Diversity and inclusion in your company: 5 Innovative ways to integrate them
Diversity and inclusion: do you know what we are talking about? If you do not know the meaning of these two terms, the difference between them, and their importance for enriching the business environment, drop everything you are doing and take a few minutes to read the next few lines.
Nowadays, studying strategies to promote diversity and inclusion in your company and in your startup has become not only important, but necessary. Now you are about to find out why.
Diversity and inclusion: why it’s important to talk about it
In the very last few years, the issues of diversity and inclusion have assumed importance as never before, although still many, as we shall see below, mistakenly use these two terms interchangeably.
A number of global events have helped fuel the debate on diversity and inclusion. Among them, one cannot fail to mention the murder of George Floyd in the United States of America and the protests that followed it, with the Black Lives Matter movement denouncing, among other issues raised, the continuing inequalities in society and, specifically, the lack of people of color in important positions within companies.
The explosion of remote work, aided and abetted by the Covid-19 pandemic, has also created new opportunities for inclusion, making it possible for those who would not have been able to work in the classical mode (e.g., those who cannot afford a car to get to work or those who are disabled).
Artificial Intelligence has also contributed to changing the debate around diversity and inclusion, especially in the area of unconscious stereotypes and biases, which can emerge even in the design phase of AI algorithms and web pages. Nowadays, however, precisely because of the increased attention on these issues, there is a greater diversity of people represented in online images and advertisements.
There is another concept that has become central to the debate on diversity and inclusion: it is that of “white privilege“. These words refer to the exclusive advantages of white people, such as, for example, not fearing being stopped by the police if you are behind the wheel of a very expensive car.
Diversity and inclusion: definition and differences
As already pointed out, still many people today use the words “diversity” and “inclusion” as synonyms. In reality, however, these two terms refer to two separate things.
In order for you to have an immediate understanding of what we are talking about, it is useful to recall a famous quote by Verna Myers, diversity expert and Netflix executive:
“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being called to dance”.
To be even clearer, the meaning of diversity in business refers to the composition of the workforce and, more specifically, the need to recognize differences among employees in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education etc.
The meaning of inclusion, on the other hand, is about respecting and valuing people regardless of their background and accepting their unique characteristics.
Diversity, therefore, does not automatically presuppose inclusion because an employee, no matter how well he or she may enjoy a position in the management ranks might equally feel not included (just think of the differences in salaries between men and women in the same role).
Why diversity and inclusion are important in business
Beyond legal compliance obligations (now present in several countries) and the need to respond appropriately to new societal demands, you should know that companies should pay special attention to issues of diversity and inclusion for many other good reasons.
Companies that decide to embrace diversity and inclusion are, in general, more profitable, are able to better understand consumers (and make, as a result, more effective operational decisions), are able to secure the best talent in the market, and boast higher employee satisfaction rates.
Benefits of diversity and inclusion in business
If all the reasons just mentioned are not enough for you, we will go into more specifics in the next few lines about the benefits that diversity and inclusion can provide for your company.
Enhancement of corporate image
By properly promoting diversity and inclusion within your company you can improve your company’s image in the eyes of your customers or, as we have already mentioned, in the eyes of your workers.
A company that pays adequate attention to diversity and inclusion is more attractive in the eyes of those applying for positions within it, with all that that entails in terms of attracting the best talent. Working in a company that promotes diversity and inclusion also makes employees happier because it makes them feel comfortable being themselves.
Increased productivity and creativity
Diversity and inclusion within the company means a plurality of different viewpoints and cultural references. In such an environment, creative stimuli increase and, with them, so does productivity because all employees are happy and motivated to do well. In a company that promotes an inclusive culture, in fact, workers have the opportunity to feel comfortable putting their ideas and skills at the disposal of the group, without them having to worry about how their opinions will be received.
Improved customer relationship
We have already mentioned the possibility of improving the company’s image in the eyes of customers through diversity and inclusion; in terms of customer relations, this translates in practical terms into more effective communication, both in terms of direct interaction with customers and in terms of conveying the values of the brand.
Strategies to promote diversity and inclusion
Keep in mind that promoting diversity and inclusion within the company risks proving to be a theoretical goal in vain if this intention is not supported by a well-structured strategic plan. The factors you need to consider are many.
1. Train managers and staff
As pointed out earlier, all this talk about diversity and inclusion is independent of obligations to comply with anti-discrimination laws: the promotion of an inclusive culture is not and should not be just a response to a law, and all workers in the company should be well aware of this as well.
Training managers and staff is, therefore, the first step in promoting diversity and inclusion effectively. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that everyone understands the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace or that everyone knows how to manage a diverse work group; provide the right skills on the subject, including through specific training activities.
2. Recognizing and overcoming unconscious biases
Have you ever heard of unconscious biases? They are based on unconscious but well-entrenched stereotypes and, when hiring new staff, can affect the choice of candidates (even among people with virtually identical CVs).
Recognizing and overcoming them is, therefore, crucial because only in this way can you create a diverse and inclusive work environment. In this regard, it is good for you to know that, nowadays, there are several organizations that promote trainings to uncover such preconceptions.
3. Creating inclusive policies
In practical terms, promoting inclusiveness in the workplace must result in the creation of inclusive policies. There are many options available to you: it is appropriate, for example, to allow all employees to be absent on days when the holidays of the religions to which they belong are celebrated. Pay attention to the physical environment as well: to make it truly inclusive, you could provide gender-neutral restrooms.
4. Fostering communication and involvement
Communication is critical because it allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of any actions put in place to promote inclusiveness. Periodically solicit feedback from workers because you need to make sure that everyone really feels comfortable approaching other workers, even if they are their superiors (communication between managers and employees should always be open and respectful).
Involvement also plays a crucial role: to forge stronger bonds within a diverse work group you could offer team-building activities or, if the company has locations in several countries, you could consider allowing employees to visit them and thus get to know their colleagues live.
5. Start with recruiting
The focus on creating inclusive practices should start as early as the recruiting phase : when posting a job ad, you should create inclusive and non-discriminatory descriptions. Similarly, during job interviews, remember to use inclusive language and communicate company values clearly and effectively. Leading by example, is, after all, critical to promoting diversity and inclusion effectively.
Toward a more inclusive future
Many countries around the world have already decided to adopt anti-discrimination laws for the purpose of preventing businesses from discriminating against people based on certain precise characteristics (such as, for example, age, gender or sexual orientation).
As mentioned earlier, a number of global events in recent years have contributed to making the issues of diversity and inclusion in the workplace even more central, so you really cannot afford to fall behind on certain issues because the cultural shift has already begun and will most likely have lasting effects.