Wellbeing is a core concern for every employer in 2023, but especially those looking to attract and retain their diverse individuals in the workspace. Templeton’s recent Hiring Diversity Report found that despite 7 in 10 business leaders actively trying to recruit diverse skills, most companies are not seeing a return on their investment into Diversity and Inclusion initiatives.
Many industries and businesses are still not providing inclusive workplaces where diverse individuals can thrive. Half of all female employees are leaving sectors like tech before the age of 35, and 1 in 10 women are being driven out of the workplace altogether by lack of support with menopause symptoms. Individuals of ethnic minority backgrounds are still overlooked for management positions and career investment opportunities. LGBT+ people are still discriminated against and bullied out of their roles, and people who identify as disabled or neurodiverse are still less likely to even get their foot in the door of an organisation, let alone receive the support and career investment needed for true wellbeing at work.
How can employers provide the best possible working experience that allows their teams to thrive and succeed?
Diverse international recruitment agency Templeton and Partners reveal seven actions that employers can take immediately to support diverse individuals at work.
1. Listen to Feedback
The best way to find out what any individual needs to feel and perform at their best is to ask them. Wellbeing can have very different meanings for different people, and this is especially true for diverse groups, whose needs have been ignored and undervalued by the business world for far too long.
Some women will share the need for flexible working hours to support childcare arrangements, and some people with disabilities will benefit from more remote working options to save on a time-consuming commute, however both groups will have many needs that overlap and many that do not. The most well-meaning employers sometimes assume that one excellent benefit will work effectively for everyone, when in reality, one size won’t fit all, and this is positive: employers can help every individual feel comfortable, supported and motivated by tailoring their working environment and experience to them.
From the application and interview process to onboarding and during every performance review, employers should regularly ask and check in with individuals about adjustments that could make an employee’s working life better and easier, and then actually follow through by making these adjustments.
2. Give a Voice
Employers are often missing some of the best ideas and innovations for their business because employees aren’t given a voice to express themselves. This is especially true for diverse employees: McKinsey reports that diverse leadership teams drive significantly more revenue and positive business impact than less diverse leadership teams, because of the different perspectives, knowledge and ideas they bring to the table. Employers can provide a plethora of methods, both virtual and in person, to harness honest, insightful employee feedback including:
• Town Hall Meetings – Monthly/quarterly direct face-to-face time with Board and leadership teams, dedicated to asking questions on company progress and goals, and suggesting ideas directly to leadership.
• Anonymous Suggestion Boxes – Virtual suggestion boxes and a physical box in the office can both be anonymous, allowing employees to suggest changes to ways of working, service improvements and fun ideas without any worry of judgement.
• Employee Surveys – Anonymous surveys can track employee satisfaction across the business and in different departments, and can drill down into what the organisation is doing really well and where the opportunities for improvement lie.
• 1-2-1s – Managers should be having dedicated time with their direct reports at least once every fortnight. The nature of these less formal meetings and the amount of investment into the direct manager/employee relationships make for conversations based around an employee’s goals, challenges and needs. Boards and leadership teams can speak regularly with line managers to share the true picture of the working experience from a variety of perspectives, enabling leaders to deliver wellbeing initiatives that are truly appreciated and really effective.
3. Flexibility Means Flexibility
We all know that we work better when we feel safe, supported and happy in our roles, whatever this looks like for each individual. Flexibility isn’t simply hybrid working, but truly matching working life to the needs of everyone. The purpose of flexibility is to ensure employees are productive, engaged and happy, meaning they produce excellent quality and volume of work for their employers and work effectively in their roles for many years – if corporate ‘flexibility’ isn’t actually flexible, it won’t work for the company or its employees, diverse or not.
Whilst remote and part-time work options are very beneficial for women with parenting and caring responsibilities, neurodiverse women could also benefit from written, asynchronous communication rather than meetings wherever possible, and disabled women could benefit from the ability to work more during morning/evening hours to follow their own energy levels, with more breaks.
True flexibility is equitable rather than equal – tailored to individual need rather than one rule for all – and requires employers and managers to invest in obtaining feedback from diverse employees, really listening to their challenges and needs, and using this feedback to implement and continually adapt ways of working that truly help diverse individuals balance personal and professional goals.
4. Deeds, Not Words
Too many employers believe that simply creating a D&I policy and mentioning that they’re an equal opportunities employer on job adverts will see diverse candidates flocking to apply for their vacancies. In 2023, every company wants to be seen as diverse and inclusive, and every company wants to appear to care about the wellbeing of their staff (whether they actually do or not) – to attract and retain high quality diverse talent, businesses need their actions to speak louder than their words.
Rather than pasting rainbow flags around the office at Pride Month or sharing social media posts on International Women’s Day, diverse employees need to feel valued and supported all year long. Celebrate these annual calendar dates but also encourage and facilitate regular events in support of D&I throughout the year, frequently invite external speakers from diverse communities into the office to share their stories, run volunteering programmes with charities where employees can get directly involved in supporting communities, and both donate to inclusive causes and invest in training, support and diverse initiatives that directly impact employees in a positive way. Diverse individuals need to see real investment in D&I and real-life proof of an inclusive workplace to trust this employer with their wellbeing.
Even the most welcoming, inclusive employers can’t expect all . Diverse individuals may find it more difficult to speak with their managers than colleagues, due to discrimination and a lack of support they’ve experienced in the past, meaning managers must ensure that employees are listened to, respected and that their concerns are followed up with a response and actions.
The companies where worker wellbeing is at its highest practice effective communication from the top down. Board Directors and senior management can take every opportunity to emphasise their own commitment to diversity and inclusion, from company-wide presentations to strategy meetings to email newsletters and direct communication with other managers. If the most powerful people in an organisation believe in the importance of diversity and inclusion, colleagues will absorb this message and champion D&I in their own teams, and diverse individuals will feel more confident and aligned to the company. Companies, leaders and managers must improve communication at all levels to engage, recruit, and harness the skills of the talent pools of the future.
6. Support & Invest in Connections
No one is better able to understand (and therefore support) diverse individuals than others who share the same direct experiences. Rather than expecting diverse employees to seek each other out, employers can provide formal and informal networking groups to encourage employees from the same groups and backgrounds to come together.
Many FTSE and Fortune 500 companies have a variety of diverse employee networking groups, but they will only be effective if they receive the proper investment and support. Provide dedicated time during working hours and a dedicated space for employees to feel both safe to express their thoughts and feelings, and feel that their employer really understands the importance of the networking group. Allocating a budget for these networking groups empowers diverse employees to get the most out of their space and time, using their resources to raise awareness and enact real change in the wider organisation.
7. Champion Career Development
‘Equal’ opportunities are not enough: employers need to proactively address the barriers that exist for diverse employees and tackle them head-on to promote positive wellbeing. Employees most in need of reasonable adjustments often suffer career penalties, in addition to the biases, discrimination and lack of support at work. Because less attention and investment is allocated to employees in part-time roles, and due to the proximity bias associated with remote working, female, disabled and neurodiverse employees are at greater risk of missing out on promotions and development opportunities.
Diverse individuals often feel the need to work harder and achieve more to receive the same recognition as colleagues, and are often expected to complete additional administrative or internal tasks that do not contribute to promotion targets. The barriers holding back diverse employees from career progress are varied and numerous, requiring a multi-faceted approach from employers.
Managers are often not trained to support diverse colleagues through the specific issues they face, such as returning to work after having a baby or the physical and emotional challenges associated with a disability. Diverse individuals can be dissuaded for asking for help or accommodations if they don’t see active promotion and encouragement from colleagues and leaders. Looking after employee wellbeing means adapting your management style to each direct report and their needs. Managers should assess their whole team fairly by their effort and output, but also must frequently take note and support their diverse colleagues with the specific challenges they face, helping them remove additional stressors that are outside their job description and providing flexibility to accommodate childcare, healthcare appointments and personal challenges. SMART goals reduce manager bias to empower employees to reach their career goals, and diverse mentors help build the confidence and toolkits needed for diverse individuals to champion their own career development.
True corporate inclusivity means investing the time and resources to get feedback from existing employees from diverse groups across departments, experience levels and backgrounds, really listening to their challenges and needs, and using this feedback to implement and continually adapt policies. Mentoring will upskill existing diverse employees, and nurturing an engaged diverse workforce will generate referrals for diverse talent in the near and distant future, providing a more diverse and inclusive (and therefore more positive and welcoming) workplace that supports the wellbeing of every employee.
Nadeem Ahmad founded Templeton and Partners 26 years ago with the goal of creating a truly diverse tech recruitment agency, that also led D&I in tech and business globally. Templeton is 82% diverse, spans 40 countries and works with some of the world's largest and most successful businesses. Nadeem was named Business Leader of the Year 2021 by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, and Templeton have won over 30 awards in recognition of our diverse and inclusive recruitment services.