Guide to Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace - Glassdoor for Employers

Recruit Talent In Today's Market

Guide to Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

What You'll Learn

  • The Business Opportunity for Diversity and Inclusion
  • Types of Diversity
  • Inclusion Supports Diversity
  • Requirements for a Successful Diversity Program
  • Creating an Inclusive Culture
  • Recruiting for Diversity
  • Branding for Diversity
  • Resources

Diversity and inclusion programs are not just a current trend, and their importance goes far beyond complying with laws or “doing the right thing.” There is serious data to support that hiring a diverse workforce is good for business.

And there’s quantifiable proof that it’s good for company culture, too. Two-thirds of active and passive job seekers say that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.1 No matter the size of your company, making diversity a priority is a critical step toward becoming a recruiting and branding powerhouse.

In fact, more than two-thirds (69%) of executives rate diversity and inclusion an important issue in 2017, up 32% compared to 2014.2

In this eBook we present the business case for diversity and inclusion, and define what each term means. We’ll look at the requirements for a successful diversity program and share insights on how to create an inclusive culture through managing bias and building community. Finally, we’ll look at recruiting and branding strategies and best practices for diversity, and provide resources on where to find more information. We hope this guidebook offers the steps you need to help build a more productive, inclusive and profitable organization.

1. The Business Opportunity for Diversity and Inclusion

The reasons for building a diverse and inclusive organization go beyond the idea that welcomes people of all types is “the right thing to do.” Diversity and inclusion are essential for competitive advantage as they are tied to better business performance and greater levels of innovation.

Bersin by Deloitte, the Human Resources arm of leading consulting firm Deloitte, listed diversity among its top predictions for 2017.

Diversity, inclusion, and the removal of unconscious bias will become CEO-level issues in 2017.2

Yet organizations with mature diversity and inclusion efforts are rare. Deloitte research found that just 10% of organizations have mature talent organizations that include an integrated approach to diversity and inclusion.3

These organizations have a distinct competitive advantage, as further research illuminated the ways company performance and innovation is correlated to diversity and inclusion:

  • The largest “highly inclusive organizations” generate 2.3 times more cash flow per employee, while the smaller companies had 13 times higher mean cash flow from operations when compared to peer organizations.3
  • Highly inclusive organizations generate 1.4 times more revenue and are 120% more capable of meeting financial targets.2
  • Firms in the top tier for diversity and inclusion are also 1.8 times more likely to be change-ready and 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market.4

A McKinsey study also demonstrated the correlation between diversity and financial performance: companies with the highest rankings for racial/ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median.5

Doing the right thing for better business outcomes in 2017 and beyond means incorporating diversity and inclusion into your business strategy. Following are some additional ways that diversity and inclusion can contribute to your business.

Keep Up With Population Trends

The organizational movement toward diversity and inclusion is reflective of larger trends in the American and global population. As of 2015, the majority of births in the United States are racial and ethnic minorities.6 By 2060, non-Hispanic whites are projected to comprise only 44% of the U.S. population.7


In order to ensure continued access to the best talent, companies need to ensure sourcing and hiring practices do not inadvertently weed out talented candidates from diverse groups.


An increasingly globalized workforce means that people of different backgrounds must work together. A focus on inclusion is now a necessity for smooth business operations and employee retention.

Improve Customer Success

The increasingly diverse population means that most companies’ customer base will also become more diverse. Logic follows that a worker base that mirrors its customer base will enable a company to create more relevant products and respond more effectively to customer needs.

Enhance Partner Success

Vendors, partners, and suppliers want to do business with companies that reflect their own values. The U.S. federal government and some large companies require that contractors meet certain diversity thresholds. For more, visit the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Companies that publicly commit to diversity and inclusion will attract like-minded partners, and a mutual focus on inclusion could result in fairer negotiations.


Pledge your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion on Glassdoor!

Simply log into your Employer Center using a Free Employer Account, select ‘Employer Branding’ on the left-hand side of the screen and then click ‘Benefits.’ Scroll down to ‘Pledges & Certifications’ and select ‘Diversity Commitment.’ After your request is reviewed and approved, a badge will be added to your Glassdoor company profile under the benefits section, distinguishing your company from competitors and signaling to candidates your company’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce.

2. Types of Diversity

At its simplest definition, diversity means variety. In terms of talent management, diversity means consideration of the variety in heritage, background, and tendencies of candidates and employees.

Just as marketers and product developers need to understand the demographics of their audience base, HR and talent acquisition professionals can benefit from learning about the population with an eye toward the opportunity that each group represents. The following list includes standard and non-standard types of diversity. Statistics are included to illustrate the prevalence of various groups.


The U.S. population skews slightly female, at 50.8%.8 Women received 57% of the Bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2014–2015.9 The untapped potential of women in business is particularly evident when examining management.

Globally, 24% of management roles are held by women, while 33% of companies have no women at the senior management level.10

A 2016 analysis of more than 20,000 firms in 91 countries found that companies with more female executives were more profitable.11

Companies with the highest rankings for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have financial returns that were above their national industry median.12


At present, the U.S. working-age population is weighted toward workers over the age of 35. However, many work environments do not represent these demographics. Organizations have the opportunity to gather the perspectives of older and younger workers alike by hiring for age diversity.

Demographic trends relating to age also have an impact on employment:

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers are waiting longer to claim social security,13 indicating that they are staying in the workforce longer. 74% of American adults say they plan to work past retirement,14 underscoring the need to create work environments that are inclusive of older workers.

In addition, eldercare is becoming a priority for the sons and daughters of aging Baby Boomers, indicating the need for better family leave benefits.


Millennials are delaying marriage, childbirth and are more likely to live at home.15 At the same time, 76% of Millennials would rather have a career they are passionate about but doesn’t earn a lot of money than have a high earning career that they are not passionate about.16 Delayed home ownership and parenting allows Millennials to put more attention on the value they are getting out of work, and that includes feeling included.

As a more diverse generation than their predecessors,17 Millennials are sensitive to inclusion, with 83% saying they are engaged at work when they believe the organization fosters an inclusive culture. Only 60% said they were engaged when they believe their organization does not foster an inclusive culture.


As shown in the previous section, the racial/ethnic makeup of the workforce is becoming more diverse. Building the organization for the future requires hiring for diversity and creating an inclusive environment for minorities.


Even within homogeneous racial or ethnic identities, cultural or national heritage can play a role in attitudes and behaviors.


“LGBT” covers the breadth of non-heterosexual identities. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals comprise approximately 4% of the U.S. population.18


The variance in holidays, as well as beliefs among religions, should be accounted for in the workplace. In the U.S., 71% of the population is Christian, while 22% are unaffiliated, and 6% are affiliated with a non-Christian religion.18


The 19 million individuals (8% of the population) who have served in the U.S. military1 bring a unique background to civilian work.19


People with disabilities make up 12.6% of the U.S. population.20 31% of those with disabilities aged 21—64 have earned at least an associate’s degree or some college, and 8% have attained at least a bachelor’s degree.21


Individuals with conditions such as autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, and social anxiety disorders may lack more traditionally valued skills but can still prove to be very valuable employees.22


A focus on hiring individuals from the same schools or type of school (e.g., Ivy Leagues) can create homogeneity in the work environment. An insistence on degree completion or a specific degree for a given role can eliminate candidates who are self-taught or have on-the-job training.


Socioeconomic background is often revealed in extracurricular activities and school choices. If a company’s culture emphasizes hiring “people like me,” talented candidates can be left out of the consideration process.

A recent study revealed that law firms were most likely to respond to male applicants with elite backgrounds, and less likely to respond to females from elite backgrounds along with applicants of either sex from diverse backgrounds.23


Each person has a unique way of thinking and solving problems. Seeking out and encouraging diversity of thought helps eliminate groupthink, fosters new insights, and enables innovative problem-solving.24


Choices regarding food and alcohol consumption, attire and personal pursuits can stem from medical needs, individual preferences and religious beliefs.


Diversity Beyond Compliance: Reviewing the breadth of diversity types underscores the importance of focusing diversity efforts beyond compliance requirements (typically gender, race, veteran and disability status). A truly diverse organization welcomes differences in all aspects of the human experience, not just those for which there are predetermined labels.

3. Inclusion Supports Diversity

Diversity and inclusion go hand in hand. A culture cannot be diverse AND successful if employees outside of a dominant group do not feel included. People hired from diverse backgrounds are more likely to remain employed with your organization if they feel that their perspective and contributions are valued by the organization, their team and their manager.

Covering, the common phenomenon in which employees omit, hide or lie about certain essential personal characteristics, preferences or activities occurs when employees don’t feel that they (or an aspect of themselves) belong. Women, LGBT individuals and minorities are more likely to cover in the workplace.25

The mental activity of covering creates stress and depletes energy that can better be put toward work. True authenticity can actually facilitate team connections and improve performance while operating from fear creates unnecessary tension that can keep team members apart and reduce performance.

A study published in The Journal of Educational Psychology showed how giving women in a university engineering program tools to mitigate threats to a sense of belonging in a male-dominated environment helped them significantly reduce stress levels, improved their well-being, and raised their grade point averages.26

Inclusion, at its best, is a sense of belonging for each employee. It’s the feeling that “I can be myself” at work. An inclusive environment accepts personal differences among employees while focusing on the business mission to create customer value.


Inclusion and Reputation Cost: As the research in previous sections shows, the most inclusive organizations benefit from better business performance. In addition, fostering inclusion can protect a company from potential reputation damage and costly discrimination lawsuits.

4. Requirements for a Successful Diversity Program

Building a diverse and inclusive organization does not happen overnight. It takes a comprehensive effort and continued investment over years to attract, hire, develop and retain a diverse workforce.

Following are some key factors to consider as you embark on the diversity journey:


The CEO and other company leaders are the most visible spokespeople for diversity. Leadership support is needed to ensure diversity and inclusion efforts receive the appropriate attention, funding, and monitoring. Leaders also provide daily examples for employees by exhibiting inclusive behaviors, managing their own bias, and supporting employees’ best work.


Most large organizations have a head of diversity or other individuals who is accountable for the diversity and inclusion program. This individual may or may not be from a minority group; the best person for the job has experience and a deep interest in improving the organization’s success through fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce. A successful diversity advocate will be skilled at building relationships throughout the organization and ensuring accountability on diversity goals.


The best diversity programs are tied to a company’s business strategy, are aligned with company values, and have achievable goals. It will take some planning and teamwork to analyze the current situation, set a vision for the company’s diversity and inclusion program, and then break it down into action steps.


Understanding where your company is on its diversity journey is essential before you set goals on where you want to go. An initial analysis should include gathering data on your current employee population and comparing to benchmarks. Some companies employ tools similar to the Diversity Scorecard used by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

To understand where to focus inclusion efforts, employee surveys and focus groups can illuminate the levels to which employees currently feel included. This type of analysis will allow you to spot problem areas that could impact retention.

Further data analysis should include a look at your candidate pool, employee performance reviews, promotions, compensation and turnover by diversity group. Looking at diversity measures by the department can also help pinpoint necessary areas for training or help decide where to set more aggressive recruiting goals.

Gathering data into a dashboard that can be viewed and tracked by leaders will help keep diversity and inclusion a top-of-mind issue for the organization. The assistance of a vendor and/or an employee specialist in HR analytics will likely be required in larger organizations.


Commitment to the Journey: Improving representation of diverse groups within a company can take years.27 Leaders, managers and staff should be patient and persistent as they seek to create a more diverse and inclusive organization. Like all good things worth achieving, it’s worth the wait.

 5. Creating an Inclusive Culture

Managing Bias The most essential component of creating an inclusive culture is managing bias.

Bias is defined as “a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned.”27

The Roots of Bias

At any given moment, the brain is collecting 11 million pieces of information per moment but can only process 40.28 The brain forms pathways during past experiences and takes these familiar shortcuts as it processes new information. Seen in this light, uncovering bias is simply an opportunity to uncover these old routes and forge new ones.

Bias can be conscious, in the form of preferences for a certain look or body type when considering a potential romantic mate, or unconscious, as when rejecting candidates based on name or gender without fully reviewing qualifications.

Your organization would not be seeking to increase diversity if there were not some form of unconscious bias operating in the way you hire and manage employees. Therefore, it’s essential to understand how bias operates at your company as you embark the diversity and inclusion journey.

Make the Commitment to Uncovering Bias

Managing bias is hard, yet rewarding. Making unconscious bias conscious requires a commitment to self-awareness. It asks individuals to question their assumptions about the way things work, the way they behave, and the way they make choices. It also requires a willingness to have uncomfortable conversations about bias perceived in everyday interactions with colleagues.

At the organizational level, managing bias benefits from a shared sense of safety around approaching difficult topics, and a shared language for discussion of difficult topics. Successful inclusion programs have leadership support and rely on leaders to set the example by being transparent about their own biases.

The Power of Facts

Thankfully, there is a large and growing body of academic research conducted over the last two decades that support uncovering bias, allowing leaders and staff alike to put an objective framework around the very subjective task of managing bias.

This research by neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, and other academics has shed light on how the brain processes information and the natural human tendencies toward bias. Additional research has uncovered how biases affect various aspects of business operations and what steps are effective in managing it. Leading companies and Glassdoor Best Places to Work winners such as Salesforce, Facebook and Alphabet (Google) use this research in their own bias training.

Where to Spot Bias

Following is a list of areas in your organization where bias might appear. Analyze your data and review these suggestions as you make plans to become a more inclusive organization.


Are men and women evaluated and rewarded on the same criteria? Research suggests they may not be.29 Provide manager training to counteract bias in performance reviews and ensure objective criteria are provided for evaluations.


Are men, women, and minorities offered the same development and mentoring opportunities? Look at enrollment in these programs and decide how you can make them more accessible. Consider how to structure mentoring development programs that provide equal access, and counteract tendencies toward male-male favoritism.


Use data analysis to find out if men, women, and minorities are being promoted at the same rate. Because women have a tendency to downplay accomplishments while men tend to brag,30 they may not nominate themselves, or be overlooked when it comes time for a promotion.


Differences in compensation often exist among men, women, and minorities, but this can be overcome with accountability and transparency practices.31 Analyzing your compensation data by diversity groups will allow you to find problem spots. Additionally, Glassdoor found that women are less likely to negotiate the first offer,32 so create narrow pay bands that reduce the opportunity for men to over-negotiate.


Survey data and employee focus groups may help uncover areas where bias operates in your organization. Spotting and counteracting these four common forms of bias may help employees feel more included:33

  1. Performance bias. Male performance may be overestimated compared females’ performance. Performance of racial minorities may be underestimated compared to whites.
  2. Performance attribution. Male success may be attributed to skill and expertise, while female success may be attributed to helping from others, coincidence and working hard. The success of women and other minorities may be attributed to Affirmative Action or being a “diversity hire.”
  3. Competence vs. Likeability. Women may be evaluated negatively for exhibiting characteristics commonly praised in men; they may also be expected to do office “housework” or take meeting notes.
  4. Maternal bias. Mothers may be passed over in resume reviews or not given opportunities because of the perception of unavailability due to parenting responsibilities. Alternately, they may be judged harshly for working too hard.

Encouragement for the Unbiasing Journey: As you can see, bias pervades many aspects of organizational culture. Awareness is half the battle. Once groups start to build trust through this awareness and employees feel permission to express themselves authentically, momentum will carry the transformation toward inclusion forward.

Building Community

Another key component of inclusive work environments is a shared sense of belonging. That belonging can be felt toward the organization itself, the team, and shared affinity groups within the organization. It can also extend to the communities that the organization serves. Inclusive organizations successfully create this sense of belonging through community activities at work and off-site.


ERGs are employee-led affinity groups. They can be organized around diversity-oriented topics as women in leadership, LGBT, veterans, blacks, Latinos or interests such as the environment or wellness. They give employees a forum to share concerns, give and receive mentorship, and get involved with the larger community if desired.


Some companies take a long-term approach toward building the diversity pipeline by working with youth and educational non-profits. Volunteering can give employees the opportunity to share expertise, lead others, and set an example to individuals from underserved communities.

Be Aware of Diversity Backlash

Building an inclusive culture and bringing on more diverse workers means change for your organization. Change is always met with some resistance. White males, in particular, can feel threatened by diversity messaging.34

Following are a few pointers for managing potential detrimental effects of diversity and inclusion programming.

  • Frame initiatives around facts relating to the business imperative.
  • Make clear that bias and feelings of exclusion are universal. Use examples from cognitive research in training.
  • Make training optional so people in dominant groups don’t feel coerced or inadvertently blamed.
  • Use storytelling to illustrate transformative moments for individuals as well as groups.
  • Rely on social accountability to enforce positive behaviors. Make retaliation unacceptable.
  • Avoid tokenism, which inflates bias toward minorities and creates division rather than inclusion.
  • Celebrate diverse contributions, no matter who they come from.

6. Recruiting for Diversity

Just as managing for inclusion requires becoming aware of changing unconscious ways of thinking, recruiting and hiring for diversity requires changing one’s mindset and questioning rote behaviors in order to find, screen and hire diverse talent. Recruiting’s role in creating a more diverse workforce includes:

  1. Getting more diverse candidates into the talent pipeline
  2. Helping remove bias from screening, interviewing and hiring decisions

Follow these pointers to get more diverse candidates into your recruiting pipeline and all the way to the offer stage.

  • Define diversity goals. Let your initial diversity analysis guide your goals for hiring. (See the previous section on Measurement and Accountability.)
  • Identify recruiting bias. Use knowledge gained from bias training to identify the biases in your hiring process. (See previous section on Managing Bias.) Consider where there might be bias in how your company sources, screens and interviews candidates, and finally, look at hiring decisions.
  • Make a plan — and address low hanging fruit first. To start making early wins, decide which areas can be addressed immediately, then evaluate longer-term projects and plan accordingly.
  • Consider technology that can help. Software that assists with resume screening, job descriptions, interviewing, testing and data analysis can make hiring for diversity easier.
  • Make time your friend. Changing internal processes such as incorporating new screening software or revamping interviewing practices takes time. Be realistic about how long it might take, and set achievable time-based goals.
  • Remove bias from job descriptions. Wording in job descriptions can impact whether more females or males apply. Listing non-necessary qualifications can also limit the number of females that apply.
  • Consider blind resume screening. Gender and ethnicity of names are known to have an impact on resume screening. Consider a tool that allows you to screen without this information.
  • Expand your sourcing networks. Look at diversity-oriented job groups, partner with diversity organizations, and connect with diversity-oriented groups at universities. Also consider expanding your college recruiting to more diverse schools.
  • Test fairly. The commonly used whiteboard test for coding doesn’t replicate the normal coding environment. Create computer-based tests if possible.
  • Define objective hiring criteria. Getting hiring teams on the same page ahead of time can help prevent unspoken or subjective criteria from appearing late in the evaluation stages.
  • Create diverse interview teams. Structure interview teams based on who can evaluate candidates objectively as well as who would make the candidate feel comfortable.
  • Beware of affinity bias. Affinity bias is the preference for people “like me.” In recruiting this commonly occurs when interviewers rate a candidate with a similar background as themselves more highly than a candidate with a different background, even if that candidate is more qualified.
  • Watch out for confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when someone forms an opinion and interprets new evidence as confirmation of that belief. An interviewer may start with a preconceived opinion of a candidate based on the resume, and ask questions geared to confirming that belief.
  • Define “culture add,” not culture fit. Affinity bias and confirmation bias can both affect how candidates are viewed as fitting into the culture. By defining ideal cultural values ahead of time, interviewers will be more likely to make decisions based on the candidate’s potential contribution.
  • Welcome and share new ideas. As you remove the bias from your recruiting process, you and your colleagues will have new ideas and insights on how to better find and screen diverse candidates. Don’t be afraid to share, discuss and implement ideas that you think can help meet your organization’s diversity goals.

7. Branding for Diversity

Candidates from diverse backgrounds want to know that they’ll be welcomed at your company, so it’s important to include diversity messaging in your employer brand communications.

Check out these guidelines as you promote your company’s diversity messaging.

  • Articulate your commitment to diversity. Post your company’s approach to diversity on your careers site and Glassdoor. Make sure it aligns with how your company actually operates. If it doesn’t, candidates will notice the disconnect when they arrive for an interview, or worse, after they are hired.
  • Show your diverse workforce. Include photographs of women and minority employees on your careers site and Glassdoor. Don’t use stock photography.
  • Update your recruitment communications. When recruiting at universities and events, ensure any brochures or handouts show that your company welcomes diverse candidates.
  • Know where you stand against the competition. View career sites and Glassdoor pages of your employment competitors to find out how they address diversity. To learn from the best, look at Glassdoor Best Places to Work, and DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity.


1. Glassdoor site survey, June 2014 2 Deloitte, Global Human Capital Trends 2017, 2017

2. Bersin by Deloitte, Predictions for 2017, December 2016

3. Bersin by Deloitte, Diversity and Inclusion Top the List of Talent Practices Linked to Stronger Financial Outcomes, November 2015

4. Josh Bersin, Why Diversity and Inclusion Has Become a Business Priority, December 2015

5. McKinsey, Why Diversity Matters, January 2015

6. Pew Research Center, It’s official: Minority babies are the majority among the nation’s infants, but only just, June 2016

7. U.S. Census Bureau, Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060, March 2015

8. U.S. Census Bureau, Quick Facts, 2015

9. National Center for Education Statistics, Digest for Education Statistics

10. Grant Thornton, Women in Business: Turning Promise Into Practice, March 2016

11. Harvard Business Review, Diverse Teams Feel Less Comfortable - That’s Why they Perform Better, September 2016

12. McKinsey, Why Diversity Matters, January 2015

13. Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Trends in Social Security Claiming, May 2015

14. Gallup, Most U.S. Employed Adults Plan to Work Past Retirement Age, April 2017

15. U.S. Census Bureau, The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975–2016, April 2017

16. Forbes, Why You’re Having A Hard Time With Your Millennial Employees —And What To Do About It, May 2016

18. U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials Outnumber Baby Boomers and Are Far More Diverse, June 2015

19., LGBT in America: By the Numbers, June 2016; 2 Pew Research Center, Religion in America Study

20. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Profile of Veterans: 2015, March 2017

21. American Community Survey, Disability Statistics, 2015

22. Harvard Business Review, Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage, May 2017

23. New York Magazine, High-Class Hobbies Will Help You Land a Top Job, Unless You’re a Woman, December 2016

24. Deloitte, Diversity’s New Frontier, July 2013

25. Deloitte University, Uncovering Talent: A New Model for Inclusion, December 2013

26. The Journal of Educational Psychology, “Two Brief Interventions to Mitigate a “Chilly Climate” Transform Women’s Experience, Relationships, and Achievement in Engineering” 2015


28. Wilson, T. D. Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, Harvard University Press

29. Fortune, The abrasiveness trap: High-achieving men and women are described differently in reviews, August 2014

30. Montana State University, Bragging rights: MSU study shows that interventions help women’s reluctance to discuss accomplishments, January 2014

31. Organization Science, Accounting for the Gap: A Firm Study Manipulating Organizational Accountability and Transparency in Pay Decisions, April 2015

32. Glassdoor, Salary Negotiation Insights Survey, May 2016

33. Facebook Leaning and Development, Managing Bias Training

34. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Members of high-status groups are threatened by pro-diversity organizational messages, January 2016