“We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity, life would be very boring.”
— Catherine Pulsifer
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) are incredibly important! Not only does it foster a better working environment for everyone, but it has been proven to actually boost a company’s performance. According to several research studies commissioned by Deloitte, D&I enhances innovation by about 20%. Furthermore, a report from McKinsey found that “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
The push to improve workplace D&I should be rooted in more than a company’s own self-interest. We understand that it sometimes requires a bottom-line approach to get the ball moving. However, by focusing on cultivating diversity and inclusion for all employees, companies can also create a better working environment. This translates into attracting and retaining better talent. Therefore, it is really a win-win.
What is diversity and inclusion?
Think of diversity as the things that make us unique. This includes our backgrounds, experiences and beliefs, as well ethnicity, gender, age, race, religion, disabilities, sexual orientation, etc. Inclusion on the other hand is the act of embracing these differences.
While these two terms are interconnected and often used together, they are not interchangeable. As Verna Myers, a leader in improving workplace inclusion, beautifully described “diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”
To take it one step further, diversity is about representation. Inclusion on the other hand, centers on how the contributions, presence and perspectives of different groups of people are valued and integrated into an environment. To be clear, you can have a diverse workforce and still lack inclusion.
D&I are essential to creating a comfortable and supportive atmosphere where employees who are different can flourish together. As Ted Kennedy once said, “what divides us pales in comparison to what unites us.”
However, to succeed at diversity and inclusion, companies cannot just implement fluff policies or hire “token” individuals to fulfill an HR hiring checklist.
Why are diversity and inclusion important?
Diversity and inclusion are important because as an employer, it shows that you respect and value the unique needs and perspectives of potential employees and are committed to building a deeper trust. D&I establishes a larger platform for innovation, creativity and integration. This leaves your employees feeling safe, enabling them to produce their best work.
Everything starts at the top and leading by example is a powerful tool. Leadership must be committed to and demonstrate this commitment to diversifying their teams and organizations. Employees are watching, potential talent is watching; frankly everyone is watching, including your customers.
Paying it forward
It’s important that policies and processes be evaluated to determine where companies can invest their energy and effort and drive change, not only within the organization itself but also within their communities. A great way to do this is through creating formalized mentor programs for disadvantaged individuals.
Companies should also look at placing diverse individuals in positions of leadership as well as those responsible for recruiting, hiring, referring and retaining to be reflective of a more representative workforce.
Through dedicated investment in D&I employers can deliver a better overall working environment while also driving economic growth and empowerment that leads to a thriving economy.