How to Empower Diverse Employees

Diversity and inclusion don’t stop at hiring. HR needs to be able to support the company’s talent through the full employee lifecycle.

Decades ago, the boardroom looked very different. The vast majority of leadership positions were held by straight, white men. Women, people of color, religious minorities, or members of the LGBTQ community were hardly represented. While there is still room for improvement, businesses are taking steps to hire workforces that better represent our population as a whole. As a result, many are seeing the benefits of advancing individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds.

How can HR help ensure the right voices are present and heard? The more diversity we see at the top, the more we will see reflected throughout the organization. Consider these five tips to help employees move up the career ladder.

1. Rethink your hiring practices.

If you want to promote diverse employees into management positions, you need diverse employees to begin with. That’s why it’s so important to pursue a diverse pool of candidates for positions at all levels. Keep in mind that the “best” fit for a job is not always going to be the person with the highest GPA or the one who attended an Ivy League school.

Many people who come from minority backgrounds face obstacles unfamiliar to the majority. Some struggle through school while juggling part-time jobs. Members of the LGBTQ community are sometimes cut off from their families, who refuse to provide them with emotional or financial support. As a result, individuals from these backgrounds may not have the same accolades on their resume as majority candidates.

These resume “deficiencies” are not a reflection of intelligence, talent, or motivation. Give candidates a fair chance and evaluate them on their core skills rather than academic accolades. Once you’ve built an unbiased interview process, use tools to ensure that every member of the team understand it and gives each candidate gets the same facetime and consideration.   

2. Focus on retention.

It’s not enough to hire diverse talent—you need to also give them a reason to stay. This is the oft-neglected inclusion piece of diversity. Onboard new hires properly, treat them with respect, honor their differences, and offer personalized benefits to support their way of life. For example, you might choose an insurance policy that will cover hormones and gender confirmation surgeries for transgender individuals. Additionally, you might also make time off accommodations for individuals with different religious beliefs.

Bottom line? Without a truly inclusive culture, you risk undoing the work of sourcing and recruiting diverse candidates.

3. Protect your employees.

Don’t allow a toxic environment to alienate the very individuals you’re seeking to promote. Spend time building a company culture where sexism and bigotry are not tolerated. Lead by example and set a standard of showing respect and tolerance to everyone. With the right checks and balances in place, your culture will become self-regulating and weed out signs of discrimination early on.

4. Don’t reward conformity.

Once you have a diverse workforce, resist the urge to make everyone act and think alike. To truly promote diversity, you have to embrace differences in culture, language, and lifestyle. When it comes time to hand out raises, bonuses, and promotions, be sure to carely check for unconscious bias and avoid falling prey to the “similar-to-me” phenomenon.

5. Question your decisions.

When you’re ready to finalize a promotion, pause to consider your choices carefully.  If you aren’t considering someone from a diverse background, ask yourself why—and be honest with yourself. Is it because the individual is truly not the best fit for the job? Or is it because of something less tangible, like an inherent bias or emotional “gut feeling?” If it’s the latter, go back to the drawing board and carefully reconsider your options.

6. Get leadership buy-in.

The benefits of a diverse workforce are more than just moral. Prioritizing diversity in your organization can help your business grow and succeed through:

Increased Profits: Profitable companies make money by finding creative solutions to big problems. Nothing kills creativity like trying to solve a problem in a room full of people who think exactly alike.  


Brand Loyalty: In a country where powerful celebrities and executives are being exposed for misconduct, companies are finding that consumers are attracted to businesses who genuinely embrace diversity in their hiring and promotion practices.


Scandal Prevention: How many times has a corporation been forced to kill a million dollar ad campaign after public outcry over a lack of sensitivity? How many times have companies been sued for failing to protect women and minorities in the workplace? Avoid careless mistakes by hiring socially conscious employees to keep your initiatives in check.

The benefits are clear, so what are you waiting for? It’s time to start building diversity and inclusion into every piece of the employee experience.

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