Diversity Isn't Enough: The Workplace Needs Inclusion

Inclusion in the workplace is more than just a hot topic or trend. It is a practice that needs to put into action. Not only is creating an inclusive workplace environment the right thing to do, but it is also crucial to building a sustainable business. There are many benefits to building an inclusive workplace, including some that affect the company’s bottom line.


Diversity versus Inclusion

Workplace diversity is understanding, accepting, and valuing differences between people including those of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities, and sexual orientations with differences in education, personalities, skill sets, experiences, and knowledge bases.

Diversity is about the people a company hires. Inclusion refers to how diverse employees are respected, accepted, valued, and encouraged to participate in the workplace fully.

Inclusiveness is a strategy for using each person’s unique and individual strengths to increase an organization’s productivity, profit, and performance.


Benefits of an Inclusive Workplace

Innovative Workplace Culture: An inclusive workforce promotes a workplace culture of growth and innovation. When people of diverse backgrounds come together, their expertise, education, and life experiences lend to the idea generation process. When different viewpoints come together to form one goal, solution, or process, employees can cultivate innovative ideas and solutions. Fresh perspectives allow for companies to solve new challenges and create effective operating procedures.

Happy Employees: Inclusive environment make everyone feel like a special part of the workplace. Employees who feel valued and respected are happier. It can be a challenge to get that many viewpoints on the same page, but once everyone is accepting of their diverse environment, morale goes up. Employees experience a higher level of satisfaction and empowerment. The feeling of satisfaction radiates through their work and creates a happier, more productive workplace.

Brand Perception: A diverse workplace can help to create alignment between the company values and the values of their customers and employees. Customers view diverse companies as easily accessible, committed to providing excellent customer service, and committed to doing the right thing. Customers want to do business with companies who look like them and uphold similar values. By creating a diverse workplace, companies become a reflection of the changing face of the consumer, making them relatable and proving that the brand is committed to doing what’s right.

Competitive Advantage: Organizations with diverse and inclusive team cultures are creating a competitive advantage for themselves. By employing and welcoming people from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints, companies are creating opportunities to connect with their customers. It also increases innovation, decreases singular thought strategies and groupthink, and improves performance.

Increased Production: Companies wanting to benefit their bottom line are finding that having a diverse workforce has increased success across the board. A study by McKinsey & Co. shows that when ideas are openly discussed and shared within a diverse group of employees, they become more motivated to come together and work towards company goals. Teams of diverse employees outperform most other teams by 35 percent. Diverse employees work together to increase production and company growth. In a similar study, Boston Consulting Group has found companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue. These findings are huge for companies. It shows that diversity initiatives in the workplace are not just about maintaining statistics, but that it is an integral part of a successful revenue generating business.


Building a Diverse and Inclusive Culture

Only having diverse employees is not enough to capitalize on the benefits that diversity brings to the workplace. Employees must feel included as part of a team if they are to be productive, innovative, and contributing forces to the company’s success. Employees must feel respected and valued as members of a company culture that supports diversity and encourages innovation.

Building an inclusive culture is a responsibility shared by everyone in the company. Everyone who is part of the organization must support diversity and do their part to include each person in the workplace. Employees, managers, and organizational leaders must implement diversity and inclusion at every level of business operations if the company is to be sustainable. Based on a Gallup study, there are three requirements when creating an inclusive work environment.

  1. Employees are treated with respect. Diversity in the workplace can be challenging if employees do not treat each other with civility and decency. Lack of respect makes employees feel bad and affects their behaviors negatively. Organizations must stand by their mission and values. Company leaders should lay the foundation for how respect should be demonstrated between employees and which behaviors are best aligned with the company culture.
  2. Employees are valued for their strengths. Employees must be recognized for the perspective they bring to the workplace. Different backgrounds, personalities, experiences, and strengths all lend to innovation and the sharing of ideas. Employees who feel valued have higher rates of engagement and productivity.
  3. Leaders continuously do what’s right. Trust is crucial to an inclusive culture. Employees need to trust that their leaders will help them navigate vulnerabilities and uncertainties that can come up because of employee differences. Company leaders must be on board with supporting every aspect of developing diversity initiatives and an inclusive company culture. It is their job to set the example of the company’s diversity policies, mission, strategies, and practices to support an inclusive workplace. 

Diversity and inclusion is a top-to-bottom strategy. Workplace diversity is just one part of creating a company culture that fosters innovation, productivity, positive brand perception, and happier employees. Working together, diverse groups of employees can leverage the effects of inclusion to achieve a competitive business advantage.

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