Understanding The Four Factors of Inclusion

Understanding The Four Factors of Inclusion

by Felicity Menzies
Today, it is increasingly common for diversity management initiatives to be called ‘diversity and inclusion’, but these terms are not interchangeable. Diversity is the representation of different social or cultural groups and other individual differences in a workforce whereas inclusion refers to the active integration of diversity into an organisation’s work processes. Understanding the four factors of inclusion is critical to a successful diversity and inclusion program.

Inclusion is critical for leveraging diversity’s benefits

While diversity has potential benefits for talent optimisation, stakeholder satisfaction, decision-making and innovation, without inclusion, the challenges of managing diversity (stereotypes and bias, language and communication barriers, differences in values, beliefs and behavioural norms) may prevent diverse employees from contributing fully to work processes. Diversity may even detract from performance. Workgroup diversity is associated with reduced cohesion and integration, increased conflict, decreased satisfaction and increased turnover. In fact, meta-analyses report that the net effect of diversity on workgroup performance is nil, meaning that while some diverse groups outperform homogeneous groups, others underperform.
A growing body of new research exploring the factors that moderate the relationship between diversity and performance indicates that inclusion is a necessary precondition for leveraging the benefits of diversity. While diversity, per se, does not guarantee workgroup outperformance, diversity and inclusion does. For example, a 2013 report by The Centre for Talent Innovation showed that organisations that give diverse voices equal airtime are nearly twice as likely as others to unleash value-driving insights and their employees are 3.5 times more likely to contribute their full innovative potential. The same report showed that firms with inclusive cultures are 45% more likely to report growth in market share over the previous year and 70% more likely to capture a new market. Inclusive work settings also benefit from increased employee morale, trust and engagement and pro-social workplace behaviours like collaboration and helping others.

Defining Inclusion

Four factors are characteristic of inclusive work settings. Inclusive work settings are workplaces where;
When those factors are present, employees are willing and able to share their diverse ideas, perspectives and experiences. In inclusive work settings, diverse employees bring their whole self to work and organisations can benefit from their differences. Also, workers in inclusive work settings experience higher levels of well-being, supporting employee engagement and productivity.

Placing the lived experiences of employees at the core of diversity management

Because inclusion references the lived experiences of all employees, the most effective diversity and inclusion initiatives are organised around employee experiences of inclusion rather than tick-the-box, best-practice checklists, employer-of-choice citations, or predefined diversity dimensions like gender, age, culture. Organisations adopting a programmatic approach to diversity and inclusion typically organise their diversity and inclusion efforts by diversity dimension, which can result in multiple, disparate interventions that may not address the most critical issues and absorb resources without any measurable and sustained impact to business outcomes. A identity-group approach may also inadvertently overlook the experiences and needs of some employees. In contrast, organisations that have progressed to an integrated approach define diversity as any individual difference and focus their diversity efforts on the lived experiences of all employees. A holistic, integrated and inclusive approach to diversity and inclusion minimises resistance, avoids program overload, and improves return on investment by directing efforts to to initiatives that will have the largest impact.

Felicity Menzies is CEO and Principal Consultant at Include-Empower.Com, a diversity and inclusion consultancy with expertise in inclusive leadership, unconscious bias, cultural intelligence and inclusion, gender equity, empowering diverse talent. Felicity is an accredited facilitator with the Cultural Intelligence Centre and the author of A World of Difference. Felicity has over 15 years of experience working with and managing diverse workforces in blue chip companies and is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand. Felicity also holds a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.