How to Create a Sustainable Approach to Workplace Diversity

By Denise Costello


Too often we see diversity brought to the forefront of an organization’s mind only when it is timely. It’s excellent progress to recognize the importance of inclusion during a specific day or month, but we need to strive to do this year-round.

The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace are well-documented: improved problem-solving, greater creativity, and a stronger brand reputation. However, recent trends suggest a worrying decline in the prioritization of diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, with some companies even downsizing their DEI teams.

When it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion in your workplace, it’s more than checking off a box. It reflects your company’s desire to recognize the unique differences in your employees and customers. When people work with others who are different, come from different backgrounds, follow different thought processes, it challenges their own way of thinking and allows them to think more outside of the box. This impacts the way they tackle and solve problems.
As David Rock and Heidi Grant note in their article for Harvard Business Review: "Diverse teams are more likely to constantly reexamine facts and remain objective. They may also encourage greater scrutiny of each member’s actions, keeping their joint cognitive resources sharp and vigilant."
So, how can a company create a sustainable approach to DEI? One that goes beyond performative gestures and fosters a genuine culture of belonging and respect. Here are a few key steps to achieve this:

  • Leadership commitment: This is crucial. Leaders must actively champion DEI efforts, not just through words, but also through actions. This involves allocating resources, integrating DEI principles into company strategies, and holding themselves and others accountable for progress. Also, providing ongoing education on what inclusive leadership means and what it should look like for leaders at all levels.
  • Ensure representation of diverse talent: This might require your company to re-examine your hiring and interview process. Ask yourself, "am I making this accessible to all potential applicants?" You also want to remember that you aren’t hiring for the sake of diversity, but if you create a company culture that “invites diversity of discussion and strives to make everyone feel welcome,” it will naturally attract a more diverse talent pool.
  • Building a culture of inclusion: However, simply having a diverse workforce is not enough. Employees need to feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and experiences. This requires creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking up, sharing ideas, and participating in decision-making processes.
  • Working with legal counsel: Partnering with legal counsel can help ensure that DEI initiatives are compliant with relevant regulations and address potential legal concerns. This can create a more secure foundation for building a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Above all else, when addressing challengers remember one important fact: DEI is good for business. Many studies have shown that a more diverse workforce is generally correlated with better business performance. This primary fact is typically one that DEI critics have a hard time arguing against.

From a personal and professional standpoint, now is the time to start making sure your company is taking a step in the right direction. Not just for a day or month, but 365 days a year.