Why diversity, inclusion and equity matter in the workplace

Mohamed Farook

July 4, 2022

“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.” —

Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer, Alphabet

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace are critical, from staff productivity and engagement to profitability. In fact, McKinsey’s most recent Diversity Matters report highlights that companies in the top quartile of ethnic diversity outperformed those at the bottom by 36 percent in profitability. Further, companies with the highest gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability.

More and more businesses worldwide are embracing diversity, inclusion and equity, far beyond policies and programs. However, there remains significant unexplored potential on a human and business level.

Here, we delve into these concepts and take a deeper look at what they mean, why they are important and how you can improve diversity and inclusion in your workplace.

  • What do diversity, inclusion, and equity actually mean?

    These terms are often used interchangeably, but although intertwined, they are not the same.

    Diversity is about the make-up of your team – the different genders, skills and abilities, cultures and religious backgrounds.

    Then comes inclusion, that is, how you are harnessing and valuing these differences in strengths, presence and perspective to contribute to the team’s success.

    And diversity can only be successful when you have inclusion. Truly achieving inclusion is where equity comes in. Equity is about providing fair access, opportunity and advancement for everyone. It’s often confused with equality, but it is different.

    Imagine, for example, a running race where everyone must cross the same finish line, but the starting blocks aren’t evenly placed. You can give everyone the chance to run the same distance, but those further back aren’t going to reach the end goal. You’ve given them equal opportunity, but the outcome won’t be fair. Equity is all about bridging the starting gap to ensure you’re running a fair race, which might mean offering different opportunities along the way.

  • Why is diversity, inclusion and equity important?

    Beyond the obvious human and emotional elements, organisations that truly embrace these practices outperform those that don’t on almost every indicator. According to Korn Ferry, inclusive organisations are 87 percent likely to make better decisions. Take a moment to reflect on what that could mean for every facet of your organisation.

    Further, Deloitte research highlights a wealth of HR benefits, including:

    • Employees are 80% more likely to label their workplace as high performing when there is a demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion
    • Further, this commitment drives a 101% uplift in engagement
    • If just 10% more employees feel included, absenteeism is reduced by almost one day per employee per year.
  • So how can you improve diversity, inclusion and equity in the workplace?

    Solutions must go beyond written policies or employment quotas to become embedded action. And it starts with your hiring process.

    Ensure hiring is unbiased

    Unbiased hiring is a must, but even with the best intentions can be hard to achieve with human intervention. We all have unconscious biases that come into play when reviewing candidates, but it’s an area where technology can help. impress.ai’s end-to-end recruitment solution is designed to make hiring accurate and fair.

    A blind algorithm will help you review and assess applications accurately and fairly, removing personal identifiers and leading to the best possible hires. You can read more about how to make the most of AI to remove bias here.

    Seek diverse perspectives

    When it comes to your existing workforce, it’s about considering the make-up, not just of intact teams, but project panels and committees, to ensure you have a depth of perspective.

    Consider it as a sporting team. A team of high performers won’t be successful if they all have the same skillset; you need the right blend of skills to achieve the end goal. And it’s critical when it comes to your leadership team.

    Diverse perspectives amongst your leadership team are a vital driver of success. They help you ensure commercial decisions, initiatives, and direction are right for your people and your business, now and into the future.

    Age is one area that many organisations don’t consider here. Leadership teams tend to consist of the most experienced (and often older) team members. Of course, this is for good reason. However, it can be worthwhile to consider an advisory panel of younger team members to provide input. Millennials are likely to make up a significant proportion of your customers and workforce, so having their views in the mix is likely to be an advantage.

    Offer learning opportunities

    Achieving true inclusion is about education, and this can go beyond formal training initiatives. Diversity training is a great way to help your team understand identity, approaches to work and conflict styles, but ensuring employees have real-world opportunities to experience working with diverse groups is also critical.

    Review policies

    Most organisations today have HR policies covering inclusion, but it’s key to look beyond the obvious. Sometimes, seemingly fair policies may not be equitable. For example, policies that cover bereavement often limit additional leave to immediate family members. However, in many cultures, the concept of family goes beyond these bounds, so it’s not considering the lived experience of your employees.

    It can also be as simple as word choice. A common example is changing ‘maternity leave’ to ‘parental leave’ to reflect that the experience isn’t a gendered one.

    Let’s face it, it’s not always easy to see where policies may be limiting because we see them through our own lens. It’s another example of where you can seek diverse perspectives through an employee review committee or even hire a diversity, inclusion, and equity consultant to do an audit.

    Measure progress

    Cultural shifts are systemic and take time to enact, but you must track progress along the way. It’s essential to ‘measure in metres, not miles’ too. Your overall goal may be significant, but you can identify and measure smaller milestones to ensure you are moving the needle over time.

    Taking the pulse of your team when it comes to your progress is critical too. Ensure your employee surveys are encouraging open-ended feedback when it comes to your initiatives in this space. It is people’s lived experiences that will truly influence and shape change.

  • In conclusion

    Your people will drive the success of your business, and ensuring diverse presence, perspectives and contributions are valued is vital. There is no quick fix for systemic cultural change but working towards it is critical. So, think big and start small, making incremental changes, from your hiring to your policies, that will see you thrive into the future.

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