establishing a training course or series of courses to address a wide range of diversity, equity, and inclusion topics can not only train employees on how to better handle a variety of potential situations, but it can also alleviate their fear of asking the “wrong” questions or giving constructive feedback -- which can pave the way for an open dialogue and pivotal educational moments down the road. 

As a result, investing in learning and development allows employees and managers alike to gain a deeper understanding of key issues and how to address them. Plus, it can also show employees that your workplace is committed to being a part of the solution by actively making space for these conversations.

 

Encourage Open Communication and Feedback 

Open communication contributes to a more welcoming work environment and organizational culture, and it can contribute to higher employee engagement by increasing each employee’s sense of belonging. For diverse employees especially, open communication will create a safe space for them to express themselves authentically and communicate their needs at work.

Keep in mind that this starts from the top-down, and employees may not always be comfortable giving honest feedback or voicing their concerns to management if it isn’t endorsed by management directly. Facilitating an open and understanding environment can allow employees to feel more at ease having these discussions and give them the confidence to voice their thoughts and ideas.  

Anonymous surveys, open discussions in internal team meetings, one-on-one meetings between employees and management, etc., are some of the countless ways your organization can incorporate a more honest workplace culture that allows employees to feel comfortable and included in the conversation. For example, an initiative as simple as creating a casual team group chat can help team members work together efficiently, bond with one another, and encourage communication. 

 

 Lead with Accountability

Your diversity initiatives only go as far if they are followed with an accountability plan. While your team might say they want to focus on hiring more diverse candidates or offer diversity training, an accountability plan can hold your team responsible for meeting such goals. Not every strategy will look the same --  much of it will likely depend on your type of organization, workplace culture, budgets, etc. 

Whether your organization’s plan involves posting a DEI commitment section to your website, sending out monthly internal newsletters showcasing DEI initiative updates, or holding monthly diversity talks that open up room for discussions, there are many ways your team can get started.

Request a free demo to learn more about how NEOGOV can help your organization carry out its DEI initiatives with recruitment software containing diversity insights and candidate blinding tools, a library of diversity training courses, and much more. 

Plus, see how several of our public sector customers were able to bolster their diversity initiatives by checking out the case studies below: 

Maya Rector

Maya Rector is a Copywriter at NEOGOV. After receiving a BA in English from UC Berkeley, she has spent several years working in media and content marketing. Want to get in touch? Contact her at mrector@neogov.net.