Enabling Equity: Strategies for HR Leaders and Managers

Sandra Healy
CEO and Founder at inclusio
August 16, 2023 - 4 min read

Despite efforts, many organisations still face challenges in their equity and inclusion efforts. This applies to various diverse groups, including racially or ethnically diverse minorities, neurodiverse individuals, and LGBTQIA+ individuals. 

To highlight a few statistics: 

How to achieve equity and inclusion in the workplace

Achieving equity and inclusion in the workplace requires a commitment from employers to address unconscious bias, promote diversity in leadership, and provide accommodations and support for underrepresented groups. 

By creating a more inclusive workplace, employers can attract and retain top talent from diverse backgrounds and foster a more innovative and productive workforce. Let's explore this in more detail below. 

1. Unconscious bias and its impact 

One of the main challenges is unconscious bias, which can lead to discrimination in hiring, promotion, and other employment decisions. For example, a hiring manager may unconsciously favour candidates who share their background or characteristics, even if they are not the most qualified for the job. This can lead to a lack of diversity in the workplace and limit opportunities for underrepresented groups. 

2. Representation and visibility in leadership positions 

Another challenge is more representation and visibility for diverse groups in leadership positions. When people from diverse backgrounds do not see themselves reflected in leadership roles, they may feel that they need equal opportunities for advancement or that their contributions should be valued. This can lead to a lack of engagement and retention among diverse employees. 

3. Challenges faced by neurodiverse individuals 

Neurodiverse individuals, such as those with autism or ADHD, may face additional challenges in the workplace. They may struggle with social interactions, communication, and sensory overload, challenging their ability to navigate the workplace environment. 

Employers may need to provide accommodations such as flexible work arrangements or sensory-friendly workspaces. These meaningful actions can enable these individuals to gain workplace experience that directly translates to a greater sense of inclusion.  

4. LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace 

Gender identity has become essential for any business seeking to foster a healthy and progressive company culture. LGBTQIA+ individuals may also face discrimination and harassment in the workplace, which can create a hostile work environment and limit their opportunities for advancement. 

Employers can take steps to create a more inclusive workplace, such as implementing anti-discrimination policies, providing diversity and inclusion training, and offering benefits such as domestic partner benefits and gender-neutral bathrooms. 


What is the current state of DEI metrics and measurement?

While the challenges of achieving equity and inclusion in the workplace are evident, the methods to measure and act upon these challenges have evolved. Recent advancements in DEI research and tools have provided organisations with more precise metrics and actionable insights. The 2023 data from Gartner, a leading research and advisory company, is a notable contribution in this domain. 

According to Gartner's recent findings: 

  • HR leaders should assist managers in setting clear diversity targets and ensuring these targets are met. This proactive approach ensures that diversity is not just a buzzword but is actively pursued within the organisation. 
  • One effective method is to conduct employee surveys focusing on seven key areas of inclusion. While not detailed in the snippet, these areas will likely encompass aspects such as employee belonging, representation in leadership roles, and the effectiveness of DEI training programs. 
  • Organisations should take a holistic approach to improving equity. This involves looking at all organisational practices, from hiring to promotions, and ensuring that they are free from biases and provide equal opportunities to all.  

How can HR implement strategies for a more inclusive and equitable workplace? 

HR leaders and managers can start by conducting a diversity and inclusion audit to assess the current state of their workplace. This audit should include an analysis of the workforce demographics, company policies, and practices. Based on the findings, HR leaders and managers can identify areas for improvement and develop a plan to establish an inclusive workplace culture. 

1. Diversity and inclusion initiatives 

Another effective strategy is to provide diversity and inclusion training to all employees. This training should cover unconscious bias, cultural competency, and inclusive language. HR leaders and managers can also provide training on how to heighten workplace diversity, including strategies for recruiting and retaining a diverse talent pool. 

2. Role of employee resource groups (ERGs) 

HR leaders and managers can also establish employee resource groups (ERGs) to provide a space for employees from diverse backgrounds to connect and support each other. 

ERGs can also serve as a resource for the organisation, providing insights and recommendations on creating a more inclusive workplace. HR leaders and managers should ensure that ERGs are supported and have a budget to carry out their activities. 

3. Inclusive policies and practices 

Finally, HR leaders and managers should ensure that their company's policies and practices are inclusive and equitable. This includes reviewing and revising recruitment, hiring, promotion, and compensation policies to ensure they allow diverse candidates access to opportunities. HR leaders and managers should also ensure that their company's benefits and perks are inclusive and meet the needs of all employees. 


What role do company policies and procedures play in promoting workplace equity and inclusion?

Company policies and procedures are crucial in promoting equity and inclusion in the workplace. They set the tone for how employees are expected to behave and interact with one another. Consider the following points: 

  • Company policies and procedures set the tone for employee behaviour and interactions. 
  • Policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment based on characteristics like race, gender, and sexual orientation ensure a safe and inclusive environment. 
  • Policies promoting diversity and inclusion, especially around recruitment and retention, make the workplace representative of the broader community. This fosters an inclusive culture where everyone feels valued and supported, increasing business performance. 

More than merely having policies is required. Leadership teams should incorporate inclusion practices and employee feedback into their diversity training. Consider the points below: 

  • Regular reviews and updates are essential to keep them effective and aligned with best practices. 
  • Clear communication of policies to all employees is crucial. 
  • Consistent enforcement of policies is necessary. 
  • Inclusive leaders with a commitment to diversity can positively impact employee sentiment.  

How can HR effectively encourage a welcoming environment for diverse employees?

HR leaders and managers can create an environment that welcomes and supports diverse employees by implementing diversity and inclusion training programs. 

These programs help employees understand the importance of diversity and inclusion and provide them with the tools and knowledge to create a more inclusive workplace. Training can cover unconscious bias, cultural competence, and effective communication with diverse colleagues. 

1. Supporting employee resource groups (ERGs) 

Another way to create a welcoming and supportive environment is to establish employee resource groups (ERGs). ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that provide a supportive community for employees with a shared identity or experience. 

For example, an ERG for LGBTQIA+ employees can provide a safe space for employees to connect, share experiences, and advocate for their needs within the workplace. HR leaders and managers can support ERGs by providing resources, funding, and actively promoting their activities and events. 

2. Implementing inclusive policies 

HR leaders and managers can also create a welcoming and supportive environment by implementing inclusive policies and practices. This can include policies around recruitment and hiring, such as actively seeking out diverse candidates and ensuring that job descriptions are inclusive. 

It can also include policies around workplace accommodations, such as providing flexible work arrangements for employees with disabilities or caregiving responsibilities. By implementing inclusive policies and practices, HR leaders and managers can create a workplace culture that values and supports diversity. 

3. Actively listening to diverse employees 

Finally, HR leaders and managers can ensure that they create a welcoming and supportive environment by actively listening to and addressing the concerns of diverse employees. 

This can involve conducting regular employee surveys to gather feedback on workplace culture and practices and taking action to address any identified issues. It can also create channels for employees to provide input and raise concerns, such as an anonymous suggestion box or a designated HR representative. 

HR leaders and managers can foster a workplace culture that values and supports all employees by actively listening to and addressing the concerns of a diverse workforce. 


Final insights

In conclusion, achieving equity and inclusion in the workplace is multifaceted. It requires a concerted effort of leadership commitment from HR executives, managers, and the entire organisation. Remember that equality of opportunity nurtures employee experience, fair treatment, and a leveled playing field, ultimately enhancing financial performance. 

Companies can create an inclusive environment by acknowledging challenges and utilising data-driven insights. They can also implement effective strategies to ensure everyone feels valued, heard, and empowered - regardless of ethnic diversity, socioeconomic status, and cultural differences. 

As the business landscape evolves, organisations prioritising diversity and inclusion will benefit from richer perspectives that can help position any company for sustainable success.  

About the Author: 

Sandra is an Organisational Psychologist and NLP Master Practitioner. Over 17 years she has championed and driven diversity and inclusion practice across industry and is considered a leading expert. In 2014, she was involved in establishing the EU Diversity Charter Ireland. In 2020 Sandra was a member of the Expert Advisory Group for Ireland’s Citizens Assembly. 

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