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Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace: A Guide

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The importance of diversity and inclusion, popularly known as D&I, is gaining momentum in the professional scene. More and more companies are focusing on being diverse by incorporating D&I policies at all workforce levels.

“Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business statistically outperform their peers.” – Josh Bersin

Making your company diverse and inclusive is much more than a matter of ethics. It is also a driving force of growth, revenue, and profit.

This guide on Diversity and Inclusion will tell you everything you need to know about this crucial topic.

What is Diversity?

The 2018 Gallup Report defines ‘Diversity’ as the “full spectrum of human differences.” It refers to unique characteristics in people along the lines of gender, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, age, ethnicities, races, geographical locations, cultures, class, physical abilities, etc.

Diversity in the workplace refers to an organization’s workforce comprising people from different genders, sexual orientations, religions, races, ethnicities, ages, etc.

Diversity can be of many types. Let us have a look at what these are.

The Different Diversity Types in the Workplace

There are different types of diversity in the workplace. While some are visible to the world, others are much more internal. Some can be controlled and changed, and still, others remain the same.

Here are the different types of diversity dimensions that you will find in any workplace:

1. Internal
2. External
3. Organizational
4. World View

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1. Internal Diversity Types:

Internal Diversities are the various diverse factors that a person is born into or belongs to. In most cases, a person has no control over changing these diversities. These include factors like:

  • Race
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • National Origin
  • Cultural Diversity

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2. External Diversity Types:

External Diversity is those diversities or characteristics related to a person; however, they are not born into it. In other words, these characteristics can be changed or modified by a person. External diversities include:

  • Education
  • Skills and Interests
  • Religion
  • Geographical location
  • Relationship Status
  • Socioeconomic Status
  • Experiences
  • Citizenship

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3. Organizational Diversity Types

Organizational diversities are the different diversity factors that pop up in any organization or workplace. The different types of Organizational Workplace Diversity are:

  • Work location
  • Job function
  • Department
  • Management Status
  • Level of Seniority

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4. World Views

World View Diversity is precisely what the term suggests: the difference and diversity in people’s world views. Our worldviews can be shaped by our unique experiences, knowledge of history, beliefs, political philosophies we subscribe to, etc. World view diversity might include the following:

  • Political Beliefs
  • Knowledge of History
  • Cultural Events

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What is Inclusion?

“Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth.” — Jesse Jackson, Politician and Civil Rights Activist.

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SHRM defines ‘Inclusion’ 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.”

Inclusivity in the workplace means ensuring that every employee feels included and a part of the team. An inclusive workforce will feel valued, seen, heard, and respected. Consequently, you will notice a boom in innovation, higher cooperation, and increased employee engagement.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., the CEO of the Society of Human Resource Management, mentions that many companies are now swapping the D&I label for I & D so that the primary focus is on implementing policies of inclusion at all levels.

Related Article: 11 Powerful Ways to Nurture Inclusion at the Workplace

Diversity and Inclusion Are Not the Same Things

“Diversity, or the state of being different, isn't the same as inclusion. One is a description of what is, while the other describes a style of interaction essential to effective teams and organizations.” — Bill Crawford, Psychologist

The 2018 Gallup Report said that the first step in creating a diverse and inclusive culture is acknowledging the fact that diversity and inclusion are two different concepts.

Companies must not confuse diversity with inclusion. Although clubbed, and talked about together, both the terms are not synonymous, and one does not automatically imply the other.

Diversity simply means that an organization has employees from different social, racial, cultural, socioeconomic, and geographical locations, with added differences of age, interests, physical and mental abilities, etc.

Inclusion refers to the organization’s conscious efforts to make every person feel seen, heard, and valued with their unique differences. It means welcoming and enabling different perspectives and opinions, with the help of various policies and procedures.

Joni Davis, who is the Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Duke Energy, explains the difference between diversity and inclusion in the workplace simply, yet effectively. She says, “Diversity speaks to who is on the team, but inclusion focuses on who is really in the game.”

Diversity without inclusion will not amount to any significant change in the company culture and employee experience. For instance, you might hire women of color for your team. But unless and until you take into account their opinions, perspectives, and experiences while making decisions and policies, you are not walking the talk on inclusion.

According to a Harvard Business Review article, “In the context of the workplace, diversity equals representation. Without inclusion, however, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen.”

Related Article: 25 Powerful Diversity and Inclusion Quotes for a Stronger Company Culture

The Risks of Confusing Diversity with Inclusion

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If your company confuses diversity for inclusion, it attracts a myriad of risks and ill-consequences. Here is a brief discussion of a few of them:

  • Without an inclusive approach in place, your company will risk the psychological safety of your valuable employees. In the absence of psychological safety, employee engagement will be a bare minimum, and they will hardly succeed professionally.

  • It is now a fact that companies integrate D&I policies into their work culture not only for ethical reasons but for profitable business outcomes as well. Compromising on inclusion will mean that employees will not feel free to participate in the decision-making process actively, and hence, business performance will suffer.

  • Suppose you hire a diverse workforce but fail to make them feel like being a part of the team. The sense of alienation and negative feelings towards the company will take hold. Thus, your diversity policies might backfire on you if they are not balanced well with inclusion policies.

Ways to Improve Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace


Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com / Unsplash

Building a diverse and inclusive workplace has become an imperative part for the all-round growth and development of a company.

So, the HR and office administration of your company must take tangible steps to create a workplace that is committed to diversity and inclusion.

Here are a few things a company can do to create a diverse and inclusive workplace:

1. Educate people in leadership positions

As an HR practitioner, you must introduce and lay down strategies for your company’s D&I policies. However, it’s always questionable whether company leaders consider these D&I efforts to be essential to the company.

Thus it is crucial to hold educational sessions and meetings in the workplace, where these concepts are explained and discussed in detail. People in managerial and executive roles need to internalize an inclusive attitude to deal with a diverse workforce. They need to be held accountable for their words, decisions, and behaviors so that they can lead by example.

Educating and training your managers and executive officers in inclusive policies will ensure that the lower-level staff in your workplace feel included when interacting with each other and their seniors.

2. Set Up A Council

Setting up a council of dedicated members who are committed to inclusivity in the company can be a useful step in the process.

The council itself should be as diverse as possible. Ideally, it should consist of members of the company who belong to different genders, age groups, ethnicities, races, sexual orientations, religions, and even geographical locations. Only then will there be voices, perspectives, and opinions from all walks of life.

3. Focus on Hiring Diversely

Diversity starts with the hiring and recruiting process.

It is essential to consciously reach out to underrepresented groups while you are recruiting for your company. Diversity and inclusion is a conscious decision, and not something that happens by chance.

When you hire more women, people of color, differently-abled people, etc., you are welcoming a pool of untapped talent and perspective into your company culture.

4. Replace Culture Fit with Culture Add

A Culture Fit approach focuses on familiarity. It encourages more of what is already working. On the other hand, a Culture Add approach focuses on welcoming new voices and talents that will positively impact the company culture.

The Culture Fit approach limits or somewhat lacks diversity. It prohibits a company from welcoming new talent.

With the Culture Add mindset, both employers and employees can address their own unintended and unconscious biases that come into play while making decisions.

5. Connect and Communicate

Like we already mentioned, diversity does not guarantee inclusion.

Even if you have an extensively diverse team at your disposal, you might fail to achieve inclusivity. One of the best ways to have an inclusive company culture is through constant communication and connection.

Every employee at every level should feel included in the process. Reach out to them, hear what they have to say, empathize, and learn where their ideas are coming from.

In today’s digital working spaces, constant communication has taken prime importance. Make sure you are accessible to your employees, especially the ones working remotely. Practicing and incorporating the values of diversity and inclusion through constant communication is central to the smooth functioning of a remote working culture.

Related Article: Diversity and Inclusion in the Remote Workplace

6. Diversity and Inclusion Training

Employees from all levels must undergo diversity and inclusion training at their workplace.

Such activity will educate both employers and employees on how they can best work with people from different religious, geographical, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Diversity and Inclusion Training will make your employees more aware. They learn specific skills that help them to communicate and collaborate better.

Related Article:15 Activities of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

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The Many Benefits of Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

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Introducing policies for and Embracing Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace is much more than a progressive trend.

Companies and organizations have witnessed positive employee engagement, employee retention, innovation, and revenue, after incorporating D&I in their approach.

Here are the many benefits of fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace:

1. Higher Employee Engagement

This benefit is absolutely a no-brainer. The more included and valued the employees feel, the higher will be their engagement in a company.

Employees participate and are interested in the company culture and activities when they know that their voice matters in the company.

2. Higher Innovation

Diverse people have come from varied backgrounds and life experiences. It enables them to present fresh ideas and creative solutions for any company’s problem.

Research done by John Bersin revealed, inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to lead in innovation in their respective markets. New ideas lead to innovative solutions to address issues at hand.

3. Increased Revenue and Profits

Being a diverse and inclusive company will bring you tangible profits in the form of revenue as well.

Increased employee engagement, employee retention, and higher innovation contribute to higher revenue and profits. According to research by McKinsey and Co., companies that push the values of diversity and inclusion in the workplace were at the top when it came to finances and profits.

4. Better Decision Making

Having a diverse range of voices in your team and making them feel valued and heard will allow you the privilege of having a blend of perspectives in every decision-making process.

These diverse voices will automatically guide you to make better decisions for the company, including everybody’s insights.

5. Higher Employee Retention

Companies with a diverse and inclusive outlook have a reduced employee turnover rate and a relatively higher employee retention rate.

Naturally, job seekers and employees are more likely to stay in an organization with a history of practicing diversity and inclusion at all levels. When your employees feel included, they tend to last longer and give their best as well.

6. Boost to Company Reputation

Encouraging diversity and inclusion in the workplace will boost the company’s brand identity as well.

In light of the current global political scenario, where representation is at the core of most discourses and narratives, it is imperative to be inclusive. Being politically aware and empathetic can do a lot to boost your company’s reputation.

Related Article: 7 Key Advantages of Diversity in the Workplace and Why It Matters

Figures and Trivia

Here are some interesting and concerning statistics and trivia about diversity and inclusion trends in the workplace.

  • The Glassdoor D&I Workplace Survey conducted online in the UK by Censuswide revealed that 61% of black respondents and 31% of white respondents are not likely to apply for jobs at companies that lack a diverse workforce.

  • A research by Deloitte reveals that a diverse workforce is 30% more likely to spot and recognize mistakes.

  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces specific federal laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against any job seeker or employee based on the social categories they fall into, such as their race, color, religion, sex, transgender status, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.
    These laws apply to all employers who have at least 15 employees working under them. Moreover, they can be enforced in any circumstance at work, for instance, during hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.

  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued four documents related to protecting employees against disability discrimination as a part of anti-discriminatory laws.

  • The US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) aims to increase the employment opportunities for disabled people by giving them access to “training, education, employment supports, assistive technology, integrated employment, entrepreneurial development, and small-business opportunities.”

  • Statistics reveal that racially diverse teams perform better than non-diverse teams by 35%

  • An experiment in hiring discrimination revealed that Muslims who post religiously affiliated content on their social media were 13% less likely to get a call back for interviews

  • Research says that LGBT inclusion in the workplace has positive outcomes for employee productivity, profitability, and business performance.

  • On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled that if an employer fires a worker for being gay or transgender, the former will be violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  • A report by SHRM reveals that 41% of managers avoid hiring diversely because they are ‘too busy’ to implement diversity initiatives

diversity-and-inclusion-figures-and-trivia-infographics

Wrapping Up

Employees are the fuel and driving force of any organization. They have the right and tremendous power to hold their employers accountable and ask them about the latter’s steps to make a diverse workplace an inclusive one.

According to Michael Bach, they can ask them about factors like employee resource groups, diversity councils, the policies and procedures in place, etc.

It is worth mentioning here that On 30th September 2020, Glassdoor launched company diversity and inclusion ratings on a 5-point scale, so that job-seekers have information about companies that are committed to of creating a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Here are the ratings for the first 12 companies as rated by the employees based on their experience and satisfaction levels with the D&I policies in place: Salesforce tops the list with a rating of 4.6.

diversity-and-inclusion-company-ratings

In a world fighting for and standing up for representation, upholding diversity, and inclusion at all walks of life should be an obvious moral and ethical choice.

But what companies and organizations need to remember is that their D&I policies can lead them to growth and success, and more massive business impact.

This article is written by Priyakshi Sharma who is a content marketer at Vantage Circle. In her free time, she is found writing about life, cinema, and everything in between. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com