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Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace (and 16 Best Initiatives and Strategies)

 

Part 1

Diversity and inclusion in the workforce: definition

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a concept that promotes the presence of a wide range of diverse backgrounds and perspectives in the workplace within an atmosphere of acceptance, respect and appreciation for all individuals, regardless of their gender, race, religion, national origin, physical ability, age or any other personal characteristics.

What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?

What is diversity?

Diversity encompasses the differences in people, such as their background, gender identity, culture, race, ethnicity, religion, age and more. Therefore diversity in the workplace refers to having a variety of people with a wide spectrum of different unique characteristics, backgrounds and experiences that are represented in an organization.

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is the act of making sure that everyone feels welcome and respected. Therefore, when we talk about inclusion, or inclusive environment in the workplace, we are referring to the practice of creating and fostering an equitable environment of fairness, acceptance and collaboration for everyone.

Diversity vs inclusion: examples

Here are some examples to better understand the difference between diversity and inclusion:

Inclusive but not diverse workplace example:

An organization with a warm and collaborative atmosphere but all people are the same race, ethnicity, background and gender.

Diverse but not inclusive workplace example:

An organization with a diverse workforce (where individuals of different age groups and ethnicities are present), but only employees of certain gender, ethnicity and age group feel appreciated and fully accepted for who they are, perspectives of other employees are not valued as much.

Diverse and inclusive workplace example:

An organization where individuals of different races, ethnicities, genders, various backgrounds, political views, religions, age groups, and more, are employed, and all employees feel accepted and valued no matter their personal characteristics. The organization fosters a collaborative environment where respect, equal opportunities, fair treatment and appreciation are present for all employees.

 

Part 2What are 9 Types of Diversity in the Workplace?

  1. Cultural Diversity (including country of origin)
  2. Racial Diversity
  3. Ethnic Diversity
  4. Gender Diversity (including all types of gender identification)
  5. Age Diversity (generational diversity)
  6. Religious Diversity
  7. Sexual Orientation Diversity
  8. Physical Characteristics and Mental Ability Diversity (including people with chronic health conditions, as well as people who have a physical or mental impairment)
  9. Socioeconomic Diversity (including family and upbringing)

What are the pillars of inclusion?

To ensure that all employees feel respected and valued, there are several key areas, or pillars, of inclusion that employers should focus on. These important factors include communication, cultural competencies, respect for diversity, and creating a sense of belonging. By fostering open communication between staff and leadership, employers can create an environment of trust and respect. Providing diversity training programs on cultural competencies can help employees better understand different perspectives and backgrounds. The following are the pillars of inclusion:

  • Respect

    Treating everyone with dignity, courtesy, and appreciation.

  • Understanding

    Being open to different perspectives and ideas.

  • Connection and Belonging

    Building relationships and fostering a sense of belonging. Unique backgrounds and experiences of each employee are recognized in an environment where everyone feels appreciated.

  • Empathy and Sensitivity

    Making an effort to understand the feelings and experiences of others; respecting and embracing the differences between people.

  • Equity

    All individuals have access to the same opportunities and resources.

  • Voice and Participation

    All individuals have the right to be heard and to meaningfully participate.

  • Recognition

    All individuals are appreciated for who they are and for their contributions.

  • Safety

    All individuals feel accepted, supported and safe.

  • Mindful Communication

    Listening actively and expressing oneself clearly. Being aware of unconscious bias.

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias is the subconscious prejudices that people unknowingly hold towards certain groups of people, often based on physical characteristics, gender, race, age and other factors that allow categorization of people into certain groups.

Unconscious biases are learned through cultural influences, such as media, and can have a significant impact on decision-making in the workplace, leading to decisions that are not based on merit.

It is critical to be aware of potential unconscious bias that may influence an employee’s approach to a meeting or conversation with a coworker. Being conscious, mindful and open to recognizing these biases can ensure an inclusive and collaborative work environment.

Employees should strive to be aware of their own biases and work to understand those of others around them.

Part 3What are the Best Initiatives to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?

How do you bring diversity and inclusion in the workplace? And what are the examples of diversity and inclusion activities, strategies and initiatives?

 

Bringing diversity:

This can be done by hiring with intentionality: to actively seek out individuals from diverse backgrounds, including minority groups and underrepresented groups, when recruiting new workers and using gender neutral language in job descriptions.

Bringing inclusion:

To promote inclusion in the workplace, it is important to create an environment that is tolerant of differences, a workplace where employees feel valued and safe enough to openly express themselves without fear of discrimination or retribution. It is also important that all employees understand unconscious bias and how it influences decision-making. The following are some of the best inclusion ideas designed to promote understanding and collaboration between different groups of people:

  1. Providing unconscious bias training and education

    This type of inclusion effort aims to help employees identify their own biases and be conscious of them when communicating with their colleagues. Insensitive questions or comments made based on unconscious bias and stereotypes can have far-reaching consequences when it comes to workplace inclusion, so the first step for every individual employee is to be conscious of their own biases and how they influence their thought process and communication.

  2. Educating employees about the benefits of diversity and inclusion

    Providing support for those employees who are eager to help with diversity and inclusion initiatives.

  3. Establishing a diversity and inclusion team or committee.

     

  4. Encouraging employees to have a dialogue…

    about all types of diversity listed above by sharing perspectives on various topics related to diversity and inclusion. Ensure that diverse perspectives are heard during discussions.

  5. Gathering feedback

    Employers can seek feedback from employees about areas where they may not feel represented or supported, which can be done using tools for pulse surveys, including tools for anonymous feedback.

  6. Providing resources…

    …such as books or articles) on diversity and inclusion topics and offering cultural competency courses.

  7. Employee resource groups (ERGs)

    ERGs are organizations of employees which represent different backgrounds that are organized to support each other and promote true diversity and inclusion in the workplace. These groups use activities such as mentorship programs, networking events, and educational workshops to foster an environment of acceptance and understanding. ERGs can also serve as a platform for many employees to share their experiences, advocate for change, and create a sense of belonging. ERGs are an important tool for employers to create an inclusive workplace environment that celebrates diversity.

  8. Providing employee-led events

    For example, team-building inclusion exercises that celebrate each employee’s differences with respect for their individuality; Providing place and time for team members to share their experiences and perspectives, as well as find support from other employees.

  9. Offering training on how to be more inclusive and sensitive towards different groups of people

    This type of training helps employees understand the differences between their own background and those of other employees, and how to respectfully interact with each other.

  10. Developing a diversity and inclusion policy…

    …which outlines the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. (Sample diversity and inclusion policy: https://www.utahcli.org/diversity-policies/)

  11. Creating mentorship programs…

    …that encourage cross-cultural experiences and understanding of different perspectives. One example of this inclusion and diversity activity is a mentoring system that pairs workers from different backgrounds.

  12. Communication workshops

    Giving people opportunities to share stories about their background are great ways for employees to learn from each other’s perspectives, enhancing company culture and fostering a sense of unity within the office.

  13. Inviting guest speakers from different backgrounds…

    …which can help break down barriers between coworkers while also fostering greater understanding among them.

  14. Interactive inclusion games

    Inclusion activities such as interactive games can be used to break down barriers and create a safe space and inclusive environment. Companies can use a variety of interactive activities such as role-playing, board games, and trivia to engage employees and foster conversations. These activities can also help employees learn more about each other’s backgrounds and beliefs.

  15. Respectful communication exercises…

    …that focus on mutual respect, open dialogue and non-judgmental listening.

  16. Cultural appreciation days

    Cultural appreciation days or orientations about cultural and religious holidays and traditions and intercultural awareness exercises.

    Both of these inclusion and diversity activities can provide the opportunity for employees to learn more about each other’s cultures, which can lead to greater understanding and appreciation of diversity.

 

Part 4What are 10 key benefits of workforce diversity and inclusion?

The importance of having a diverse and inclusive workplace can not be overstated. When organizations embrace diversity, their employees feel included and respected, resulting in greater job satisfaction levels, improved communication between coworkers, better team collaboration skills, increased productivity, and lower employee turnover rates.

Here are some benefits of bringing diversity and inclusion in the workplace:

  • Improved employee engagement and morale.

    Inclusion also creates a sense of belonging which leads to improved morale among staff members who feel accepted for their individual differences. When employees feel included and respected, they are more likely to be engaged in their work and committed to the organization.

  • Increased productivity.

    A diverse and inclusive workforce is also likely to result in increased productivity. This is because a variety of perspectives can help employees come up with new solutions to problems, while providing a better understanding of different cultures and ways of thinking.

  • Fewer conflicts in the workplace and reduced risk of discrimination and harassment.

    A diverse workplace allows for a more understanding and tolerant environment, reducing the risk of discrimination or litigation. Diverse employees can help resolve conflicts more effectively and peacefully, leading to a more productive and cohesive workplace.

  • Increased creativity, innovation, and productivity.

    By promoting workplace diversity and inclusive culture, companies can benefit from greater creativity and innovation as different perspectives are shared and debated. Employees with different backgrounds bring unique perspectives that can uncover new solutions or thinking that traditional team members may not have considered.

  • Improved customer relations.

    A workforce with various cultural backgrounds can help businesses to better understand their customers and build stronger relationships with them.

  • Greater understanding of different markets.

    Diverse talent can help businesses to understand their target markets better, which can lead to improved sales and marketing strategies.

  • More effective decision-making.

    Workforce diversity can bring together people with different world views and experiences, enabling them to provide fresh insights into business decisions.

  • Enhanced organizational reputation.

    Employers that are committed to diversity and inclusion are likely to be seen as progressive and inclusive by their employees and customers.

  • Increased access to qualified employees.

    By promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace, organizations can tap into a pool of potential employees who are better suited to fulfilling specific job roles.

  • Lower employee turnover (better employee retention).

    Employees feel more engaged in diverse and inclusive environments where they are valued for their individual qualities and differences are respected, which leads to increased job satisfaction and decreased employee turnover rates.

Some statistics for companies with diversity initiatives and inclusion efforts:

 

Increased productivity and better job performance:

A recent study has revealed that companies with a highly diverse workforce enjoy a considerable boost in cash flow per employee, amounting to 2.5 times higher than non-diverse teams. (https://www.yahoo.com/now/diversity-inclusion-d-global-market-102300289.html)

Improved employee engagement:

According to research, creating a more inclusive work environment and inclusive workplace culture can lead to 83 percent of millennials being actively engaged in their work. (https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/Tax/us-tax-inclusive-mobility-mobilize-diverse-workforce-drive-business-performance.pdf)

Better innovation:

When Boston Consulting Group conducted a survey of 1,700 companies, they discovered that those with above-average total diversity had 19 percent higher innovation revenues on average. (https://hbr.org/2018/01/how-and-where-diversity-drives-financial-performance)

Increased business revenue and higher profits:

– A study in 2018 revealed that companies with diverse management teams experienced an average of 19 percent more revenue than those without. (https://www.bcg.com/en-us/publications/2018/how-diverse-leadership-teams-boost-innovation.aspx)

Data from a recent analysis shows that companies with at least 30 percent of their board seats held by non-white directors experienced greater sales revenue growth than companies with less than 20 percent representation. Companies with at least 30 percent of their board seats occupied by women boasted higher year-over-year revenue as well. (https://www.inc.com/anna-meyer/diversity-board-directors-covid-pandemic.html)

Executive teams with a greater gender diversity are 21 percent more likely to exceed the national industry mean in terms of profitability. (https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity)

Increased ability to capture new markets:

A recent report found that businesses with diverse workforce are significantly more likely to capture additional markets, boasting a 70 percent greater probability than their less-diverse counterparts. (https://hbr.org/2013/12/how-diversity-can-drive-innovation)

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