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By Sinakho Dhlamini, HR Content Specialist, Top Employers Institute
By Sinakho Dhlamini, HR Content Specialist, Top Employers Institute

Going Beyond Diversity: The Importance of Inclusion in the Workplace

The importance of creating diverse workforces is undeniable, with companies across industries committing to building teams that are reflective of the multicultural communities many people live and work in. Across our global Top Employers, 91.72% of them have noted diversity and inclusion as a key business imperative.

Our global Top Employers are aware that to construct and nurture a diverse team you need to make it a priority that goes beyond a simple acknowledgement of the lack of diversity. They are keenly aware that they need to, within their organisations, prioritise making their sentiments about diversity into a fully realised reality.

In one of our surveys with Top Employers, we saw that 66.42% of our Top Employers involved their employees in building a diverse and inclusive culture, with 71.45% of our Top Employers having trained their leaders to function as role models for diversity and inclusion, and 61.03% hold their business leaders accountable for their diversity and inclusion KPIs.

Diverse teams are sought after for their innovative approaches to problem-solving that comes from team members having unique backgrounds that, when communication is effectively shared, can be used in successful ways to tackle issues from different points of view. There has also been a positive link between revenue growth and employee retention when teams are diverse.

The drive and the business case for inclusion and diversity grows stronger with each day and with it comes the challenge of not only creating diverse teams but creating an environment that allows for an inclusive atmosphere does not come by chance. While overall there have been slow progress in some businesses many are making diversity a necessary propriety. Organisations that are making this commitment also need to make a concerted effort to create a fair, equal, and open workplace that creates a conductive space for those benefits of diversity to be felt. Inclusion should not be left out of the story when we talk about diversity, and at the stage many businesses are in now, it is something that needs to be more talked about.

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Inclusion in the Workplace

While diversity and inclusion are overlapping concepts that are both important to consider when we talk about building equitable teams, they are not interchangeable for each other. Diversity is linked the structure of an organisation, while inclusion is a term that is used when everyone feels that they have equal opportunity to actively contribute and participate in their workplace. It is to say that while an organisation may create a diverse workforce it is possible that they have not created an inclusive space. Across the globe Top Employers have seen, in their own organisations and others, that businesses need to be deliberate in the ways they follow through on their commitments to diversity and inclusion.

An inclusive workplace is one that recognises the differences of the employees working there while not pigeonholing them to be the sole representative for their minority group. An issue some companies create as they prioritise diverse hiring staff is making some of those staff members feel like they are being tokenised for their differences rather than being selected because they are best suited for the role. That is one of the major reasons why creating an inclusive space is an essential part of any diversity efforts.

The benefits to creating an inclusive work environment is linked to getting the best results out of a diverse workforce. It has been found that diverse teams are more productive and efficient than those that are not, but those results are reliant on making people feel included. Businesses can do this by making these employees feel like they are heard, valued, and invited to share their knowledge and particular ability. Inclusion also includes making employees feel as though they are recognised for their achievements, able to be their authentic selves and know that they do not have to compromise their identity if they want to move up to more senior positions in the business. While this seems like an easy thing for leaders to nurture it is a task that requires systematic work to make it happen.

Keeping Leaders Accountable

The need to have an inclusive workplace is important for businesses as they look not only to attract diverse talent but also to retain the talent that they have retained. Inclusion in the workplace needs to be led by enthusiastic leaders that are held accountable for meeting the challenge of having a diverse team. As mentioned earlier, 61.03% of Top Employers hold their leaders accountable for their diversity and inclusion KPIs and it is essential to enacting diversity and inclusion goals.

Accountability not only keeps the issue of making a workplace inclusive on the agenda, but it also pushes those in positions of leadership to enact to act on their words. Accountability has been something that many organisations have lacked as they have made moves to promoting diversity and inclusion. Without accountability diversity and inclusion may stay on the agenda but it can easily be forgotten as there is no one who has the responsibility of making sure that these goals are being met.

Final Thoughts

Diversity and inclusion is imperative for all businesses as they look to build a modern workforce that are able to work at their best. Creating diverse and inclusive workplace help to enrich the global world of work and while this article is only an entry point into the work needed to support these efforts we will be sharing more diversity related content as the trends in HR shift.