Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Miranda Morgan | 4 min read
What’s an inclusive workplace?
The concepts of diversity and inclusion probably ring a bell. If you’re an HR professional, you’re familiar with and understand the nuance. Yet, it’s not uncommon for the ideas to be conflated and misunderstood, especially when looking at and talking about your own company’s culture.
But before diving into why the creation and maintenance of an inclusive workplace is crucial for your company’s success and longevity, let’s define diversity vs. inclusion and examine the relationship between the two.
Prioritizing diversity in the workplace can be defined as providing equal opportunity to individuals regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, physical disability, and mental illness. Employees must feel as though their differences are encouraged and viewed as assets for a diverse workplace to thrive.
This is where fostering an inclusive workplace comes in. Inclusive workplaces take the varied backgrounds of its employees and celebrate, respect, and accommodate these differences. And as a result, they increase their competitive advantage.
Of course, building a representative team is only half the battle. Top executives and team leads must work to institute an environment wherein employees from all walks of life feel valued, heard, and inspired to express and apply their individualities.
Find out how L&D experts build culture here.
Why is an inclusive workplace important?
Good for business
Put simply, a diverse employee body supported by an inclusive environment is good for business.
According to Mckinsey’s Diversity Matters report, companies in the upper quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
Additionally, companies in the upper quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. These statistics not only demonstrate the value of initiatives to diversify employee rosters, but reflect healthy company cultures that avoid tokenizing employees.
Fosters employee engagement
Cultivating inclusivity also encourages employee engagement. According to a Deloitte/BJKLI study, 83% of millennials are more likely to actively engage with company culture they see as inclusive. Engagement drops by nearly a quarter when employees of that generation perceive their company’s culture as non-inclusive.
Plus, an inclusive environment creates strong employee connections. The more comfortable and connected team members are to one another, the greater recruiting edge the company gains.
A dynamic team that supports and inspires one another makes it easy for potential hires to envision themselves as valued contributing teammates. In this way, inclusive environments attract top talent.
Supports cognitive diversity
Finally, an inclusive workplace supports cognitive diversity. Although it may feel easier to be part of a team who thinks and works in the same way you do, great minds don’t actually think all that much alike.
A diverse team — one that feels supported in their dissimilarities — are more likely to resist creative lulls, avoid dead-ends while brainstorming and problem-solving, and increase company resiliency.
How do I establish an inclusive workplace?
Take a proactive approach
As with many important company initiatives, commitment to an inclusive environment must be shown by top-level, senior people. They need to be visible and active participants. Otherwise worthwhile steps, like making diversity and inclusivity part of your company’s mission, will ring hollow.
Additionally, establish a diverse council of executives to spearhead and uphold company inclusion initiatives. The council should meet regularly to discuss hiring goals, retention, and community building.
Integral to the effort of building an inclusive workplace is establishing an open channel of communication between employees and managers. Your employees know the company culture best — after all, they’re the ones immersed in it.
Therefore, it’s crucial to encourage employees to share feedback. Ensure your team’s voice is heard, whether it’s through surveys, weekly meetings, one-on-one discussions, or adhering to an open-door policy.
From the inside out
The creation of communities within the company, such as the formation of support groups, is an effective tactic for strengthening personal and professional connections from the inside out.
Rather than isolating potentially marginalized employees, support groups can remind team members that they are not alone in their experiences.
Making a formal, company-backed effort to support the whole person — not just the employee on the clock — goes a long way. For example, Linkedin supports a group called out@in, a resource for LinkedIn employees who identify as LGBTQIA+.
It’s easy to overlook the aesthetic of a physical workplace. If it’s functioning, why change it? Well, because it isn’t enough to recruit a diverse team. Paying attention to your actual office space is a part of creating an inclusive environment.
Do you have ramps for employees who can’t access stairs? What about multi-sensory alarm systems? A unisex bathroom? A private area for new mothers to breastfeed? Although these accommodations require the extra mile, they only increase employee accessibility and, ultimately, productivity and talent retention.
When beginning the process of acquiring new talent, attempting to remain fair and objective is essential.
Although efforts can be made to fight unconscious bias (such as removing the names of job applicants on initial applications), there are a number of hiring software solutions that enhance and prioritize impartial and inclusive hiring practices.
For example, Textio assists with the writing of inclusive job postings. Using AI, Textio seeks to remove gender-coded language and replaces skewed words with neutral verbiage and descriptors.
Diversity and inclusion are more than just buzzwords. They’re strategies for continued business success. Employees are more likely to trust company leadership when the appropriate amount of time, attention, and care are put towards establishing an inclusive work environment.
Yes, inclusive workplaces yield more revenue and increase a company’s longevity, but a company culture built around trust is priceless.
BY MIRANDA MORGAN
Miranda is an MFA candidate in nonfiction and a writing instructor at the University of Montana. She was born in Santa Fe, NM, and completed her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She’s worked in film development in LA and Austin. She feels most at home in the mountains.