By: Jamie Birt
Jamie Birt is a career coach with 3+ years of experience helping job seekers navigate the job search through one-to-one coaching, webinars, and events. She’s motivated by the mission to help people find fulfillment in their careers.
Diversity and inclusion are two separate concepts that are most powerful when they are practiced hand-in-hand. Diversity should be sought after, celebrated, and nurtured in the workplace through acts of inclusion. If working for an employer that prioritizes diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a non-negotiable for you based on your core values, it can be helpful to understand exactly what D&I is and how to tell whether companies truly value it in their company culture. A company that is truly diverse and inclusive doesn’t only hire individuals with different backgrounds. They are values that require top-to-bottom action and should affect every level of the business.
In this article we’ll define what it means to be diverse and inclusive in the workplace and why it’s important, including how to determine whether a company promotes a diverse and inclusive culture.
What is diversity in the workplace?
Indeed’s Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging team defines diversity in the workplace as "The skills, backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and abilities that shape your identity and reflect the global communities in which we operate. Teams with different work styles, problem-solving techniques, life experiences, backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets make innovation possible."
There are many characteristics of diversity such as race, age, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, military background, and disability. Diversity starts with the hiring process, but shouldn’t end there. Diversity can be seen in the events a company sponsors, their vendors and supply chain, volunteer opportunities available to employees, and organizations/non-profits they’ve invested in.
What is diversity in the workplace?
Indeed’s Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging team defines inclusion in the workplace as "Actions and behaviours that create a culture where employees feel valued, trusted, and authentic—and that their voice is heard so they can contribute fully and thrive."
Examples of inclusion in practise include offering workshops and training centred around diversity and inclusion, implementing goals towards attaining diversity and inclusion, and supporting employee inclusion resource groups or councils.
Why is diversity and inclusion valuable?
Companies that adopt a diverse and inclusive culture see an increase in creativity, innovation, employee satisfaction, and retention. One study found that companies with above-average diversity in their management resulted had 19% higher innovation revenue than companies with below-average diversity.
As an employee, it’s important to feel respected, valued, and like you belong for your emotional well-being and job performance. Social belonging is a fundamental need, yet 40% of people say they feel isolated at work. This leads to lower organizational commitment and engagement.
Furthermore, in times of turmoil and uncertainty (such as those we’re experiencing now), it’s vital that employees who belong to minority groups feel supported by their company. LaFawn Davis, VP of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at Indeed says, "We’re all experiencing the world we live in, in different ways. And we have different identities. We come from different communities. And that’s what diversity is really all about. It’s about acknowledging and celebrating those differences when traumatic experiences occur." She goes on, "Employees' productivity might go down, innovation slows, capacity, morale, performance, and psychological safety might decline. So it’s necessary for us to set a culture of inclusion and belonging on our teams within our organizations and create a space to know that [people] have been heard, acknowledged, valued, and supported."
7 ways to identify whether a company values a diverse and inclusive culture
1. Read the job posting
Because job postings are one of the main ways to recruit potential employees, there are some things you can look out for that may signal a company that isn’t practising diversity and inclusion. Things to look out for may include:
- Vague verbiage
- Requirements that are misaligned with the level of the position
- Benefits that only appeal to a specific lifestyle (e.g. ping-pong table, beer on tap, weekly happy hours)
- Gendered language (ninja, dominate, hacker, diva)
2. Visit the company website
There are many places to look for signs of a diverse and inclusive culture on a company’s website. Start with their core values and mission statement to see if there is any mention of fostering an environment of diversity, inclusion, or belonging. Next, look at the photos they’ve posted of employees. Does it look like they’re representing a diverse talent pool? Check to see if they mention any internal inclusion resource groups or councils—examples include LGBTQ+, women, veteran, and Black inclusion groups. You can also see if the company is involved in giving back or volunteering in your community.
3. Search their social media
Browsing a company’s social media presence is another helpful way to preview their culture. Companies typically post photos of events and employees and may share company news or updates on their accounts. Look for posts that take a stance. For example, have they posted a message supporting the LBGTQ community this month? June is Gay Pride Month in Canada, so you could look for posts documenting the company’s involvement with their local Pride Parade or celebrations they have planned at the office.
Many companies have also recently made public statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on their social media accounts. Other things to look for are diversity in photos of employees, messages speaking to their commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the presence of inclusion groups.
4. Reach out to current or former employees
Reach out to employees you know, or use social networking sites to message someone at the company. Ask for an informational interview to learn about what the company does to promote diversity and inclusion. For example questions, read on.
5. Ask questions in the interview
Ask questions about diversity and inclusion at every stage of the interview process, from phone screen to onsite. Usually, interviewers leave five to ten minutes at the end of an interview for the candidate to ask questions. This is your chance to gain insight from employees, leaders, and hiring managers representing the company.
Stephen McQuinn, Senior Technical Recruiter at Indeed, suggests asking interviewers these questions targeted towards diversity and inclusion:
- What are the most important values of your company?
- How do you promote Diversity and Inclusion?
- An inclusive environment is valuable to me, how do you promote inclusivity amongst your teams?
- What resources and/or benefits do you offer employees?
- Do you have any employee resource groups?
- Does the company provide D&I training such as Unconscious Bias?
6. Observe during the interview
There will be cues of a diverse and inclusive culture to look out for through the interview process. When attending an in-person, on-site interview, look around the office for the representation of diversity in the people, space, photos, and art.
If you’re interviewing virtually, you won’t have the chance to look at the office space in-person. Look for diversity (e.g. age, ethnicity, gender) in the interviewers themselves. If it’s a panel interview and the interviewers are diverse, consider whether they are all getting equal time to answer/ask questions. Lastly, take note of the interviewer's body language and comfortability when answering the questions you ask from the above section. It could be worth noting if they seem uncomfortable, or have closed off body language (e.g. arms crossed, looking down or away).
When emailing back-and-forth with your recruiter and interviewers, take notice of whether or not they include their preferred pronouns in their email signatures. Additionally, be aware that the interviewers aren’t asking any personal questions such as your age, marital status, sexual, or religious orientation.
7. Check their benefits
Benefits are a good way to see if the company is supportive of all employees. Diverse and inclusive benefits include adoption assistance, floating religious holiday, family leave for both parents, senior care, flexible work schedules, and mental health support. Company benefits are typically listed on their website or in the job posting. If you don’t see them, ask the recruiter for a list of benefits after the initial phone screen.