Embracing Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Diversity and Inclusion are at the forefront of the business world today. They interconnect but do not interchange. Diversity is the demographic makeup of the workforce with the understanding that everyone is unique and recognised for their differences. Inclusion on the other hand is how well the viewpoints of different groups of people are listened to, respected and valued in the workplace. It is important that both are covered in company policies and embraced by an organisation. Inclusion is essential for enabling employee well-being and engagement, helping everyone realise their potential, adding value to the business, while reaping the benefits of a diverse workforce. In his article on “Why is Diversity and Inclusion Important in the Workplace?”, Bush stated that “Diversity and Inclusion are more than policies, programs, or headcounts. Equitable employers outpace their competitors by respecting unique needs, perspectives, and the potential of their team. As a result, diverse and inclusive workplaces earn deeper trust and more commitment from their employees“.
Reasons for Implementing Diversity and Inclusion
There are two reasons to implement and drive Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace, the moral case and the business case.
The Moral Case
According to the CIPD the moral case for implementing and driving Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace is that “we all deserve the opportunity to develop our skills and talents to our full potential, work in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment, be fairly rewarded and recognised for our work, and have a meaningful voice on matters that affect us regardless of our identity, background, or circumstance.”
Employees who perceive an unequal environment are less likely to be completely productive or engaged than employees who feel welcome to play an important role in the organisation. Diversity and Inclusion policies in the workplace allow the company to open up a wider talent pool accessing the talent and skillsets their businesses require. Acquiring perspectives from different ages and cultures can help with decision making and effective problem solving. A diverse and inclusive atmosphere creates a happier and healthier workforce, reduced turnover, improved team performance and increased employee engagement and trust.
The Business Case
Harvard Business Review finds more diverse companies report a 19% higher revenue. Employees who feel a sense of belonging in the company, tend to work harder and smarter. As a result, businesses with strong Diversity and Inclusion policies and practices experience gains in business results. Good practice creates good corporate reputation and company branding. A diverse workforce will enable the promotion of the company brand to different backgrounds reflecting those who work there and allowing a more effective promotion of the business.
Barriers To Achieving Diversity and Inclusion
Fortunately, most organisations now have policies and procedures in place and are working towards creating a more diverse and inclusive environment for employees to be present and bring their whole self to work. However, there are still many barriers to Inclusion and Diversity to overcome. People can be unaware of the way their perceptions of others effect their behaviours which can result in an exclusive workplace.
- Unconscious bias is a snap judgment we make of people using instinct not an analysis, categorising people into gender or social groups. It is a preference for or against a person or group held at an unconscious level, most people do not even realise they are holding onto it.
- Lack of support can have adverse effects on the policies and procedures an organisation tries to establish. It is important to have buy-in from your team. Communication is key, employees and managers tend to be more engaged and understanding if they understand the reason behind policies being implemented, therefore effective Diversity training is crucial.
- Lack of effective management – Challenges can arise from a diverse workforce that is not correctly managed such as communication issues, hostility, slower decision making or cultural misunderstandings. Therefore, it is important to have a strong emotionally intelligent and inclusive manager in place.
- Resistance to change can be one of the largest barriers to a diverse workplace, as new policies and procedures around Diversity are implemented. Those who resist change can cause offence to diverse employees. Stereotyping and offensive remarks are some of the negative consequences experienced when a workforce is resistant to change.
Strengthening and Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
To ensure Diversity and Inclusion are reflected in organisations, we must review current policies and procedures.
Here are 5 actions we can take to foster inclusion into the workplace:
- Involve all employees
Involve employees at all levels. Communication is vital, involve the team in creation of strategies, action plans and Diversity policies and share them with the entire workforce.
- Develop line manager capability
An inclusive manager must have the potential to be a mindful, insightful, and emotionally intelligent. Therefore, educating and training of managers on implementing Diversity and Inclusion policies and procedures is crucial. Managers must be aware of their conscious and unconscious bias and model inclusive behaviour. The manager must be able to support individual needs, demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and be responsible for the working environment.
- Build senior commitment to inclusion
Without the active support of senior leadership, it is difficult to build a diverse and inclusive workplace. Their influence will increase employee receptiveness. It is important to gain buy-in by demonstrating benefits such as greater performance, corporate reputation and also showcasing the fact that it is simply the right thing to do. There is a hefty cost of not supporting Diversity and Inclusion with the risk of losing staff, customers, and investors.
- Examine People Practices
Ensure policies treat everyone fairly. Consider recruitment, the advert, the selection process, and the interviewing techniques. A diverse recruitment procedure feeds into a diverse workforce, leading to a happier workforce, increased retention, and higher productivity.
Include training as part of a wider program and in particular around unconscious bias. This should be ongoing and delivered through different methods made relevant to the employee. Training should be continually evaluated, and the effectiveness of training interventions measured. Investing in training of employees in Diverse and Inclusive policies should ensure their buy-in.
Leadership coaching and mentoring can also promote Diversity and Inclusion with an open-door policy for employees to feel comfortable sharing their views.
Organisations need to embrace Diversity and Inclusion to establish a thriving business and an engaged workforce. Taking both the moral and the business case and embodying them into the organisational culture will create inclusive and diverse people practices. Demonstrating a commitment to the workforce by providing equal opportunities and educating and training employees on Diversity and Inclusion will lay the foundations to prosper, transform and future-proof the organisation.
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The information in this article is provided as part of Action HR Services Blog. Specific queries should be directed to a member of the Action HR Services Team and it is recommended that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article. This article is correct at 04/10/2022.
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