Employees in today’s workforce want to work for companies that align with their values. Fifty-seven percent of people say they want a workplace that’s committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and think their company should be doing more to increase diversity. 

While employees expressed this sentiment long before the pandemic, the pandemic did amplify many existing inequities. The call for leaders to create an inclusive work environment grew particularly urgent in the last year. “Managers are dealing with the impacts of social inequality magnified by a pandemic, scrambling to support employees dealing with increased racial discrimination,” writes DE&I consultant Lily Zheng in Harvard Business Review. Supporting DE&I efforts doesn’t have to be a scramble if companies are building it into every part of the organization, from the top. Leaders, as role models of a business, are one of the most important puzzle pieces to building a more inclusive company.

For HR leaders, executives, and people managers, the following are six ways they can promote inclusivity in their teams and their company. 

Preview of leadership diverse world

1. Limit the role of unconscious bias in hiring decisions 

Bias can affect all parts of the hiring process. We may unintentionally dismiss candidates because of their gender, race, physical appearance, or other qualities. How do we overcome this? “Apply empathy to create more fair and equitable hiring practices,” says Jossie Haines, Senior Director of Platform Engineering at Tile and advocate for DE&I in the workplace.

When you create a consistent hiring process for every candidate like the one outlined here, you can limit the effects of bias.

2. Diversify candidate sourcing

If you and your recruiting team are always going to the same places to source candidates, you’ll end up with the same types of employees. This is why Jossie emphasizes finding new sources for your candidate pipeline. 

For example, when filling technical roles, send recruiters to tech events that focus on underrepresented communities like:

Also, look to your local community, including nonprofits and community colleges, to see where your company can create hiring partnerships and make an impact in your neighborhood.  

3. Implement fair performance evaluations

Building fair performance evaluation processes is a critical piece of the DE&I puzzle. To prevent and overcome bias in performance reviews, remove any room for ambiguity. Create evaluation rubrics and career ladders for each department and role level in your company. Then, ensure teams and managers use them. When leaders implement fair and equitable performance evaluations, they empower everyone on their team to thrive.

4. Be an inclusive mentor

According to a study from Stanford, companies with mentorship programs saw a 24% increase in minority representation with management roles. Mentoring staff from underrepresented backgrounds helps them gain vital access to skills-building and networking opportunities. Mentorship also creates a more open and welcoming company culture where colleagues can learn from each other. Mentors may even see their personal development as leaders grow thanks to the new perspectives gained from their mentee relationships.

5. Use inclusive language 

Words — especially in the high-stakes world of work — can cause pain for colleagues, even if unintentional. For instance, the tech world is riddled with legacy terms that aren’t known for creating psychological safety in the workplace. Jossie notes some of the questions tech teams should ask themselves: “Why are we still using terms like ‘master-slave’ [for programming]? Can we shift to primary and secondary?” 

Gendered language can be problematic, too. To refer to a group of people as “guys” can make some feel excluded. Consider the language used in hiring and throughout the employee lifecycle. Rewrite job descriptions to use gender-neutral words and ensure internal employee materials also reflect inclusive wording. Small changes make a significant impact.

6. Call out inappropriate behavior 

Everyone in the room may have laughed (or pretended to) at a sexist joke, but that doesn’t make it appropriate workplace behavior. Ignoring it sends the wrong signal. Don’t wait for an employee to file a complaint before taking action. If you witness someone say or do something inappropriate, don’t let it slide. Note that inappropriate behavior extends itself beyond harmful conversations. For example, if you see inequitable promotion practices, speak out against them. 

Actively foster a DE&I workplace

Employees today are demanding more from their leaders, not just with words but with action. They want to work at companies that promote and reward diverse thoughts and backgrounds. It’s up to companies and learning teams to ensure that leaders are equipped with the training and skills necessary to foster DE&I on their teams.

Find more ways to implement engaging and effective leadership training for every kind of leader in Reimagining Leadership Development for a Multi-Generational Workforce.