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.
Four factors are characteristic of inclusive work settings. Inclusive work settings are workplaces where;
all employees feel respected—Respect exists when employees perceive that their uniqueness is valued by the organisation and that they can bring their whole and authentic selves to work, including those aspects of their identity that distinguish them from the majority or leadership group in an organisation.
all employees experience a sense of belonging—Belonging is the perception that you belong to a workgroup and are an essential part of that group. Belonging results when an individual’s social and emotional needs for connection with others are met. Employees who experience a sense of belonging to their workgroup feel emotionally safe and supported at work. They feel that they are part of a community—a core member of a collective whole.
all employees are empowered to contribute to work processes—Empowerment is the creation of an environment in which all employees can fully participate in an organisation’s decision making processes and operations. One common misperception of inclusion is that it involves treating all employees the same. Rather, inclusion involves recognising that different employees face unique challenges at work. Inclusive workplaces recognise the different needs of diverse employees and ensure that work practices accommodate for those differences to ensure all employees can contribute fully to work practices.
all employees have a fair chance of progressing their careers—Ultimately, the extent to which an organisation is inclusive is reflected in its development and promotion of diverse talent and the diversity of its leadership team. Inclusive workplaces recognise the role of bias in workplace inequality, scrutinise the employee life-cycle for institutionalised bias and train recruiters and managers in fair and objective selection, appraisal, and development so to ensure that members of non-dominant cultural or social groups have a fair chance of progressing in the organisation alongside members of the traditionally dominant group.