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How to build a diverse and inclusive workforce

What is diversity and inclusion, and how does it positively impact your organisation? Here are five tips on how to establish a strong culture for inclusion—and how to involve top management.

man and woman buying coffee from a coffee truck

This blog post was first published on our Norwegian blog and you can read the original post here.

Based on years of research, measurement and analysis, we know that companies with a diverse workforce get better business results and find it easier to attract and retain talent.

In McKinsey’s ‘Diversity wins: How inclusion matters’ report from 2020, we see that companies with a gender-diverse workforce perform 15% better than other companies. Additionally, if the company also has an ethnically and culturally diverse workforce they have a 35% likelihood of outperforming other businesses financially.

Companies that don’t take diversity into account will lose the battle for the most talented people—and get poorer business results. 

How to get started with D&I (Diversity & Inclusion)

How can companies get started with diversity and inclusion initiatives? And how do you measure success? 

Vernā Myers currently works as VP of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix but also has experience from being a D&I consultant, as well as a lawyer. She explains diversity and inclusion this way: 

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

The discussion about inclusion means that no one should be left behind and that there should be an available seat for everyone. In other words: That everyone who is invited to the party should also be invited onto the dance floor. We are talking about full participation and involvement, equality and non-discrimination.

Even though companies implement initiatives to attract and retain diverse talents, many people still don’t feel included when starting a new job. They are part of a group yet they don’t belong. 

Many companies don’t succeed with their diversity policies. There are many examples of situations where inclusion is missing. We can still see management teams that have discussions and make decisions outside of the meeting room, leaving people outside of the conversation. 

Another example is when the discussion is taking place inside the meeting room but not everyone is actively listened to or taken seriously. Sometimes, people won’t even share their opinions as they are afraid of saying the “wrong thing”. 

Even though some of this may come from political and strategic decisions, most often it’s a lack of awareness and unconscious discrimination. 

Make sure D&I is on top management’s agenda

It’s the management’s responsibility to ensure that all employees feel included at work. It involves change management, changing values, attitudes, and ways of working together.

Diversity and inclusion are all measures that give everyone the same prerequisites for success and ensure that everyone has an equal place at the table.

There are different ways to streamline collaboration and anchor decisions. One example is to start meetings with all participants reading through the documentation before the meeting. This way, everyone has the information needed to be able to make decisions. Sending out the documentation at the last minute may mean that not all participants have the opportunity to come prepared.

With the home office, many employees have experienced a change in our way of working together. Participation in digital meetings requires a different discipline than in physical meetings. For some, it has made it easier to speak and be heard, while for others it has become more difficult.

Identifying the different personality types and their ways of working

This often has to do with different personality types. By exploring personality types, we learn how people collaborate and our different approaches to decision making. 

People with a very outgoing personality type often act on limited documentation, planning and structure, and like to make quick decisions. People with a very analytical personality type, on the other hand, may feel uncomfortable by not having sufficient documentation and being able to prepare and ask follow-up questions to make a decision.

These people may feel that decisions are being made on the wrong basis and that they have not been able to participate with their input and recommendations. The extroverted personality type can then be more impatient and have less interest in details. This can make them lose the drive to get things done because the process takes too long.

To get everyone to participate and feel that their opinions matter, it’s important to know how to involve everyone. Following up on the example above, one action might be to send out information before the meeting. This way, everyone has a chance to read through and ask questions before the meeting. 

As some people might want to read the documentation carefully, others only need to skim through the information. To solve this, you might want to send out a longer piece of informational text but also a bullet list summary. This might help make the meetings more efficient—whilst also ensuring that everyone is heard.

5 tips for ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace

1. Implement ways to measure diversity in all parts of your strategic HR process from marketing activities to recruitment and succession planning.

2. Be sure to “walk the walk” rather than just “talk the talk”. Change comes from specific actions.

3. Involve top management. To establish a strong D&I organisation, it has to be a strategic goal for the company and it needs to be followed up with a budget to make it happen.

4. Make every person feel valued. Make sure each worker has a seat at the table. Find a way to ensure that no one is left out, from the coffee break, lunch, or important decisions. Not everyone can be involved in everything, but everyone should be involved in something value-creating.

5. Use vulnerability in discussions and establish a culture of openness. When every “stupid” question gets a respectful answer, you increase the opportunity for discussions and innovation that will never take place if people are afraid to express their opinion.

Want to learn more about our work culture, and what it’s like to work at Visma? Visit our Visma Life category page.

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