Diversity and inclusion matters. It really matters. So, we thought we’d lay out all the basics, as simply as possible, to give any D&I newbies a little nudge in the right direction and help build some solid foundations for kickstarting more strategic D&I initiatives.
Since that-which-shall-not-be-named started in 2020, you’ve probably read and heard words to this effect dozens of times:
“Thanks to widespread remote working, workforces are now more dispersed and disconnected than ever before…”
We’ve all felt the impact of that at an individual level—no doubt about it. But what about the impact of that reality for many organisations? A few trends we’ve all seen recently include:
- Organisations taking advantage of fewer geographical limitations on recruitment
- People facing difficulties collaborating with others and integrating into organisational culture
- Employees seeking out new means of support and connectedness to better manage wellbeing.
Together, these have all ultimately put diversity and inclusion closer to the top of HRDs’ priorities. That means all of us HR folk need to make sure we know our Ds from our Is. So, let’s start from the top…
What is diversity and what is inclusion?
Diversity and inclusion are two sides of the same coin; they’re different, but they’re so closely related that they get their own initialism (D&I).
Diversity refers to the demographics represented within an organisation—for example, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
Inclusion is all about how each individual is treated and whether that amounts to equity (not equality) across all conceivable demographics.
As you can imagine, inclusion is much harder to quantify than diversity. One of the best litmus tests for this is by gauging the feeling of belonging that people have to their organisation—because, as human beings, we can’t feel like we belong somewhere unless we feel included. It’s the sense of community, commitment and purpose at work that we get from bringing our authentic selves to work.
Something to keep in mind is that inclusion breeds diversity. Organisations which are truly inclusive are more likely to retain and attract people from diverse demographics because they will know that everyone can develop a feeling of belonging, regardless of their identity.
Why should leaders be prioritising D&I?
First and foremost, organisations have a moral obligation to make sure they’re as diverse and inclusive as possible. But the case for D&I doesn’t end at “because it’s the right thing to do”.
Evidence shows that diversity and inclusion can impact everything from employee engagement to recruitment and retention. So here’s the super-quick business case for D&I:
- Inclusive teams seriously outperform their peers by a whopping 80%
- When it comes to gender diversity, top-quartile executive teams are 25% more likely to have above average profitability than those in the fourth quartile
- Diversity of thinking enhances innovation by 20%
- When D&I is embedded into every HR initiative, organisations are 8.2x more likely to satisfy and retain customers.
The benefits are quite simple when you think about it:
And we haven’t even mentioned the influence D&I can have on an organisation’s reputation—for better or worse. This is increasingly important as more and more of us make decisions on where to work and where to spend our money based on how ethically responsible those organisations are.
And aside from all that, a lack of inclusivity can have significant detrimental effects on individual employees: the inverse of everything mentioned above, plus the impact that can have on our mental health.
How do you measure how diverse and inclusive your organisation is?
Ask your people!
A good D&I survey can give you an idea of which demographics are well represented—and which are underrepresented. And by asking the right questions (don’t worry—we’ve got a guide for that), you can find out if your people feel a sense of belonging to the organisation, if they can be themselves at work, and if they’re comfortable speaking up.
That will give you a good idea of where you need to focus your efforts, but it’s just the beginning. A recent study showed that one of the five essential strategies for D&I excellence is “listen, hear, and act”. So don’t think of your employee surveys as a way to measure D&I, but as a way to gather intel on how to really improve and drive change based on people’s ideas, concerns and needs. With that in mind…
How do you make your organisation more diverse and inclusive?
Start with inclusivity and diversity will follow.
Once you’ve run a good survey and done a bit of analysis, you should have identified some areas for improvement to make your organisation more inclusive. But it can be difficult to empathise with people who face very different daily challenges to those you face yourself and understand what you can actually do to make a difference. So, why not try putting together a committee with representatives from different demographics who can help you identify areas for improvement, influence decision-making and keep the conversation going?
And when it comes to action, remember that D&I is not about a few targeted internal comms campaigns or events; it’s something that has to be fully embedded in a culture.
Leaders should set the tone, but EVERYONE has a responsibility to live and breathe inclusivity without exception. For that to be a reality, managers represent a key population. They have influence over their teams and can hold individuals accountable for what they say and do. So target that population and make sure they’re on board and encouraging the right behaviour in the right way.
So there you have it: the basics of D&I. Hopefully that will help you get off on the right foot, but before you get into writing a D&I survey, be sure to check out our guide, 10 Key Questions for Your Next Diversity and Inclusion Survey, below. And if you need any extra support, we’d be happy to help; just give us a shout!
10 Key Questions for Your Next Diversity and Inclusion Survey
Diversity and inclusion is more than just a tick-box exercise these days; thriving organisations know exactly how important it is to create cultures where everyone feels safe and respected.