Diversity and inclusion in the workplace: How to make a start

Published on 29/04/2022 by David Jani and Quirine Storm van Leeuwen

Diversity and inclusion are an essential part of sustainable business practice. GetApp’s research in October last year in SMEs found that 68% of UK SME employees believe their companies actively promote workplace diversity.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace employee discussion

Yet, actually creating an inclusive workplace isn’t always that easy. And what does the implementation of a D&I policy actually entail? In this article, we look into how to make that all-important first step and how to use HR analytics to move towards creating a successful diversity and inclusion policy. 

The difference between diversity, inclusion and equality

Although the terms diversity, inclusion and equality are often taken together, looking at them separately can clarify the role each concept plays in an organisation.

Gartner defines diversity as a collective mix of individual and organisational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, preferences and behaviours (document available to Gartner clients).

Inclusion is all about achieving a work environment in which all individuals feel respected, accepted, supported and valued. This then allows diverse individuals to fully participate in decision-making processes and development opportunities within an organisation.

Equality is about fair treatment as well as identical access to opportunities. These possibilities range from interactions with teammates to the scope for promotion. 

Implementing a strategy for equality, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace

Before you decide which groups require diversity goals, you first need to know about your organisation’s current performance. The first step in your D&I strategy will thus be to determine the current level of diversity and inclusion already found in your company. 

Read below to find details of the data you need to look at, and how you could gather that data. 

Determining levels of diversity in the workplace

To assess the levels of diversity amongst an SME’s workforce, companies should gather data on their employees. To ensure the right information is collected this should focus on the following five dimensions of diversity:

  • Age: Analyse the workplace representation of different age groups.
  • Gender: Quantify the number of men and women in your organisation. The number of men and women working at the executive level should also be assessed, as well as the total number of workers opting to identify as intersex, non-binary, and transgender.
  • Nationality or ethnic background: Gather data relating to the origin and background of staff, e.g. their country of birth and that of their parents. Include comparative data on the number of employees from a non-western background or from ethnic minorities alongside employees from the native population.
  • Cultural background: Cultural data is all about the customs, religious beliefs, and social norms and values of your employees. Cultural diversity can promote innovation and creativity because business operations can be considered from different angles. 
  • LGBTQ orientation: LGBTQ stands for lesbian (L), gay (G), bisexual (B), transgender (T) and questioning (Q). Gathering anonymous data can be an important part of your D&I strategy to discover how people with different sexual preferences feel, and how they are treated within your organisation. 

Think about privacy!

The recording of personal data is subject to GDPR regulations, which stipulate that personal data may only be processed for legitimate and explicitly defined purposes. These GDPR rules also specify what is regarded as a legitimate purpose. 

For example, the recording of standard personal data is allowed with the consent of the data subject, or for the execution of an employment contract. This would include data about age and gender which is usually easy to obtain from personnel files or via the HR department.

Certain categories of personal data, for example, ethnic background or sexual orientation, are less easy to collect. A GDPR-compliant condition for processing these special kinds of personal data is that such recording must serve a specific purpose (such as preferential or diversity policies) and take place with the explicit consent of each employee. 

How to collect data on diversity

If employees are hesitant to provide personal information, one option is to conduct an anonymous survey. The results would then be reported anonymously, where no data could be attached or traced back to a specific person. 

In addition, it is important to state very clearly that your organisation is requesting this information in order to increase the level of diversity. This approach is also likely to generate more support.

Using human resources software allows you to store statistical data you have collected about the diversity of your workforce in a central place. With its reporting functionality, you can then map the composition of your workforce by age, gender and ethnicity, and thus monitor changes and improvements more easily.

 data dashboard for HR analytics system for diversity and inclusion personnel data
HR system from Freshteam designed to track personnel data (source)

How to promote diversity in your organisation

The first step in any initiative to promote diversity is to get management support. And if managers are to support hiring diverse talent, they must first understand its importance. 

Diversity can then be anchored in workplace policy-making, including assessment processes and evaluation mechanisms. Additionally, it can then become integrated into staff recruitment and workforce training. 

How to determine the level of inclusion in your workplace

Gartner research identifies seven key factors to determine employee experience and satisfaction with their workplace environment (full research available to Gartner clients):

  • Fair Treatment – Fair pay and recognition for employees who help the organisation achieve strategic objectives.
  • Integrating differences – Respecting and valuing each other’s opinions.
  • Decision-making – Fair consideration of ideas and suggestions from fellow team members.
  • Psychological Safety – No reluctance among employees to express their true feelings at work.
  • Trust – Promoting honest and open communication within the organisation.
  • Belonging – Ensuring that the people in the organisation feel cared for.
  • Diversity – Managers in the organisation reflect the same diversity as the wider workforce.

How to collect data on workplace inclusion

To map inclusion in your own organisation, you can conduct an annual or biennial employee satisfaction survey (job satisfaction survey) or draft anonymous in-depth questionnaires covering specific themes. 

It’s important to demonstrate that the data will be processed anonymously so employees can be open about their feelings without fearing any possible repercussions. 

How can you promote inclusion?

D&I training can be utilised to promote inclusion initiatives and raise awareness in your organisation, – for example, by introducing training that raises awareness and improves access provision for workers with disabilities. 

Alternatively, another option is improving secondary employment conditions, such as leave for those with elderly/childcare responsibilities. 

In both these examples, training software can be used to easily set up educational activities for your workforce covering topics related to diversity.

Measuring equality in the workplace

Equality should be considered in conjunction with the diversity and inclusion parameters described above rather than being measured separately from them. Any problems with diversity or inclusion can often be traced back to a problem with equality. 

It’s therefore a good idea to use your workforce data to find areas where diversity goals are not being met or where there is clearly room for improvement. You can then back to evaluate those processes that impact such an outcome. 

There will probably be an equality issue in one or more of these areas. Bias can occur in many contexts, such as: 

  • Promotion 
  • Recruitment and selection
  • Performance management
  • Interaction with managers
  • Organisational changes
  • Interaction between colleagues
  • Prizes and awards
  • Onboarding

Metrics to measure diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Once you have mapped all the data on diversity, inclusion and equality, you can further analyse the results by department or functional level to determine which groups are under-represented or which areas offer room for improvement. 

When considering how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace in the UK there are a few key metrics that can help define how your organisation is performing.

These are illustrated below in this example from Gartner’s ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Metrics to Track and Report’ (full document available to Gartner clients). This guide shows some of the DEI metrics companies generally measure. 

Diversity and inclusion workplace metrics to track and report infographic

Based on these insights, you can then decide what measures to adopt and create an action plan. The strategy should set reasonable schedules that leave enough time for change as well as specifying how you will monitor progress in order to reach the goals you have targeted. 

Reporting and interpreting D&I data

You can use HR analytics tools to monitor and measure the progress of your diversity policy. These apps and programs can translate your collected datasets into actionable insights by merging your results and combining them with other business data to analyse their impact on your objectives to reach a more inclusive culture. 

This makes it possible to discover connections between elements such as employee engagement and work performance or staff turnover and sales volumes. Furthermore, insights such as these can help companies to make predictions about how new initiatives may affect staff turnover, company performance, or the recruitment and selection of personnel.

 Screenshot Visier people tool detailing diversity and inclusion workplace data
Visier HR analytics tool showing the progress of diverse applicants through the hiring process (source)

Get started

Now you know exactly how to implement a diversity and inclusion policy in your own organisation. Start at the beginning by creating your own analysis to discover how inclusive your organisation actually is. 

Today’s job market is becoming increasingly diverse, and reflecting that diversity in your workforce and following best practices can bring you business benefits such as a broader customer base, more creativity, and an improved company image!

Looking for HR analytics software? Check out our catalogue.

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

Share This Article

About the authors

Content Analyst for the UK, providing key insights into tech, software and business trends for SMEs. Cardiff University graduate, travel enthusiast, keen home chef and F1 fan.

Content Analyst for the UK, providing key insights into tech, software and business trends for SMEs. Cardiff University graduate, travel enthusiast, keen home chef and F1 fan.

As a Content Analyst at Capterra, Quirine highlights the technological possibilities for improvement in SMEs. She focuses on digitization, software and technological trends.

As a Content Analyst at Capterra, Quirine highlights the technological possibilities for improvement in SMEs. She focuses on digitization, software and technological trends.