In this blog I take you through the importance and benefits of diversity and inclusion (D&I) and then leave you with the foundations of a great strategy to move forward with. By the end you’ll have a better understanding of the key aspects of D&I and how you can monitor and review your progress.
Diversity and inclusion has become a top priority for many organisations but unfortunately that hasn’t led to all businesses getting their strategy right. Sometimes this can be caused by businesses leaders assuming they’ve created a positive work environment when they haven’t quite hit the mark. For example, in Accenture’s report they found 68% of leaders feel they create empowering environments in which employees can be themselves and raise concerns —but just 36% of employees agree. This perfectly highlights the first issue of D&I – not realising your business has a problem.
Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belongingness Explained
Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting. For Workplace Diversity that can mean differences in characteristics such as:
- Cultural background
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Religious beliefs
It also includes professional skills, working style, location, and life experiences.
Inclusion is the practice of ensuring that people feel a sense of belonging and support from the organisation. It refers to a person’s experience and value in the workplace. Like diversity, workplace inclusion is an outcome that reflects whether the culture and climate of an organisation is welcoming, trustworthy, and respectful. An inclusive workplace values peoples differences, has fair policies & practices in place, and enables a diverse range of people to thrive at work together.
Equity is concerned with the fairness of an organisation’s practice and policies. It is not an outcome but a process focused on continuous to ensuring equal access to opportunities for growth, development, and promotion. An organisation can have representation but not have practices and policies that enable equal access to promotion and leadership positions for everyone.
Belongingness is the human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, a religion, or something else, people tend to have an ‘inherent’ desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves.
Diversity & Inclusion and Discrimination
In the UK, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation, are ‘protected characteristics’ covered by discrimination law to give people protection against being treated unfairly.
- Impact an individual’s wellbeing, performance at work and intention to stay.
- Adversely affect employment opportunities.
- Result in failure to recognize skills-based abilities, potential and experience.
- Result in significant legal costs, compensation and settlements paid to avoid defending expensive discrimination claims
How does Diversity and Inclusion Impact the business
D&I is about creating inclusive environments and practices where employees can be themselves, are valued for their differences, and be supported to work at their best.
Diversity & inclusion in the workplace (D&I) is more than policies, programs, or headcounts. Equitable employers outpace their competitors by respecting the unique needs, perspectives and potential of all their team members. As a result, diverse & inclusive workplaces earn deeper trust and more commitment from their employees.
It is important to hire people from all backgrounds as everyone has different skills that they can provide and help to enhance a business. By having an inclusive and diverse environment, this allows more wider perspectives to be integrated when brainstorming, problem solving and developing new ideas in business. Some of the biggest impacts are:
- Employee Wellbeing
Promoting diversity, inclusivity and equality results in greater employee satisfaction and contributes to your employees’ wellbeing, engagement, sense of purpose and achievement.
Improved employee satisfaction leads to higher productivity levels, performance and is the key to organisational success.
An inclusive culture attracts a wider range of diverse talent and enables creativity to flow in your workplace.
Strengthen your organisation’s reputation as an employer of choice.
Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace
Employers should recognise the importance of diversity and inclusion in recruiting and retaining the skills and talent they need. People want to work for employers with good employment practices that make them feel valued at work. Along with Designing appropriate & fair people practices, it’s important to create open and inclusive workplace cultures in which everyone feels valued, respects colleagues, and where their contribution is recognised.
Flexible working & job design are also important components of diversity strategies & part of attracting and retaining a wide pool of talented people. This diverse workforce helps to inform the development of new or enhanced products or services, open new market opportunities, improve market share and broaden an organisation’s customer base. You’ll also improve the image of your organization which is important in attracting & retaining both customers and employees.
Diversity and inclusion Strategy
By now you should have a clear understanding of what D&I is, why it’s important, and the benefits of it. If you feel you’re now ready to start developing your strategy, we’ve laid out some important factors to integrate into your plan.
- Ensure that initiatives and policies have the support of the board & senior management.
- Develop a diversity strategy to support the achievement of business goals, including ways of addressing the diverse needs of customers.
- Train all employees to understand and engage with inclusion in how they do their jobs and work with colleagues.
- Reflect respect and dignity for all in the organisation’s values and ensure these are reflected in the way the organisation and its employees operate on a daily basis.
- Embed D&I in line managers’ roles – behaving in an inclusive way and contributing to diversity goals.
- Focus on fairness, inclusion & transparency, ensuring that merit, competence and potential are the basis for all decisions about recruitment and development, and be alert to the influence of conscious and unconscious biases.
- Introduce mechanisms to deal with all forms of harassment, bullying and intimidating behaviour, making clear that such behaviour will not be tolerated and setting out the consequences of breaking the organisation’s behaviour code.
- Develop an open culture with good communication channels based on open dialogue & active listening.
- Use newsletters, in-house magazines, notice boards and intranets to keep people up to date with diversity policies and practices. Actively seek people’s ideas and take action on feedback.
Learning and development
- Build D&I concepts and practices into staff training courses, management training and teambuilding programmes to increase awareness of the need to handle different views, perceptions and ideas in positive ways.
- Consider awareness-raising programmes, such as ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, about various aspects of diversity to help people appreciate difference.
- Include diversity issues in induction programmes, including raising awareness of employee network groups, so that all new employees know about the organisation’s values and policies.
- Train line managers to help them understand issues and drive their support for organisational and operational policies & practices.
Measure, review and reinforce
- Regularly audit, review and evaluate progress, using quantitative and qualitative data on both diversity and inclusion, to highlight where barriers exist (for example, via recruitment data) and show the impact of initiatives, making appropriate changes to activities if needed.
- Use employee surveys to evaluate initiatives, to find out if policies are working for everyone, and to provide a platform for improvement.
- Include D&I objectives in job descriptions, appraisals, and recognise & reward achievement. For example, staff surveys could ask questions about team culture & the perception of equality of opportunity.
- Benchmark progress against other organisations and explore what others are doing to adopt and adapt ideas where appropriate.
Hopefully, this blog has explained Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace and helped you to define your future strategy. No matter what size your business is or the industry you specialise in, you should always be considering diversity and inclusion. However, not every business has enough resources to dedicate to D&I and so they risk falling behind. If that sounds like you then you should consider using an external D&I specialist. At Cogito we have experienced experts waiting to help you with your D&I and we’d be happy to work with you to start developing your strategy.
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