Diversity and inclusion have become popular buzzwords in corporate meetings—and since the protests surrounding George Floyd’s death, many companies have been more and more responsive to diversity and inclusion policies.
But the fact alone that these topics are currently trending indicates we have a lot of work ahead of us. So what kind of change are we looking at?
What Do Diversity and Inclusion Look Like?
Diversity and inclusion are two separate with two distinct definitions, and each has a specific meaning in the context of the workplace.
A diverse workplace is a fabric stitched together with the wide range of perspectives and cultures from across the human species. This includes people of varying genders (both binary and nonbinary), sexualities, ethnicities and races. Your company should have open arms to everyone.
Inclusion, on the other hand, is what happens after those people work at your company. Have cliques been formed among majority groups? Do your minority employees feel equally represented in leadership, decision making and company action? Do they feel valued, respected and accepted? It’s not enough just to hire diversely—you must work diversely as well.
As a culture, we have been striving for a broader sense of diversity and inclusion for a long time. Progress has been incremental but not insignificant. Among the changes are:
- Affirmative action and other workplace discrimination laws.
- All S&P 500 companies have at least one woman on the board.
- Of 422 new independent directors added to the S&P 500 boards in 2019, 59% were women or minority men according to executive search firm Spencer Stuart.
However, this still isn’t enough.
- Women in workplace leadership recently crossed the 20% mark. There’s still a lot of room for growth.
- Most women in the workplace feel left out of leadership decisions.
- In many cases, workplace discrimination laws do not protect against discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
Failing to provide a diverse and inclusive workplace can result in detrimental consequences for a corporation. It may struggle to acquire or retain employees, especially those with the best innovations. Publicly traded companies may see their stocks impacted.
So what are the most important areas of diversity and inclusion growth in 2020? We’ll discuss a couple of them below.
The Role of Implicit Bias in the Workplace
Implicit bias, also known as unconscious bias, refers to the subtle presence of unconscious ideas and beliefs that can often include bigoted viewpoints and racial stereotypes. Every single human being on earth has an implicit bias of some kind or another.
On a psychological level, these biases occur as a result of culture, media and upbringing—as well as the result of the brain attempting to find patterns and sort through overwhelming stimuli in a complicated world.
Anyone looking to create a more equal world, let alone a more equal workplace, must recognize the presence of implicit bias and work to correct it. This can be a struggle because, by their very nature, these biases are hidden from your conscious view.
Implicit bias can impact every aspect of the workplace, including:
- Critical decision-making.
- Team cohesion.
- Forward-facing customer service.
In order to overcome implicit bias, studies have found education and training to be overwhelmingly effective. This sort of diversity training is already often employed in law enforcement and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) entities.
Gender Identity and Expression Across the Spectrum
Gender expression (or lack thereof) is an important facet of human identity. If you’ve never felt forced to engage in performative gender in the workplace, you’re probably one of the lucky individuals whose gender identity aligns with your gender assigned at birth. For many people, this is not the case. For many, feeling safe and comfortable at work means hiding a very explicit part of their identity.
Awareness of trans issues is on the rise, however. Merriam-Webster accepted “they” as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun this year (although it has been used that way for thousands of years). Between 2002 and 2017, the rate of Fortune 500 companies with protections for transgender, nonbinary, agender and gender nonconforming individuals (we will use the term “transgender” to refer to anyone who does not identify as their gender assigned at birth moving forward) rose from 3% to 83%.
Trans issues in the workplace include:
- Hiring and promotions: The trans unemployment rate is around three times higher than average, indicating the presence of implicit and explicit bias in many hiring practices.
- Acceptance and inclusion: Trans individuals often struggle to find acceptance both in and out of the workplace. In 2017, a YouGov survey found 27% of Americans would not befriend a transgender person based on their gender identity alone.
- Protections: Only some states include transgender people in nondiscrimination laws, and often these laws can overlook nonbinary and genderqueer people.
- Harassment: Even well-intentioned workplaces accidentally punish trans people for outing themselves.
Many companies should begin adopting sensitivity training to teach leaders and managers about the language surrounding gender identity (such as gender-neutral pronouns and avoiding misgendering trans employees).
The Multigenerational Workforce
There are now five generations in play in the workforce:
- The silent generation.
- Baby boomers.
- Gen X.
- Gen Z.
It’s possible that employers could be working with up to six generations at once. This broad range in ages requires recognition of the different needs, expectations and training across varying generations.
Experts point at world events, cultural changes and more that form certain qualities for each generation. We can see this play out across the workforce.
For instance, millennials and Gen Z grew up on the internet and using computers during their daily life, while baby boomers will likely need to be upskilled.
Managers working with a multigenerational workforce should:
- Learn preferred employment styles, and be ready to shift around a bit depending on the employee.
- Be sensitive to upskilling certain older generations may need.
- Set goals for each age group of employees to meet in terms of intergenerational cooperation. This will help your employees learn a common cultural language.
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