By Marisol Hughes, WilsonHCG

Awareness of diversity and inclusion, and the importance of equity, in business is no longer an issue. The #MeToo movement in 2018 highlighted the severity of gender discrimination and harassment that some female workers still face. However, despite this increased awareness, the creation of a truly inclusive environment is something that many businesses still need to work on.

Attaining a diverse workforce can be accomplished by reaching a certain representative number, but inclusion is about the feeling people get when they are in the workplace. It’s about fostering an environment of dignity and respect, regardless of differences, rather than emphasizing individual characteristics. Businesses need to welcome all, not just ensure they’ve hit a quota. It truly is the company culture and can’t be faked.

Diversity, inclusion, and human equity must become a mindset—not merely an initiative. To be effective, these ideas must be ingrained across the entire workforce. Leadership teams are aware that environments with increased diversity are vital in order for every individual to grow and thrive. However, many companies are still struggling to fully implement inclusive cultures. The only way to fix this is to ensure that change comes from the top down and is driven by cultural mentoring and training.

Workplaces are more like communities now largely due to changes in demographics. For example, mixed generation workplaces are now the norm. Gen-Z and millennials (those between 18 and 35 years of age) are working with baby boomers (individuals born between 1945 and 1965), and all have experiences unique to their generations. The key here is that the generations are working together, rather than simply alongside each other. They are sharing knowledge and experience, and there’s no longer a feeling of “them” and “us.” This means businesses truly are allowing individuals to thrive.

Another way to make workplaces more inclusive is to offer flexible working practices. Women are 22 percent more likely than men to cite flexible work arrangements as a very important factor when considering a job, and those aged between 36 and 45 are the most likely to do so, according to LinkedIn’s latest Global Talent Trends report. It’s not just about working moms either. Flexible working practices benefit all types of people, including those caring for elderly or ill relatives, military spouses, and people living in rural areas.

Companies need to create inclusive, equal, positive, and sustainable environments that inspire talent to flourish, regardless of age, gender, education, disability, religious beliefs, race, or social background.

Unconscious bias is, however, fast becoming an issue because of the rise of intelligent technology in talent acquisition. Much of the technology used in talent acquisition claims to reduce unconscious bias, but this is simply not the case. For example, artificial intelligence (AI) is supposed to think and act as we do—and that’s the problem. Intelligent systems can, and do, adopt human prejudices.

It’s taken a long time to achieve the current state of diversity and inclusion in the workplace (and there’s still plenty more to do), it would be a shame if all the progress that has been made over the last few years were to be diluted or lost. HR leaders need to educate recruitment teams about unconscious bias and the destructive impact it can have, as well as the importance of constantly validating results to identify the presence of bias in the process. Continuing to build an awareness of bias in recruiting and hiring is essential, as is educating our leaders about its inevitable presence in human nature.

Marisol Hughes

Marisol Hughes

Diversity Leader, Executive Vice President, and General Counsel at WilsonHCG. She assists in the navigation of mergers and acquisitions, overseeing compliance and corporate governance to supporting foreign market entry and expansion.