Diversity and inclusion are no longer optional for businesses. To create a healthy work environment and comply with a variety of laws and policies, organisations must prioritise and actively promote diversity and inclusivity.
A 2019 study conducted by McKinsey & Company revealed that highly diverse companies are more likely than ever to out-earn their less diverse counterparts. Specifically, companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity were 36% more likely to achieve above-average profitability than those in the bottom quartile. Although numerous studies have shown the positive impact of diversity and inclusion on both employees and organisations, there is still a lot of progress to be made. In this post, we will explore the significance of diversity and inclusion and discuss practical steps a business can take to create a more inclusive working environment.
What diversity and inclusion mean
Although “diversity” and “inclusion” are often used interchangeably, it is important to understand that they have different meanings. Diversity in the workplace refers to the representation of individuals with different genders, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, and other attributes. Meanwhile, inclusion focuses on creating an environment where all individuals feel respected and valued. Organisations that prioritise diversity and inclusion can benefit from numerous advantages, such as:
When employees with varying personal experiences and backgrounds come together to share their viewpoints, different perspectives emerge. For example, if you run a digital marketing agency and hire people in different gender and age groups, your employees may provide valuable insights into potential marketing opportunities, challenges, and solutions that others may have yet to consider. With a range of perspectives, you can create marketing campaigns that address the needs of a more diverse customer base.
Fair decision making
A diverse leadership team is essential for ensuring fairness and unbiased outcomes within an organisation. Diverse leadership reduces the risk of discrimination and unintentional biases, and promotes a more inclusive work environment. When employees see their organisation managed by a diverse leadership team, they may feel more comfortable approaching them and more confident that important decisions are made in the best interest of everyone.
Today, diversity and inclusion can significantly contribute to an organisation’s reputation. Employees are often more attracted to organisations that genuinely embrace diversity and create a supportive work environment. Even customers prefer to associate themselves with businesses committed to more diverse and inclusive practices.
Practical steps you can take to make your organisation more diverse and inclusive
Embracing diversity and inclusion requires genuine effort and a proactive approach from organisations. Here are some practical steps you can take to be more diverse and inclusive.
When running a business, it’s important to create a space for employees to ask questions and voice their concerns without fear of judgement or retribution. One effective way to encourage questions is by providing platforms or channels for open discussions. This could be done through team meetings or dedicated forums where employees can freely ask questions and engage in meaningful conversations. It’s also important to give employees the option to ask questions anonymously, so they can address and seek clarity around sensitive topics. For example, at Zoho, our CEO, Sridhar Vembu, conducts weekly town hall sessions where employees can submit questions and engage in open discussions. This practice encourages transparency and reinforces the value of asking questions within the organisation.
Prioritise employee well-being
Creating a truly inclusive organisational culture takes more than rules and efforts from leadership. It requires the commitment and active involvement of every employee. Communicate your expectations for employee conduct to any candidate considering joining your organisation. If any instances of discrimination arise, your employees should feel empowered to report it.
In addition to legal requirements, you can establish policies within your organisation regarding employee behaviour and language. Keep in mind, it’s important to review these rules regularly and check in with employees to gauge their impact. By prioritising open communication and employee well-being, you can actively cultivate a positive work environment that encourages inclusion and individual growth.
Organise team building activities
Once in a while, organise group outings, team building exercises, and workshops to create opportunities for your employees to connect and bond. This will promote teamwork and break down communication barriers between employees. You might consider activities that acknowledge and celebrate different cultures and traditions, giving employees opportunities to learn and embrace diversity. When done right, team building activities make employees feel a sense of belonging and show them they’re working in an environment where they are valued.
Measure and track progress
To ensure you’re actively working towards making your organisation more diverse and inclusive, it’s crucial to measure your results and track your progress over time. By tracking metrics like promotion rates, and conducting employee satisfaction surveys and exit interviews, you can gain valuable insights into the state of diversity within your organisation. This data can help you identify areas you need to improve and help you set realistic goals for your diversity and inclusion initiatives. For example, if the data shows that women in your organisation are not given equal opportunities to manage projects, you can take steps to address this disparity. You could create an automated workflow to allocate projects without regard for gender, or investigate whether the leadership team is demonstrating unconscious gender bias. By taking corrective actions based on the data, you can ensure your diversity and inclusion efforts continually evolve for the better.
We hope this blog post helps you understand the importance of diversity and inclusion and encourages you to take effective steps to create an even more supportive working environment.