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Why We Need Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Gretchen Barretto

February 20, 2022

“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.” — Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet

As business leaders are beginning to see the untapped benefits of diversity and inclusion in a workplace, there has been a shift from seeing it as more than policies, programs, or headcounts. It includes respecting the unique needs, ideas,  and potential of all their team members. This goes a long way in terms of growing your own firm as well as outpacing your competitors. But more on that later. First, let’s understand the basics a bit more elaborately. Although diversity and inclusion are interconnected concepts, they are far from interchangeable. Also, where does the concept of equity come from?

  • What are diversity, inclusion, and equity?

    Let’s face it- when we think of diversity and inclusion today, most of us quickly frame the discussion around race and gender. However, these two terms apply to all kinds of individual and group differences that are often ignored or misunderstood when we confine the issue to race or gender.

    Diversity is about the representation or the make-up of an entity. For example, think of diversity as selecting cricketers from different countries and national teams to join a club team. These players have different skills, strengths, and tactics, as well as cultural and religious backgrounds. Now, selecting players with diverse attributes is one thing, but making sure their skill sets and best strengths are utilized to contribute to the overall success of the team is another- and that’s inclusion. It’s about how well the contributions, presence, and perspectives of different groups of people are harnessed, valued, and integrated into an environment.

    Another topic that pops up while discussing diversity and inclusion is that of equity. What is equity? And why has it continued to gain traction in corporate circles in recent years?

    While inclusion is the extent to which various team members, employees, and other people feel a sense of belonging and value within a given organizational setting, equity is about creating fair access, opportunity, and advancement for all those different people. For example, let’s consider the subject of transportation. Not everyone within an organization will own a car, or even be able to afford public transportation on a daily basis. An organization can create a more equitable environment by accommodating all transportation needs, from policies around start times and working hours to concessions for both private travel and public transportation. 

    Simply put, diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting. Equity is the process of ensuring that processes and programs are fair and provide equal possible outcomes for every stakeholder. Inclusion is the practice of ensuring that people feel a sense of belonging in the workplace.

     

    Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s understand how these values come into play at the workplace. 

     

  • What is diversity & inclusion in the workplace?

    Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is vital to creating and maintaining a successful workplace. They serve on the principle that all people can thrive personally and professionally. What we now know as “The Great Resignation” has awakened executives and HR leaders to the importance of diversity and inclusion. When it comes to equality, the aim is to create opportunities for everyone to fully participate in the workplace productively and successfully, progress their career equally and receive fair rewards and benefits for doing so.  It’s about fair treatment for everyone, regardless of their background, education, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or any other characteristic.

    For this, a workplace must embrace diversity, inclusion, and equity.

  • Why is diversity and inclusion important?

    Research by McKinsey & Company found that successful companies are beginning to recognize how embracing diversity and inclusiveness affords a competitive advantage. A diverse and inclusive environment establishes a sense of belonging among employees resulting in higher quality results. 

    To gain more insight into this, let’s look at the benefits of these practices more elaborately:

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

    • Results in higher revenue growth and greater readiness to innovate.
    • Promoting diversity and inclusion widens the talent pool and increases the chances of finding the best hire.
    • Higher employee engagement leads to high productivity & increased profitability.
    • Increasing diversity in the workplace enhances creativity and innovation. Studies conducted by the Harvard Business Review revealed that the more diverse the team is in terms of demographics and deep-level diversity, the more creative and productive they are likely to be.
    • Diverse teams result in improved decision-making. When employees with different backgrounds and perspectives come together, they come up with more solutions, which lead to improved decision-making processes and results.
    • Diverse teams can also better identify products and services that fit the needs of emerging customer profiles.
  • How to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace

    Some strategies to promote an equal and inclusive environment include:

    1.  Unbiased hiring

    The first step towards establishing diversity and inclusion in the workplace is by ensuring fair hiring of your employees. Research, over the years, has shown that the employee hiring process is largely full of bias. Although not intentional, much of it stems from unconscious sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination. Your hiring managers may unconsciously reflect their own bias in the recruitment process, undermining your company’s success in the long run. How do you change the majority statistic and start fair hires? Resorting to recruitment platforms like impress.ai which are designed to ensure unbiased recruitment is one of the most popular ways. 

     

      2. Creating a blind system or algorithm to review resumes that de-  anonymizes a candidate

    Personal identities, including gender and religion, are automatically wiped off when a hiring manager is reviewing resumes. Further, you may also need to set and review diversity goals to ensure recruitment into different levels is as diverse and inclusive as possible.

     

    3. Track progress over extended periods of time

    Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts aren’t successful overnight. In fact, making structural changes to workforce strategies and systems can take many months, especially as businesses face new challenges around hiring and managing their people. A cultural shift takes time, which means organizations must set benchmarks and track their progress to assess how their efforts are moving the needle.

     

    4. Assess company policies                                                                           

    Company policies and interpersonal interactions( such as how an internal issue is handled) – play a key role in perpetuating existing problems. If employers start to rethink their policies, they can address and replace negative processes or interactions with more positive ones. The focus for leaders is to determine whether policies enable or perpetuate discrimination in the workplace such as racism or sexism and reshape them to move towards a more equitable workplace. 

     

    5. Facilitate ongoing feedback                                                                                    

     Anonymous feedback via an employee pulse survey can help build a case to take immediate action on smaller, more pressing issues as well as inform long-term strategies. HR leaders and managers can encourage employees to use engagement and check-in tools to facilitate conversations and transparently communicate how they’re feeling.  

     

    6. Develop a strategic training program                                                   

    Diversity training helps employees understand how cultural differences can impact how people work and interact at work. It can cover anything from concepts of time and communication styles to self-identity and dealing with conflict. Diversity training that is offered as optional tends to be more effective than that which is made mandatory.

  • In conclusion

    When we talk about business and its ever-changing nature, one of the key drivers of success is people.  Therefore, harnessing and fusing the ideas and experiences of this diverse team of workers is a huge boost to your business, and is a key determinant for your business success. Most importantly, companies must recognize that diversity, equity, and inclusion are not an option or a “nice-to-have” – it’s a necessity.

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