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7 ways to make your team more diverse and inclusive

How to avoid automatically hiring people like ourselves.

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HAVING A DIVERSE TEAM leads to well-rounded and satisfied employees, higher levels of creativity and a better connection to your clients. However, recognising the business case for diversity and identifying gaps in your organisation is only half the battle.

Rebuilding and restructuring to ensure your team is truly diverse is the real challenge. So, what can you do to ensure you’re creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace?

1. Recognise difference, don’t ignore it

In an attempt to promote equality, we can sometimes ignore aspects of a person’s make up – their ethnicity, religion, sexuality, etc. because they simply don’t make a difference to how we view them. While that’s fine in theory, in reality it can be problematic.

For one, these elements play a large role in a person’s identity so failure to recognise them undervalues a large part of who they are as individuals. It can also trivialise any negative experiences or discrimination a person may have endured because of their race, gender or sexuality.

To be truly inclusive means acknowledging and celebrating differences, not underplaying them.

2. Start a mentoring programme

Mentoring schemes are a great way to facilitate shared learning and support employees who may be struggling to integrate. Match mentors with mentees from different backgrounds and experiences to help stamp out prejudices and build real relationships.

These relationships will force people to evaluate any perceptions or judgements they may have had about a particular group of people and lead to a more inclusive company culture.

3. Write inclusive job descriptions

Strive to write job specs and descriptions that don’t favour one group of people over another. Use gender neutral language and list qualifications as preferred not required, unless they are absolutely crucial to carry out the role.

Some companies even reference their commitment to an inclusive team in their job ads to attract more diverse applicants.

4. Plan some sensitivity training

Educate the team on how to act appropriately when faced with conflict or confusion. It’s important for them to be aware of the differing backgrounds, beliefs and opinions of their coworkers.

People shouldn’t be afraid to voice their opinion for fear of being shut down or ridiculed. Foster an environment that is open to discussion and that celebrates new ways of thinking. A sense of belonging and inclusion doesn’t come from fitting in but from being accepted.

5. Cast the net wider

It’s human nature to hire people who are similar to ourselves. As such, there can be a tendency for hiring managers to return to the same universities or groups where they may have sourced talent previously.

This can also happen with referral programmes, where employees endorse former classmates or colleagues with similar experience. Expand your hiring horizons by recruiting from underrepresented universities, colleges and community groups.

6. Look at education initiatives

Education partnerships and networking events allow companies to build relationships with talent in their formative years. This helps change perceptions of an industry and promote inclusiveness.

Initiatives like SAGE, Science in Australia Gender Equity, aim to attract and retain more women and minorities to STEM industries.

7. Be accountable

Put procedures in place to assess your hiring after a new employee is on board. Investigate whether or not interviewers have stayed true to the initial requirements advertised and if not, why not?

Often, it’s better to get a person or an agency outside the company to critique your hiring process for you.

Read more: ‘Real diversity isn’t just skin deep’: Why we need a more thoughtful approach

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About the author:

Aoife Geary

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