The terms “Diversity” and “inclusion” emerged as something of workplace buzzwords in 2020 with increased discussions surrounding racial injustice and gender equality. However, employers should treat workplace diversity as a must-have, not a trend, if businesses aim to remain competitive and thriving within their respective industries.
McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, reported that companies in the top quartile for racial/ethnic and gender diversity were more likely to show financial returns that exceed their national industry medians. The report also revealed that in the U.S., there is a linear correlation between racial and ethnic diversity and financial performance. For every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity at the senior level, earnings increased by 0.8 percent.
Yet, simply increasing the number of traditionally underrepresented people in the workplace is arguably a halfhearted approach to diversity and inclusion. Business leaders must understand that tokenism, defined as “the policy or practice of making only a symbolic effort,” has no place in today’s efforts to create authentic workplace diversity. Organizations should take an intentional approach that shows a distinct understanding of what the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” mean, as they are not synonymous.
An article published by Gallup, a global analytics and advice firm, explained that:
- Diversity represents a range of human demographic differences like race, gender, religion, age and physical disability. Some businesses include other characteristics like lifestyle, education level or personality traits in their elements of diversity.
- Inclusion refers to how employees are valued, accepted and encouraged to participate in the workspace. More importantly, inclusion is a cultural and environmental sense of belonging that affirms an employee’s unique characteristics and experiences.
Ways to Create an Effectively Diverse and Inclusive Workplace
Effective workplace diversity does not exist without inclusion. Creating a work environment that achieves both while meeting business goals takes time and some uncomfortable discussion. Here are some tips that can move businesses in a progressive direction:
- Conduct an internal audit. Move beyond the notion that presupposes opening doors to diverse demographics automatically secures inclusion or a welcoming culture. Leaders from the top down should take time to reflect and recognize internal bias. Hold regular workshops specifically for transparent conversations on any shortcomings in supporting diversity and work to authentically celebrate it moving forward.
- Create an inclusive group within your business to lead the way. Bring together individuals from both marginalized and non-marginalized groups to lead the efforts discussed during the internal audit. This allows space for the “tough” conversations to feel less divisive and more enriching.
- Form a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion statement and goals. Hold your business accountable and avoid performative allyship, which means talking the talk without walking the walk. Take time as a team to outline measurable goals to advance the cultural experience of your workplace. This ensures everyone feels welcome and builds integrity in your pursuit of diversity and inclusion.
- Assess your recruitment tactics. Employing the same tactics may yield the same type of candidates. Diligently comb through your hiring metric and remove any context that could lead to stereotyping or unconscious bias. Then, expand your reach by sharing opportunities outside your traditional networks.
Diverse perspectives in the workplace can increase a company’s productivity and longevity and even lead to more innovation. However, business leaders must acknowledge that workplace diversity is not just an excellent concept. It is essential to success, and it requires an “all-in” approach. When employees feel encouraged to be themselves and see a genuine investment in their unique experiences, they are more likely to go “all-in,” as well. Ultimately, achieving inclusion with diversity is a win for the entire company.
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Forbes.com: Why Your Lack of Diversity Is Hurting Your Business
Forge: Performative Allyship is Deadly (Here’s What to Do Instead)
Gallup: 3 Requirements for a Diverse and Inclusive Culture
Harvard Business Review: Getting Serious About Diversity: Enough Already with the Business Case