The topic of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) constitutes more than just a policy, initiative, or headcount. Even though diversity training and education initiatives contribute to positive changes to the workplace, sometimes employees need a more direct and sincere approach. Thus, companies should reconsider how they approach these programs, considering that equitable employers can differentiate themselves from competitors and achieve a better business outcome.
What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?
People use diversity and inclusion interchangeably, making it easy to confuse the two terms. Without clearly defining what they mean, organizations can’t set targets or measure progress. What do these terms mean?
Diversity incorporates all the elements, most commonly social aspects, that make us different from one another. Although the parameters by which we define diversity are ever-shifting, some characteristics we consider today are:
- Physical ability
- Religious beliefs
- Socioeconomic background
- Sexual orientation
- Career backgrounds
Diversity is recognizing these differences between employees, their identities, and their backgrounds. On the other hand, inclusion is how a workplace embraces these individual perspectives and cultures and allows them to thrive professionally. Although these two terms are interconnected, they are not interchangeable.
A workplace can certainly hire in diversity – hire more women, more racial and ethnic minority workers. However, that does not make it an inclusive workplace. The goal of inclusion is to embrace different perspectives and make everyone feel accepted and valued. Inclusion in the workplace can refer to the processes and programs that integrate everyone and their different viewpoints.
Why does diversity and inclusion in the workplace matter?
Aside from the fact that it is the right thing to do, diversity and inclusion are important because employers earn deeper trust and more commitment from their employees. All workers appreciate a culture of equity and fairness. However, many companies lack genuine care and commitment to a diversified workforce, which is a practice called “tokenism.”
After the Black Lives Matter movement and the events of 2020, the business case for diversity and inclusion (D&I) is stronger than ever. There is a widening gap between D&I leaders and those that lag behind. As the labor force is predominantly comprised of Millennials, companies that do not put D&I at the forefront of their agenda will have difficulty attracting and retaining top talent.
In fact, 76% of job-seekers consider inclusivity in the workplace an important factor when choosing companies. Employers that dismiss and ignore inclusivity will have a smaller and more limited pool of candidates. On top of that, if employees do not feel trusted, empowered, or appreciated, they will eventually leave their organization. Employers must focus on both diversity and inclusion to see any benefits.
What are some of the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
Change is not always easy, especially when organisations and businesses do not see the value of investing time and capital in these initiatives. However, the facts and statistics highlight the importance of D&I practices and show us that organizations can harness people’s differences to enhance business performance.
Research has shown that businesses that offer a genuine commitment to D&I experience:
- Higher profits
- More innovation
- Better employee retention
- Increase in employee satisfaction
A McKinsey study found that ethnically and gender diverse companies had higher revenue growth. Besides the financial benefits, inclusive and diverse companies are more likely to be innovation leaders in the market, be more resilient to change, and overall outperform competitors.
Other research shows that when employees feel they are treated fairly, they are more likely to have pride in their work, look forward to going to work, and are less likely to quit their job. In addition to greater employee satisfaction, organisations devoted to D&I have a better reputation as they are seen as more human and socially responsible businesses.
What is an inclusive and diverse workplace?
All efforts and actions to make the workspace an open and welcoming environment are an inclusion initiative. These actions can be raising awareness, making policies sensitive to inclusion – such as equal pay, keeping company language gender-neutral, among others.
Coming up with metrics for diversity and inclusion in the workplace can be tricky. Some key strategies that are good indicators of a workplace culture that cares about diversity and inclusivity include:
- Creating a roadmap, strategy, and metrics for inclusion and diversity programs.
- Revise recruitment policies so that an opening reaches multiple and varied venues to grow your applicant pool.
- Training employees, especially HR managers, for unconscious bias, affinity or similarity bias, and self-rater biases.
- Integrate D&I strategies in recruitment, performance management, leadership assessment, succession planning.
- Establish structured and transparent interview and hiring processes.
- Consider making the initial candidate screening a blind screening.
- Conduct surveys and gather feedback to see if employees feel they are being listened to and treated the same.
- Conducts exit interviews and be mindful if one group of people disproportionately leaves the company more.
- Evaluate if your current leadership reflects the available talent pool in the marketplace.
- Have a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory actions.
- Review employee relations complaints.
- Assess if any group of employees is advancing at a faster rate or is given more opportunities than the rest.
- Put in place unbiased pay progression systems, promotional recommendations, and career advancement opportunities.
The bottom line is that people perform the best when they are welcome, respected, and included. Feelings of belonging and creating a space where employees can be their authentic selves are powerful drivers of business success. Demonstrating a commitment to promoting and improving D&I in the workplace is crucial in today’s business landscape.
About the author
Ivana Radevska is an SEO content expert at Shortlister, and has been working in the SEO field for the past couple of years. Even though content is her main passion, SEO is her second love. She speaks three languages and enjoys writing guides and articles for SEO and content professionals.