Inclusivity on a corporate level is more than just paying organizational lip service. It’s an opportunity to pursue an initiative that, if successful, stakeholders can tie to long-term corporate viability and profitability.
Per a McKinsey study, more diverse and inclusive organizations are 35% more likely to have earnings above their industry averages. Another report suggests that problems solved through an inclusive analysis process led to superior outcomes 87% of the time.
In other words, inclusivity on the job makes sense for a wide range of economic and social reasons. But nurturing an environment where diversity can thrive isn’t always a piece of cake.
Corporations that want to compete locally, nationally, and globally must recognize and value the practice of fostering inclusiveness. It’s not only a means of providing everyone equal access to opportunities and resources, but it’s also an essential element that ensures diversity doesn’t end with hiring.
Diversity vs. Inclusion: What’s the Difference?
If diversity is a train engine, inclusivity is the fuel that pushes the vehicle toward its ultimate goal. However, the two terms — diversity and inclusion — often get used interchangeably, which comes from a misunderstanding of the unique qualities of each.
How do diversity and inclusion differ in the workplace? Diversity brings people’s different backgrounds, experiences, lifestyles, and beliefs to the surface. For instance, a company might recruit talent from underrepresented areas precisely to get the best people for positions but without creating an “echo” thought chamber atmosphere.
Now that we’ve defined diversity, what is inclusion? It’s cultivating an environment that fosters respect, connection, and involvement among a diverse set of workers. In this sort of setting, team members can freely speak their minds and share their perspectives. They know they’ll have the opportunity to progress and snag advancements because they won’t be held back. They know that their differences will be applauded as assets.
When a business only hires for diversity but doesn’t construct an inclusive home for diverse personnel, the result can be disengagement, turnover, and distrust. Truly inclusive environments help everyone feel welcome — no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they’ve done before.
Inclusive Workforce Practices That Do (and Don’t) Work
Having already talked about the direct financial upsides to embracing inclusion,let’s consider other benefits of diversity and inclusion in business.
One key advantage is the improvement of interpersonal skills, communications,and teamwork among colleagues. According to research from Deloitte, constructing a culture of allyship makes all workers feel buoyed by peers.
Another upshot to on-the-job inclusivity is a spike in innovation. People aren’t stressed about rocking the boat or causing conflict by sharing their thoughts. They can bring their whole selves to work and contribute fundamentally. Boston Consulting Group research shows that innovative results tend to follow when leaders of varying industry backgrounds, hometown origins, genders, and career paths come together to solve issues.
Finally, workers at inclusive organizations tend to report increased levels of job satisfaction. This spills over into stronger retention and engagement. Gallup reports that engagement rates have hovered at about 36% after plummeting during the first wave of COVID-19 downturns; in short, two-thirds of the workers at most companies are somewhat or actively disengaged. Inclusivity could help many employees who feel left out, unheard, or otherwise disenfranchised begin to feel more tethered and loyal to their employers and colleagues.
Getting buy-in for diversity and inclusivity can be challenging, though. What are some of the biggest hurdles in the way of leaders eager to steer their corporate culture toward more inclusive paths?
• Fear: Plenty of employees remain fearful of the unknown, causing them to push back against any kind of cultural change. When people become close-minded or worry about being stereotyped, they tend to withdraw. Most individuals enjoy fitting in instead of standing out. Additionally, plenty of professionals choose to surround themselves with “yes-people” rather than colleagues ready to challenge their opinions or ideas.
• Vulnerability: In many companies, vulnerability is seen only as a weakness. This leads employees to do whatever they can to seem strong — and less apt to be judged based on differences. It can be quite difficult to promote inclusion when team members are unwilling to talk about subjects that they may find uncomfortable or not know a lot about.
• Lack of education: People aren’t necessarily knowledgeable about why others feel the way they do. This misunderstanding can lead to problems within the workplace. For instance, workers may see diversity and inclusion as the same principles — or assume that inclusivity only involves race, gender, and ethnicity instead of something that makes someone unique (e.g., dietary choices or military service). Therefore, they invite co-workers to the table in the name of diversity but never let them speak up or share their views.
Inclusion is a big-picture initiative that needs to apply to every facet of a business. But it takes more than words — it requires deliberate and genuine action.
Put Inclusive Workplace Practices Into Play
As with all business-related challenges, you can address issues related to bringing inclusion into the workplace through strategic means. If you’ve been struggling to boost your corporate inclusion, lean on the following methods:
- 1. Form focus groups and coordinate a cultural assessment.
The first step in promoting more inclusivity in your company is to get a real-time pulse on the organization as a whole. You can do this through a series of online or in-person focus groups, or you can use anonymous assessments and surveys.
What types of questions should you use to elicit engaging information and respectful dialogue at your meetings in a sensitive way? To start the discussion, ask whether everyone feels comfortable being open and upfront on the job. Do employees feel the need to hold back their true identities? Are they masking or downplaying some part of themselves because they don’t feel like they belong?Make sure the conversation facilitator understands how to guide the discussion toward solutions.
If possible, record the session and reread the transcript. Look for key areas for improvement. For instance, you may realize you’ve missed opportunities to support and empower underrepresented workers on your team. Once you identify the problems, you can start to make changes to help everyone feel included, safe, and valued at work.
2. Give your employees the training they deserve.
Don’t assume your workers understand the intricacies of diversity versus inclusion. Use workplace training sessions to educate them and boost their understanding of the distinction between the two principles.
At first, you should expect potential resistance to these types of training sessions. Many people believe they’re being singled out — or that the training is being foisted on them. You might consider bringing in an outside vendor to help team members ideate ways to successfully build an inclusive workplace culture with a neutral party. Some topics to consider when launching your inclusion and diversity workshops are unconscious bias, best practices for inclusive management, and inclusive hiring and recruiting practices.
One caveat: Resist the temptation to think of this as a one-and-done approach. Inclusion-focused educational events need to be an ongoing part of your corporate culture — particularly as you onboard new hires. Otherwise, you won’t get the traction you want to make inclusivity an essential element in your company.
3. Hold leaders accountable for following inclusive managerial methods.
Employees tend to look to their leaders for guidance — especially when their corporate culture changes. Consequently, you’ll need to hold your leaders and supervisors responsible for following through on inclusivity. To help them understand their roles, offer special leadership education events.
How can you be sure that the team leaders across your workforce are successfully building out a culture of inclusion? One way is to evaluate executives, managers, and supervisors on their inclusive actions over a specific period. For example, you might want to set measurable goals specific to your diversity and inclusion expectations. Anonymous 360-degree peer reviews on leaders can also help pinpoint areas of improvement.
This doesn’t mean you should call out a leader who stumbles periodically while trying to be inclusive. Treat inclusive leadership as a never-ending journey while still holding true to the importance of driving inclusivity throughout every aspect of the workplace and its decisions.
4. Incorporate inclusivity into your mission and core values.
Does your mission or values statement reflect a positive attitude toward workplace inclusion and diversity? If not, it’s probably time to add some fresh language. By putting inclusivity directly into your values proposition, you automatically indicate that it is important to everyone on the team.
Of course, revitalizing a values statement can be tough. Just adding the words “diversity” or “inclusion” into the mix isn’t good enough. To get a better idea of potential directions your team can take with its diversity and inclusion statement, visit the websites of companies that have bold and inspirational propositions similar to your own values.
You might also choose to take a closer look at your vendor and supplier diversity. What is supplier diversity? Simply put, it’s the act of choosing suppliers and vendors who share the same commitment to diversity and inclusivity as their partners.
Five years ago, Integrity Staffing Solutions launched its supplier diversity program. Our team tries to purchase from a diversified supply chain that includes companies owned by underrepresented groups, including minorities, women, representatives of the LGBTQ community, veterans, and disabled individuals. We’ve seen the program grow every single year, benefiting the suppliers and uplifting the communities through job creation and increased tax revenue.
5. Look for opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate differences.
One way to emphasize your commitment to inclusivity is to acknowledge and honor how unique your employers and cultural practices are. For example, you might set up floating holidays to accommodate religious preferences and consider developing separate prayer areas in your office.
Use the feedback you receive from ongoing diversity and inclusivity surveys to make your company a welcoming place for all. From designated Kosher refrigerators to gender-neutral bathrooms, you can swiftly institute some significant and bold changes. This will help you cement your pledge to support everyone in the business equally.
Building an inclusive culture won’t happen overnight. Nevertheless, it can happen when you weave diversity and inclusion into the fabric of your workplace. Though it might seem like an uphill climb at first, you’ll soon discover that fortitude and top-down support can make fostering inclusiveness feel like second nature.
Integrity Staffing Solutions is a full-service staffing agency and ranks in the top 2% of agencies across the country for quality service based on ClearlyRated’s “Best of Staffing” client survey. To learn more about Integrity or for help with your hiring needs, visit integritystaffing.com or call 833-446-1300 (tel:833-446-1300).