Inclusive Workplaces: A Guide For HR Teams

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In May 2023, Tiger Recruitment hosted a roundtable event with senior HR leaders to discuss the future of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Ahead of Pride month in June, the theme centred around attracting, maintaining and supporting diverse workforces.

Studies show that diverse companies are happier and perform better , so employers are increasingly prioritising DEI initiatives in their recruitment to tap into diverse and underrepresented talent pools. Forward-thinking businesses are also implementing inclusive HR policies to help employees feel represented and motivated at work. Despite the benefits, however, some are falling behind their competitors for a multitude of reasons — they don’t know where to start, they don’t have the budget or the desire to implement DEI policies, or they don’t feel that it is a priority.

This report details key insights and actions trialled by HR leaders, backed by the latest global market research. We hope that HR communities and line managers can use this to inform an authentic and thoughtful DEI strategy that supports attraction and retention of diverse talent, thus transforming businesses to become more inclusive, productive and happier.

Always on

Two out of three attendees at the roundtable agreed that the DEI strategies at their current workplace aren’t ‘always-on’. This means they believe their workplace lacks a year-round consistent and visible DEI strategy. Sadly, this is the case for many, who take on a performative approach that is active around public events such as Pride Month or Black History Month. Harvard refers to this difference in DEI efforts as superficial vs structural, and suggests that many workplaces have some way to go before they can be considered truly inclusive. The reasons for this vary — it doesn’t always mean there’s unwillingness to explore improved DEI policies. It’s clear that the road to an always-on strategy is not always easy. Many experience general confusion around approaching DEI, while others prefer to tread carefully in order to avoid potential mistakes and being publicly shamed. This report highlights insights from HR leaders on their experiences with implementing DEI initiatives, alongside potential strategies and ideas that HR teams can take to address and improve their own efforts.

Overcoming barriers to DEI

Leadership intent

One of our roundtable attendees remarked that a former employer did not prioritise DEI at all. This attitude can be commonplace, particularly at startups or organisations with smaller budgets and HR teams. Profitability and financial intent often rule the decision-making process, with DEI policies relegated to an afterthought.

Intent and buy-in from leadership are both key to paving the way towards an inclusive workplace. If the leadership team isn’t on board, subsequent conversations around improvements are unlikely to succeed. Organisational change researcher and professor, John Kotter, states that “organisations require 75% of leadership to be bought in, in order to enable sustainable shifts,” highlighting the importance of securing the attention of leadership to meaningfully influence DEI at a company.

Find your influencers

In a workplace with indifferent leadership teams, simply presenting DEI policies won’t suffice: HR will need to work harder to showcase the value of DEI. While some HR leaders might not possess the required influence over upper management, they may have some sway with talent and acquisition teams, who can provide a framework for minority employees’ career progression. Encouraging policies that will nurture minority groups into management and leadership roles will allow for influence at the organisational top level.

Our roundtable attendees also suggested finding allies who have influence with the leadership team, who could contribute to explaining the financial benefits of hiring diverse teams and diverse management. Additionally, internal focus groups and/or securing employee feedback via surveys can show leaders how important inclusivity is to staff, not to mention how it might impact their decision to stay/leave.

Cancel culture

Another roundtable HR leader remarked that their leadership team was “too scared to talk about diversity”. Indeed, many companies can be afraid of publicly stating a workplace’s intent towards DEI policies in fear of making a mistake that results in ‘cancel culture’. Cancel culture happens when an individual, group or organisation is deemed to have acted or spoken inappropriately and is publicly ostracised or shunned as a result. For businesses, this can lead to a loss of revenue or brand equity, and in the case of DEI and a lack of understanding around it, can lead to companies treading extremely cautiously. Some simply lack an understanding around workplace matters that affect minorities such as LGBTQIA+ people or disabled workers. In this instance, they are unsure where to start, or how to approach DEI without unwittingly offending anyone. This is unsurprising, given that in the US in 2021, 86 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs were white and male. Likewise, in the UK, “there were 1,056 director positions in the FTSE 100, with 164 seats held by a director from a minority ethnic group”.


One roundtable attendee suggested inviting an external speaker from a minority background to discuss their own experiences in the workplace, both the good and bad. When they talk through their lived experience, it may prompt employees to consider similar barriers that exist and gain more of an education on matters affecting less represented workers. As one roundtable guest remarked, “Sometimes we don’t know what we want to learn”. It’s especially important for the leadership team to be present so that they can be educated in the same space and lead by example.

Secure internal feedback

Equally important is the provision of an opportunity for employees to voice their own opinions and concerns, which can provide valuable insight for HR and leadership teams on where to begin in crafting their own DEI policies. In addition, such an investment shows intent from the leadership team: the intent to learn and to adapt. This is an excellent starting point for launching a new DEI strategy and signals to the rest of the workplace that they are listening, and care.

Action points

  • Provide minority employees with a clear progression route to leadership, with a view to fostering influence at the top
  • Find allies to help influence the leadership team
  • Form focus groups and secure employee feedback for tangible data and insights
  • Bring in an external party to educate the business on the importance of DEI

Representation in management teams

It is no secret that many companies’ teams at management and board level are lacking in diversity. It’s clear that there is much room for improvement.

DEI strategies for HR teams

Businesses implementing DEI initiatives without accountability put themselves at risk of demonstrating empty words and promises. HR leaders at the roundtable discussed instances of virtue signalling by companies, which is the act of publicly showing good intentions to fit a particular narrative, such as around media-heavy events like Pride Month. Whilst these are important to commemorate, the real DEI successes happen when they focus on always-on strategies. This means, actively and authentically, looking to develop an inclusive workplace for all.

Pay transparency

One HR leader at the roundtable cited that their employer had recently introduced a pay transparency policy at their law firm, meaning all employees had access to salaries and bonuses paid to each of the partners. Interestingly, this is an industry where men, on average, earn more than women – however, at that company the female partners were making more money. The pay transparency policy was positively received by employees. Implementing a pay transparency policy helps companies show accountability, not to mention intent towards having a fairer pay structure. Studies show that a gender pay gap is still widespread, according to the US Bureau of Statistics, with the median earnings of full-time working women equalling 83% of the weekly earnings by full-time working men. Having a pay transparency structure in place, alongside advertising salaries on all roles, can also help encourage applications from more diverse employees. Last year, a pay transparency law was introduced in New York City and has been adopted in other US states, mandating that all job vacancies — both internal and external — need to have the pay range advertised. This law had a positive impact on women seeking a raise, who are generally less likely than their male counterparts to ask for a higher salary.

Embracing this has numerous potential benefits. For one, it will be in line with Gen Z’s expectations. Studies suggest that they are drawn to companies with similar values, and appreciate an employer that is transparent from the outset, especially regarding pay. A possible drawback for introducing role salary brackets is the dilemma faced when a promising candidate asks for a figure outside of the bracket for that role. HR teams should consider the brackets carefully before setting them, so that they can be adhered to, while consistency and fairness is maintained.


For HR and leadership teams strategising DEI policies, one of the most important factors to consider is authenticity. This means thoroughly considering all avenues where diverse talent can be found and making conscious efforts to attract and retain diverse talent, such as through professional working groups and specialist job boards. Casting a wide net in the hiring process allows companies to improve the diversity in their workplace and find people who are both talented and a good match with the company’s values. To fully embrace inclusivity and to show real authentic DEI intent, employers should move past the notion of making diverse hires simply for the sake of meeting certain quota targets.

The merits of quota-based hiring were raised at the roundtable, and the consensus amongst the HR leaders was that, whilst it is often with good intentions, it can be demeaning and at times impractical. One HR leader remarked that for a business to get the most value out of a new hire, it is important to recruit the best person for the job, rather than shoehorning a diverse hire that wouldn’t otherwise be the best candidate. Doing so can lead to the employee feeling as if they are a tick-box hire — no one wants to be made to feel like they are only in their position due to a quota.

A public DEI strategy

Four out of five (83%) HR leaders at the roundtable agreed that a company’s DEI strategy should be publicly visible. A public DEI strategy is one that is available and advertised on the company website and is also internally communicated to employees. This can have benefits for employers, giving them an edge to attracting and retaining talent. A clear intent and authenticity towards DEI will not go unnoticed by Gen Z jobseekers, who expect to see a DEI commitment from prospective employers. Jobseekers regularly ask our Tiger Recruitment consultants about a potential company’s DEI position; having this information visible is key to attracting emerging talent.

A public DEI strategy can also strengthen an employer’s chances of retaining employees. As one roundtable guest noted, whilst companies will often internally implement DEI policies towards hiring, existing employees aren’t always able to be see that the company is outwardly showing this intent or that the leadership team is striving to be an inclusive employer, unless it is being communicated to them or is prominently displayed. For HR teams, partnering with an internal communications team is essential to conveying the DEI steps internally, which will go a long way to supporting the brand position as a caring and inclusive employer — company traits that are highly sought after by workers.

Action points

  • Implementing a pay transparency policy is likely to be well received by employees and help with attracting new talent
  • Have a publicly visible DEI strategy demonstrates intent to existing and future staff
  • Avoid making minority groups feel like a ‘tick-box hire’ by hiring the best person for the job
  • Work with internal communications to support your internal messaging

Creating inclusive workplaces

For HR teams, talent retention and acquisition continues to be a big challenge. Employees and prospective hires are increasingly taking into account a company’s values in their assessment of an employer: creating an inclusive workplace is a tangible way for an employer to stand out. Employees, now more than ever, want to feel like they can identify and feel a sense of belonging at a company. A McKinsey study noted how employees who feel included are “three times more likely” to be committed to their company’s mission.

Secure feedback

Various ideas were floated at the roundtable on how employers can take steps to become more inclusive. One HR leader cited how their company completed surveys for the team, asking questions such as, ‘Do you feel that our organisation is inclusive?’ and, ‘Do you feel like you belong?’. While surveys like this can be met with scepticism from employees, worried that they are being targeted or that the results are not truly anonymous, they allow the HR and leadership teams to gain a sense of where the company is at and how much work needs to be done to be truly inclusive.

Workplace design

Workplace design should also be top of mind. One HR leader at the roundtable mentioned that their company, which was looking to move offices, completed a survey with a consultancy to inform their new workplace design. This survey took the approach of focusing on more introverted employees, taking their opinion on workplace layout to propose a design for a new office that would be more inclusive to them and make them feel more comfortable at work.

It is especially important for companies to factor in all physical abilities, given that over 1 billion people globally have some form of disability, and many have non-obvious hidden disabilities. Ensuring that a workplace has special equipment such as modified keyboards, is fully accessible for less mobile workers, and can offer hybrid flexibility will all go a long way to making everyone feel included.

Action points

  • Consider the opinions of more introverted employees in workplace design to make it more inclusive to all
  • Use employee feedback as an opportunity to gauge success

Recruiting diverse talent

For HR teams interested in exploring potential initiatives to increase, maintain and support a diverse workforce, there are many good reasons to justify doing so, with research showing that “diverse companies have 2.5 times higher cash flow per employee”. One roundtable attendee mentioned that their company had partnered with groups like GAIN (Girls Are Investors) and 10,000 Black Interns to tap into talent from underrepresented backgrounds. Partnering with such groups that have established networks of diverse talent not only allows for HR teams to widen their recruitment efforts and speak to a diverse range of candidates, but also allows companies to support the efforts of these organisations who are making a difference in social mobility. Companies that do so and choose to publicly state their DEI strategy can proudly showcase it in their external and internal communications, helping to show their intent towards supporting a diverse workforce.

If HR teams are struggling to find diverse talent, there are specialist job boards that can help connect companies with underrepresented talent. One example brought up at the roundtable was the Women in Tech group, which provides opportunities for women in the tech sector. Another example mentioned Thrive at 55, which is an initiative run by an Australian agency tackling ageism in the workplace. Outside-of-the-box thinking and searching for established networks of diverse talent can be an excellent starting point for a company looking to become more diverse.

This mindset also applies to education, with one HR leader remarking that their line managers show a distinct preference for talent educated at elite universities. Exhibiting education bias means that companies risk building like-minded teams that lack the diversity required to become more agile and innovative.

After diverse talent has been identified, inclusive considerations should be taken within the interviewing process. Mindful actions such as having audio guides and text available for interviewees, may contribute to attracting a more diverse range of candidates.

HR teams need to be careful to avoid unconscious bias in the hiring process, by not being set in rigid grooming expectations that can be discriminatory. This unconscious bias can also be extended to Gen Z jobseekers, who often have freer attitudes towards workplace attire, and hiring managers should be mindful of this (depending on the industry and necessity to dress a certain way).

Action point

  • Seek out groups and networks that specialise in diverse talent to bolster DEI hiring efforts
  • Use specialist job boards to discover hard-to-find talent
  • Avoid education bias
  • Make considerations for interview processes to accommodate a wide range of candidates with varied abilities
  • Be less strict with grooming etiquette for interviews

Evidence-based strategies

As an HR professional, securing leadership buy-in can present one of the biggest obstacles to inclusivity. Fortunately, there is an abundance of reputable global market research and statistics all pointing toward diverse companies being more profitable, innovative, and inclusive.


Tiger Recruitment’s roundtable discussion on attracting, maintaining, and supporting a diverse workforce produced valuable insights for inspiring change.

A litany of research supports the notion that diverse companies perform better than less diverse ones, and with changing attitudes towards the workplace arising from the next generation of leaders, it is now more vital than ever for companies to invest in a DEI strategy that creates an inclusive working environment.

Tiger Recruitment supports diverse and inclusive workplaces and we have access to an international network of top talent looking for their next opportunity. We look forward to being part of your DEI journey to success. Get in touch.

You may also be interested in our other in-depth workplace guides:

Embracing Equity in the Workplace

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Recruitment Guidelines

Retention and Acquisition Trends

Interview and Selection Guide

Author Jane Leese Tiger Recruitment Team

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