What is the real meaning of diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
Updated: Aug 30, 2021
55% of people are too scared to talk about diversity and inclusion in the workplace for fear of saying the wrong thing according to a 2021 RightTrack Learning survey. With so much fear of saying the wrong thing when it comes to diversity and inclusion, the very concept of diversity is often misunderstood, confused and misjudged. What’s more, employees are hungry for learning and development to expand their knowledge at work. 86% of employees believe it’s important for employers to provide learning opportunities so discussions about what diversity and inclusion in the workplace means will help keep employees engaged at work and remove the misconceptions about this concept. In this article, we discuss what the real meaning of diversity and inclusion in the workplace is and what the real benefits of diversity are in the organization.
What is the real meaning of diversity in the workplace?
Diversity in the workplace refers to employing a diverse team of people that is reflective of the society in which it operates. What makes a diverse team is slightly more complex. Diversity of people refers to all the features that make each person unique. Traditionally, diversity in the workplace refers to social categories such as gender and ethnicity. McKinsey, a leading management consulting firm regarded as one of the thought-leaders in the field, focuses its research on diversity in the workplace specifically around gender and ethnic diversity, as per its latest report titled “Diversity wins: How inclusion matters”, dated March 2020. McKinsey’s report reads “Our latest analysis reaffirms the strong business case for both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership—and shows that this business case continues to strengthen. The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.” In the United Kingdom, the Equality Act 2010 enforces laws to protect individual employees in the workplace from discrimination based on age, gender reassignment, being married or in a civil partnership, being pregnant or on maternity leave, disability, race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. However, it is worth noting that there are more aspects that make individuals diverse from one another.
The definition of diversity in the workplace has evolved over the past few years. Neurodiversity (the concept that all humans vary in terms of our neurocognitive ability), mental and physical disability, age diversity, gender identity, sexual orientation now carry equal weight and diversity in the workplace today is recognising that the wide range of individuals shaping today’s society should be represented within the workforce as well.
Implementing diversity in the workplace requires a deep understanding of the society we live in today. Today, improving diversity in the workplace is top of mind for every CEO and business leader. Forbes found that 60% of companies have metrics in place to measure the success of their diversity and inclusion efforts. What’s more, the latest Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey revealed that 96% of CEOs unanimously agree that diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) and employee wellbeing are their strategic priorities right now. Want to learn more about this topic? Watch 10 key stats to boost your diversity and inclusion knowledge.
What is the real meaning of inclusion in the workplace?
The term diversity and inclusion in the workplace is often used interchangeably; however, inclusion in the workplace is a concept of its own. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which is regarded as the leading professional human resources membership association, defines inclusion in the workplace as : “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.” According to the Oxford Language Dictionary, inclusion is “The practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups”. Measuring inclusion in the workplace can be challenging so Gartner recently developed the ‘Gartner Inclusion Index’ to measure what true inclusion looks like across an organization.
According to Gartner, inclusion in the workplace can be measured by looking at the following elements: fair treatment, integrating differences, decision making, psychological safety, trust, belonging and diversity.
A great way to measure inclusion in the workplace is to run anonymous employee surveys because they help organisations take action on the results to bolster inclusion. Other ways to promote inclusion in the workplace include hosting inclusive leadership training, setting up a diversity and inclusion committee or taskforce, setting goals for employee engagement and tying them to monetary compensation, setting-up Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that give employees safe spaces to meet and talk about common interests.
What are the real benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
The benefits of diversity and inclusion at work are countless. The rapid changes in our society and rising expectations from employees, customers and stakeholders regarding brand’s social impact efforts are pushing organisations to prioritise diversity and inclusion and to think about the benefits for the business.
1) Greater employee engagement and satisfaction
According to a Harvard Business Review report, employee disengagement costs employers anywhere from $450 billion to $550 billion every year. Deloitte's research shows that 39 percent of employees would leave their current company for one that had a more inclusive culture, and over half (53 percent) of millennials would do so. Having employees who feel like they are being heard, valued and included leads to increased engagement and satisfaction.
2) Greater creativity and agility
For an organisation to evolve, it needs diverse talent that comes from diverse backgrounds, in order to enable different voices to create something new. Diversity and inclusion leads to greater creativity and agility.
3) Greater innovation
An increased creativity leads to greater innovation. Organisations that considerate diverse voices from a wide range of backgrounds are more innovative and generate more revenue from innovation.
4) Better brand reputation
Having a diverse workforce that truly feels included allows your organisation to be perceived as diverse and inclusive externally. Clients, partners and stakeholders prefer to deal with organisations whose brand is perceived as diverse and inclusive.
5) Reduced employee turnover
Employees who feel like they don’t belong are more likely to leave their organisation. Forrester found a 50% reduction in staff turnover when workplace belonging was prioritised with inclusive policy. Organisations that invest in diversity and inclusion in the workplace enjoy greater employee retention rates.
Acknowledging inequalities and a lack of diversity and inclusion in your current workforce can be challenging, but the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace are vast. Every employee, every client and every manager will benefit from a solid diversity and inclusion strategy in your organisation. The first step is to articulate what diversity and inclusion means to your organisation, make it a part of your mission statement and set goals. If you need help starting the conversation about diversity and inclusion in your workplace, contact us now.