When it comes to creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, modern workplaces have come a long way, but there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done. According to a recent Monster poll, an overwhelming 91% of workers said they have experienced discrimination in the workplace. Likewise, 77% said they have witnessed an act of discrimination at work.
Workplace discrimination, of course, can take many forms and can stem from a number of conscious and unconscious biases related to age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and even a person’s physical appearance, name, or accent. When it comes to the job application process, for instance, Monster’s poll found that 50% of workers have experienced discrimination based on age and 40% based on race.
“Discrimination in the workplace and job application process can manifest in various forms,” says Stewart Parnacott, a certified registered nurse anesthetist and instructor at Baylor College of Medicine. “Examples include bias during candidate screening based on age, race, gender, or other protected characteristics. Discrimination can also be evident in the allocation of job responsibilities, promotions, or opportunities for growth, leading to disparities and inequities among employees.”
Below, we’ve provided some expert guidance on how employers can check their biases to create a more inclusive workplace.
It Starts With the Job Description and Application Process
The job description is typically a candidate’s first view into what a company values and the type of people they want to hire. When job applications require a set number of years of experience or a laundry list of requirements for candidates to meet, that position becomes limited to a very select group of people.
“Recruiters swiftly scan resumes, seeking specific keywords to capture their interest, such as prestigious universities, notable employers, or affiliations with organizations or clubs,” says Janet Stovall, global head of DEI at NeuroLeadership Institute. “Regrettably, many exclusive educational institutions and groups have historically limited access, excluding many from the opportunity to add these to their resumes.”
To be more inclusive and attract a more diverse candidate pool, employers should look at transferable skills and how someone’s experience (or lack thereof) can provide an opportunity to diversify their workforce and promote a culture of learning and growth. Additionally, Joseph B. Hill, a partner at Bridge Partners, says a blind hiring process, where names, addresses, and academic institutions are removed from job applications, can help eliminate bias right from the start. Employers can also make sure every job listing includes an equal employment opportunity (EEO) statement that encourages applicants from underrepresented groups to apply.
Build Inclusive Hiring Teams
As candidates move through the hiring process, they may get a less-than-welcoming vibe from interviewers or hiring managers. This can sometimes be caused by a lack of diversity among the interviewers—if candidates don’t see themselves reflected in the interviewing panel, it might be difficult for them to imagine themselves belonging in that company. Microaggressions, such as telling a candidate “you’re so articulate” or asking a candidate with an uncommon name “where were you born?”, also sends a denigrating message.
“Prioritize diversity within hiring teams to ensure a comprehensive view of candidates, and hold team members accountable for their interpretations,” Stovall says. “Open discussions of these differences lead to more well-rounded hiring choices. Without diverse input, biases can thrive, leading to biased decisions like hiring for ‘cultural fit’ or misunderstanding resume gaps as a lack of commitment.”
Interview questions that focus more on personal attributes rather than on job-related qualifications, skills, and experiences can also create a breeding ground for unconscious bias to manifest. Stovall says structured interviews, where all candidates face the same role-focused questions, can help mitigate bias by allowing each candidate the same opportunity to effectively tell their story and explain why they are right for the role.
Offer Robust Benefits, Policies, and Training
Outside of the hiring process, discrimination can also rear its ugly head when it comes to an employer’s benefit options and workplace policies. This can include healthcare access, such as fertility or mental health support, paid time off for religious holidays, parental and family leave policies, adoption benefits, eldercare leave, childcare subsidies, and more.
To prevent workplace discrimination and foster inclusivity, Parnacott says employers can implement comprehensive policies and benefits. “Emphasizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in hiring practices can promote a diverse workforce,” he says. “Providing inclusive parental leave policies that cater to all parents, regardless of gender, is essential. Offering mental health resources and accessibility accommodations can further support employees with disabilities. Emphasizing training on anti-discrimination and unconscious bias can also enhance awareness among all staff.”
Further, it’s important to communicate DE&I policies throughout the organization to ensure understanding and compliance. This is where many employers fall short. According to Monster’s poll, 45% of workers said they are unaware of their company’s policies against workplace discrimination. To improve communication, employers can spell out these types of benefits and policies in their employer value proposition and branding as well as making them easy to find on career and employee resource websites.
Implement Equitable Processes for Promotion and Development
Creating merit-based processes for promotion and development can help ensure that it is unbiased and equitable across the organization. This often starts at the top with the leadership team. When promotions are biased, or based on an individual’s background or identity, it can lead to a lack of diversity in leadership, which can have a negative impact on a company’s culture, productivity, and bottom line.
Likewise, Monica McCoy, CEO and founder of Monica Motivates, says, “Research by McKinsey & Company and Boston Consulting Group, among others, has connected more diverse and inclusive management teams, as well as more diverse and inclusive workforces, with greater employee engagement and satisfaction, more innovation, and greater productivity and profitability, all of which overlap to some extent.”
Here are a few ways employers can diversify leadership and ensure that opportunities for promotion and development are equitable:
- Establish clear promotion criteria and expectations.
- Provide development opportunities and resources, such as mentoring, training, and coaching, to all employees.
- Create employee resource groups (ERGs) that support underrepresented groups in the organization.
- Use objective and consistent evaluation methods across the organization that are based on job performance, skills, and experience.
- Require that at least one person from an underrepresented background is considered for each leadership position.
- Consider internal candidates for roles so employees see that there is a path for career advancement.
Provide a Safe Space for Workers
When it comes to reporting an incident, Monster’s poll found that less than half (44%) of workers feel comfortable reporting discriminatory behaviour to a company-provided anonymous reporting resource. Even fewer are comfortable bringing it up to HR or their manager, while 28% said they don’t feel comfortable reporting discriminatory behaviour at all.
“This data suggests issues of culture—most specifically, lack of a culture of inclusion and belonging,” Hill says. “If you’re not being included, you’re being excluded. At some point, you’ll feel as if you don’t belong. When someone feels isolated and unsupported, it’s not a surprise they’d be uncomfortable reporting discrimination where the likely result is no change. Fixing this takes hard work as culture change does not happen overnight. It’s important to create an environment where employees feel psychologically safe. Employers must ensure a belief that no one will be punished or humiliated for speaking up. Leaders must create an environment where everyone has the courage to speak up and the confidence to know they’ll be heard.”
To encourage more employees to speak up, Stovall suggests that employers can:
- Set clear guidelines and clearly communicate anti-discrimination policies and reporting steps.
- Assure privacy to ensure confidentiality and minimize fear.
- Establish no retaliation policies that ensure reporting won’t lead to punishment.
- Train employees to recognize and address discrimination.
- Swiftly address reported discrimination to build trust.
- Share action taken in response to reports for transparency.
- Establish forums for employees to discuss concerns and find support.
Learn More About DE&I
From revamping talent pipelines to auditing hiring processes, Monster’s DE&I Hiring Guide provides additional guidance for employers looking to expand their talent pools to attract and retain a diverse workforce. Download today to learn more.