Not too long ago, diversity was seen as an effort in compliance, with quotas being the only way to measure progress. Today, forward-thinking companies have embraced an inclusionary business case for diversity: Organizations that employ people with a wealth of different experiences, backgrounds and thinking styles are best prepared to meet the needs and wants of an increasingly diverse marketplace.

Success is still measured in numbers — the ones on the bottom line. "Why diversity matters," a 2015 report McKinsey & Co., finds that diversity pays handsomely: gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform those without gender diversity. Ethnically-diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform companies without ethnic diversity.

Increasingly, organizations are seeing a lack of diversity in their workforce as a liability. The following four best practices will help organizations better reach, recruit and retain a talented pool of diverse workers.

Make Diversity Part of the Employment Brand

Just as the consumer brand is the image companies project to consumers, the employment brand is the image they project to job seekers about what the company stands for and what working there is like. The organization’s commitment to diversity must be part of that message. Glassdoor reports that two-thirds of all job seekers are looking to work for a diverse company, and a lack of diversity might be seen as a red flag that keeps top talent away. That places the responsibility on companies themselves to tell job seekers about their diversity philosophy and efforts. This can be done through microsites, employee testimonials and social media.

Examples of companies promoting diversity on Glassdoor can be found here.

Cast a Wider Net

Looking in one place for talent might limit the ability to find diverse employees. To find a diverse pool of prospective hires, companies should build strong relationships with organizations such as the Urban League, the National Council of La Raza and the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA). Companies should also investigate diversity-minded employment sites such as DiversityWorking.com.

Companies must also make sure to remove any bias from job descriptions and advertising. The Gender Decoder, a free online tool from the UK, can look for any potential problems.

Integrate Diversity into Talent Management and Succession Planning

Savvy companies recognize that diversity efforts don’t end when an employee is hired. They need to be incorporated in the employee lifecycle. This is critical because people starting out with a company and making their way up the ladder want to know there is room for individuals like them in leadership. A homogenous management team can send the wrong message.

To ensure diversity in talent management, Oracle asks the following two questions: “… how likely is an employee to consider a long career at a company if she doesn’t see anyone like herself in management positions? And how successful will your global workforce be if managers are unable to provide feedback in a style that complies with workers’ cultural norms?”

Let Employees Take the Reins

A commitment to diversity needs to come from the top down. But diversity activities should come from the bottom up, managed and programmed by the very people most affected by diversity issues. Employee resource groups (ERGs) create a forum for people with similar backgrounds and experiences (and, of course, their allies) to discuss issues, plan informational events and company-wide awareness programs, and advocate for change when they feel it is needed. It’s common to see a wide range of ERGs in large corporations. AT&T, for example, has 12 company-wide ERGs with more than 120,000 members.

The Human Rights Campaign says ERGs need to have goals and a mission, and make membership open to all employees. An executive sponsor can be critical in winning the support of top leadership. The Houston chapter of Out & Equal provides a comprehensive guide to starting an ERG.

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