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How to Create a Workplace Diversity & Inclusion Policy

Diversity in employment goes far beyond not committing discrimination.

The world is made up of people of diverse races, ethnicities, religious values, personal beliefs, cultures, languages, etc. Today, increasing numbers of organizations are actively seeking to build and retain a workforce that reflects those different characteristics and experiences. The name for this approach is “diversity and inclusion,” and companies commit to it not because the law requires them to but based on the belief that diversity will make their business stronger. Here’s how to create a workplace diversity and inclusion policy for your organization.

The Difference between Diversity & Non-Discrimination

Human rights and discrimination laws target actions rather than attitudes. In other words, the laws don’t address what you think about particular groups as long as you respect them and afford them equal opportunity in employment matters. While complying with the law keeps a company out of trouble, it’s only the first step on the way to true diversity.

Diversity is an attitude that not only tolerates but embraces personal differences. Those differences include not only race, religion, sex and other characteristics protected by anti-discrimination laws but also differences in values, culture, experience, education, communications style and personal interests. Complying with anti-discrimination laws isn’t the ultimate goal but only the start of the diversity continuum. The far end is full inclusion where people in the workplace feel free to be themselves and everybody’s opinions, abilities and contributions are valued.

A company where people are empowered to maximize their person potential has distinct advantages likely to translate into profitability and business success. That’s not just a theory. Studies show that diversity and inclusion bolsters a company’s ability to:

  • Recruit and retain top people;
  • Maximize productivity;
  • Deliver superior service to customers;
  • Serve the community; and
  • Build and maintain its reputation.

The 6 Things to Include in Your Diversity & Inclusion Policy

While achieving diversity also requires training and education to identify and eliminate bias, the starting point is to establish a clear written diversity policy for your organization that includes:

1. Statement of Policy

Start by stating your organization’s commitment to workplace diversity and inclusion and explain what that means and how those objectives go further than merely obeying non-discrimination laws (Policy, Sec. 1).

2. Statement of Purpose

Explain the purpose of the policy, namely, to outline a general strategy for translating those principles into actions by ensuring that the principles of diversity and inclusion goals infuse all aspects of your organization’s operations (Policy, Sec. 2).

3. Senior Management Commitment to Diversity

Express senior management’s commitment to play a leading role in achieving the organization’s diversity goals and list the actions it has or will take to further that commitment, which may include:

  • Setting and regularly monitoring progress toward achieving measurable diversity objectives for all aspects of the employment cycle, including recruiting, hiring, retention and advancement;
  • Establishing a diversity committee or group comprised of management/executive level employees to oversee diversity efforts; and
  • Providing the budget, staffing and other resources necessary to meet diversity goals (Policy, Sec. 3).

4. Diversity in Recruitment

Describe the efforts your organization will make to achieve diversity in recruiting. Areas to address:

  • Job ads, company career websites and other promotional materials (Policy, Sec. 4.1);
  • Job interviews (Policy, Sec. 4.2); and
  • Outreach and collaboration, such as working with local schools and community organizations to bolster efforts to recruit members of disadvantaged or historically excluded groups (Policy, Sec. 4.3).

5. Diversity in Retention

Outline the measures taken to ensure fair, equitable and unbiased treatment of all current employees, which may include:

  • Regular performance monitoring on the basis of objective and clearly communicated performance-based criteria (Policy, Sec. 5.1);
  • Mentoring (Policy, Sec. 5.2);
  • Surveying employees on effectiveness of organizational diversity efforts (Policy, Sec. 5.3) and
  • Making reasonable accommodations to the point of undue hardship, as required by human rights laws (Policy, Sec. 5.4).

6. Diversity in Promotion & Advancement

Many of the measures designed to promote diversity in retention will apply equally to decisions about advancement and promotion, such as performance review, mentoring and surveying (Policy, Sec. 6).