While diversity and inclusion travel in tandem, they are not the same. Understanding the difference is an important step in creating a workplace culture in which employees feel valued and respected. As part of an overarching strategy, diversity training and education, mentoring and allyship programs, and employee resource groups are among the ways to deepen employees’ understanding of D&I and its impact on individuals and the organization.
How are diversity and inclusion different?
A diverse workplace has a mix of people with different characteristics, backgrounds and experiences. An inclusive workplace takes diversity to the next level by involving marginalized or underrepresented people in the organization’s operations and leadership.
A Harvard Business Review article, Diversity Doesn’t Stick Without Inclusion, explains the difference this way: “In the context of the workplace, diversity equals representation. Without inclusion, however, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen.”
A recent report from McKinsey & Company, Diversity Wins – How Inclusion Matters, identifies “the dynamics around inclusion” as a critical differentiator for companies. “Our evidence is that an emphasis on representation is not enough; employees need to feel and perceive equality and fairness of opportunity in their workplace. Companies that lead on diversity have taken bold steps to strengthen inclusion.”
6 ways to drive inclusion
Creating a more inclusive workplace culture involves making changes — in behaviors and decisions and in structures, processes and practices. Here are 6 strategies to drive inclusion in the workplace:
- Embed inclusion into hiring, onboarding and talent management, and establish mentoring programs that focus on developing diverse employees into diverse leaders.
- Put teams together that include underrepresented voices, and encourage interactions between different groups, departments, job titles and management levels.
- Provide different communication tools and platforms for employees to share ideas for improving inclusion, as well as their experiences with unconscious bias, microaggressions, discrimination and harassment.
- Encourage being and having an ally. By listening to, advocating and amplifying the voices of marginalized people, workplace allies can have a positive impact on inclusion and educating others on the benefits of allyship. Underrepresented people should also be empowered to be an ally to members of their group, and support other marginalized colleagues who may be struggling.
- Foster a sense of belonging. Employees are more productive, motivated and engaged in a welcoming workplace in which they feel they belong and their contributions are valued. With the shift to remote working, this poses a challenge. Regularly checking in with employees, being empathetic and responsive to their concerns, and offering flexible schedules and other resources can help cultivate a sense of belonging during these uncertain times.
- Inspire authenticity. Authenticity is an aspect of inclusion that applies to everyone. Employees want to bring their authentic selves to the workplace, and successful leaders are authentic, open and honest in supporting an inclusive workplace and setting D&I goals with accountability.
Diversity is about representation. Inclusion is about involvement and participation. Understanding the difference, why it’s important, and how to increase both diversity and inclusion can help shape a working environment in which everyone feels empowered (and no one feels left out) to contribute and participate fully in the organization’s success.