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How-to Support Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Diversity in the workplace means that a company employs a wide range of diverse individuals. People varying in gender, age, religion, race, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation, religion, languages, education, abilities, etc. Inclusion in the workplace means that the company celebrates these differences and makes everyone feel welcome.

It’s been proven time and time again that a diverse and inclusive workplace is good for business. Below are six ways you can support diversity and inclusion in your workplace.

1. Be aware of unconscious bias

Building awareness is the first step toward real change. Educate employees by helping them to understand how individuals are impacted by unconscious bias, and what actions continue to reinforce unconscious bias. One way to build awareness and address unconscious bias is to encourage every employee to review, question and analyze their own personal potential biases and assumptions. To learn more about unconscious biases and to assess your own, you can visit Project Implicit to complete an Implicit Association Test.

2. Communicate the importance of managing bias

While awareness is the first step, employees need tools and training that provide guidance on actions for moving forward. Joelle Emerson in Harvard Business Review suggests that concern with diversity or unconscious bias training and teaching is that people can become defensive. “Training can be designed to reduce defensiveness by explaining that we don’t have unconscious biases because we’re bad people – we have them because we are people,” she explains. The article adds that internal bias training is an effective way to inspire change and higher understanding amongst employees, citing Google’s internal training findings as one example.

3. Offer diversity and inclusion training

Diversity training helps employees understand how cultural differences can impact how people work, and interact at work. It can cover anything from concepts of time and communication styles to self-identity and dealing with conflict. Diversity training which is offered as optional tends to be more effective than that which is made mandatory.

4. Acknowledge holidays of all cultures

One way to build awareness of diversity and foster greater inclusivity is to be aware of and acknowledge a variety of upcoming religious and cultural holidays. When closing out a team call or meeting, if the audience isn’t too large, ask how people plan to celebrate the holiday. Use your company’s intranet to help employees be aware of and keep track of multicultural religious or holiday celebrations. Be respectful of these days when scheduling meetings, and understand that employees may have different needs and require flexibility.

5. Make it easy for your people to participate in employee resource groups

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, LinkedIn’s Rosanna Durruthy discussed leveraging employee resource groups (ERGs) as an opportunity to grow and develop talent, and help managers learn from these groups in a safe space. Building on this, in addition to leveraging ERGs, make it easy for all employees to participate, whether it be creating a differing pay code for easy time tracking, or asking the employee to share initiatives or projects the ERG is focused on. Provide a toolkit or guidelines that employees can follow to encourage them to set up a new ERG.

Further, get senior leaders on board. An executive and/or leadership sponsor can not only help to increase visibility, innovation and awareness, but can also help align ERG activities with business goals. Additionally, commitments from senior leaders signal a wider, organizational commitment to improving diversity and inclusion practices.

6. Mix up your teams

A diverse cross-section of talent allows an enhanced perspective, which will spur creativity on teams. If your team is homogeneous, invite a guest with a different gender, cultural background, or age, to weigh in on the initiative.

Melissa Marsh, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a human resources consultant and founder of HRinDemand, a human resources company in Reno, NV, offering expert guidance and easy-to-use tools to help small businesses with employment regulations, compliance, employee relations, and company growth.


Ng-See-Quan, Danielle, and Nancy Chetaitis. “Six Ways to Support Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace.” Human Capital Management, 2018, www.ceridian.com/blog/six-ways-to-support-diversity-and-inclusion-in-the-workplace.

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