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Inclusion Complements Diversity in the Workplace

In a world that is both diverse and deeply interconnected, companies and institutions with greater levels of diversity are achieving better performance. Managers working on tough problems have often assembled diverse teams of thinkers to challenge one another and improve the quality of their answers. Diverse companies are better at attracting top talent and improving their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making.

Furthermore, an increase in the number of women joining the workforce can result in a raise of median wages. Women’s participation in the workforce can increase overall productivity, as high-performing women replace lower-performing employees, therefore resulting in an overall more productive team in addition to higher wages for both men and women. Women could also raise the overall skill level in the area or introduce a different set of complementary skills since they surpassed men in obtaining college degrees in 1982.

McKinsey & Company finds that companies that encourage gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies that do not are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns.

Inclusion Complements Diversity in the Workplace

Besides attracting, companies need to work on mentoring, sponsoring and retaining top talent. More often than not, diversity and inclusion are assumed to be the same thing. In the context of the workplace, diversity equals representation. Without inclusion, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen. Numerous studies show that diversity alone doesn’t drive inclusion. In fact, without inclusion, there’s often a diversity backlash.

However, when diversity includes cross-cultural and inclusion trainings, the result is that employees feel validated and valued, which helps to create a positive workplace. A research by Harvard Business Review has uncovered four things that drive inclusion in the workplace:

1. Inclusive leaders: Inclusive leadership consists of six behaviours: ensuring that team members speak up and are heard; making it safe to propose new ideas; empowering team members to make decisions; taking advice and implementing feedback; giving actionable feedback; and sharing credit for team success. Of employees who report that their team leader has at least three of these traits, 87% say they feel welcome and included in their team, 87% say they feel free to express their views and opinions, and 74% say they feel that their ideas are heard and recognized. For respondents who reported that their team leader has none of these traits, those percentages dropped to 51%, 46%, and 37%.

2. Authenticity: Some people need to compromise their authenticity to conform to their company’s standards of demeanour or style, which is a waste of energy. The research shows that acting ‘like a man’ can provide an advantage in becoming a leader in science, engineering, and technology industries, regardless of gender.

3. Networking and visibility: For those who feel marginalized by their gender, ethnicity, age, sexual identity, or educational and economic background, sponsorship is crucial in invigorating ambition and driving engagement. A sponsor is usually a senior-level leader who elevates their visibility within the corridors of power and advocates for key assignments and promotions for them. Having a sponsor increases the likelihood of being satisfied with the rate of career advancement. A lack of sponsorship increases someone’s likelihood of quitting within a year.

4. Clear career paths: The research showed that women, LGBT individuals and people of colour, struggle to name a simple solution to open up a blocked career path. They are also frustrated by being passed over for high-profile assignments, and they have a general sense of missing out on the right opportunities.

Diversity without inclusion results in employees getting so used to being overlooked that they no longer share ideas or insights. On the other hand, a truly inclusive workplace contains a diverse cross-section of employees who actually interact with one another, resulting in talent retention and engagement.

Zara English Janmohamed

Partner at Loftus Bradford Group, a boutique Executive Search firm, serving our clients globally by attracting top, international, diverse talent in General Management, Sales, Marketing, Big Data, E-Commerce, Retail, Strategic Planning, Finance, Supply Chain, Manufacturing and Procurement. Leading and developing our Diversity Practice across sectors and functions.


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