A duty to its customers, employees, and the improvement of its products is the primary motivation that drives an organisation. But in an age when it’s becoming increasingly clear that we can and must do better, companies must shoulder a broader social responsibility. This means working to abolish discrimination and inequality within the workplace.
However, becoming a positive agent of change won’t happen on its own. Too often, organisations look to corporate buzzwords and vague promises to set them on the right path. That won’t do it. Instead, companies must implement diversity, equity, and inclusion policies. They must provide the commitment and action necessary to drive progress.
In this blog, we’ll look at diversity equity and inclusion, including what it is, how it can benefit organisations, and how you incorporate DE&I initiatives into your company.
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Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a strategic approach organisations adopt to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. It aims to create a working environment that benefits all employees, regardless of gender, ethnic background, socioeconomic background, and mental and physical ability, among others.
It’s a natural progression of earlier diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies and serves to empower historically underrepresented employees to fulfill their professional potential.
The term is grouped as one yet, while the words overlap and interconnect, each is also an individual concept. Let’s take a look at the diversity equity and inclusion definition in closer detail.
“Diversity” does not refer to a person on the simple basis that people cannot be “diverse.” Rather, diversity refers to the makeup of the organisation. The workplace is diverse if there’s a mix of people working there, including people of different races, genders, sexual orientations, and social backgrounds.
People often use equity as a synonym for ‘equality,’ but there are key differences. In a working environment, ‘equality’ would give the same access to tools, resources, and opportunities to all employees. ‘Equity’ recognises that not every employee will thrive under the same conditions and promotes an individualistic approach that works to meet each individual’s needs.
Equity also acknowledges that institutional barriers prevent some employees from getting ahead and that some employees (or candidates) receive institutional advantages that make it easier for them to succeed.
For instance, a Stanford University study found that a person named “John” would be much more likely than a person named “Jennifer” to get a job, even if their resumes were identical. In this case, John’s gender was an advantage, and Jennifer’s gender was a barrier. Among other things, equity aims to initiate processes that remove unconscious bias from the decision-making process.
We’re going to put this definition in the hands of Verna Myers, who describes inclusion more poetically than we can. She says, “diversity is being asked to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
Diversity refers to representation. Inclusion is about creating an environment where everyone, and especially marginalised peoples, feels valued, supported, and celebrated. This can take many forms, including ensuring that everyone’s voice and opinion — and not just those from dominant groups —is heard. Or it could involve creating a prayer or meditation room within the workplace and celebrating varied cultural events as a team.
You may also initiate a floating holiday policy that allows employees to take a day off work to celebrate a cultural or religious event that falls outside official holidays.
A good starting point for improving your company’s inclusivity is to ask questions such as:
- What is the workplace experience like for employees from non-dominant groups?
- How might our work culture and practices alienate certain employees?
There’s an obvious moral case for DE&I. For the world to prosper, we must dismantle and abolish the historical barriers and other institutional factors that have placed non-dominant groups in a disadvantaged position.
But there are also organisational benefits when a company prioritises diversity equity and inclusion in the workplace. It can aid the recruitment process and help keep talent once they’re on board.
According to an American Progress study, some two million Americans leave their jobs due to unfairness and discrimination each year, while a Catalyst poll found that 35% of an employee’s emotional investment in their work is connected to their feeling of inclusion.
The same Catalyst poll found that diverse organisations outperform non-diverse organisations in metrics including creativity, openness, understanding consumer interest and demand, problem-solving, and brand reputation. That’s a lot of good that can follow from simply doing the right thing.
Providing diversity, equity, and inclusion training will be crucial in the journey toward a more open and inclusive workplace. While you should endeavor to keep things generally positive, it’s also true that lessons may have to be challenging/uncomfortable. It’s how progress happens.
A training course or workshop might include the following elements:
- Explaining the definitions, differences, and overlap of diversity, equity, inclusion.
- Sharing examples of discrimination or asking employees to share their own experiences (without any pressure to do so, of course).
- Looking at unconscious bias and its effect on underrepresented groups.
- Raising awareness of microaggressions (for example, asking someone where they’re from because of their appearance, assigning a nickname to a person rather than learning how to pronounce their name, etc.)
- Encouraging employees to stand up to inappropriate behavior, and teaching the diversity equity and inclusion best practices for doing it.
A passive approach will not lead to a more diverse and inclusive company. It takes action. A diversity equity and inclusion mission statement can function as a guiding principle that stakeholders use during the decision-making process to ensure each decision will enhance diversity and inclusivity.
A diversity equity and inclusion policy doesn’t have to be long; in fact, the best are short and easy to read. It should simply reflect your commitment to the cause.
Check out Google’s diversity equity and inclusion statement as an example:
Our accelerated approach to diversity and inclusion
Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. When we say we want to build for everyone, we mean everyone. To do that well, we need a workforce that’s more representative of the users we serve. That’s why we’ve embraced a refreshed and accelerated approach to diversity and inclusion.
Catchy headline, short text, easy to read. In just sixty-three words, the company has set the standards of its commitment to diversity and inclusion and made itself accountable.
Mission statements work best when they’re easily accessible. Share yours on your websites, in your office, and within your employee portal software for all to see.
When implementing DE&I initiatives, don’t just talk the talk. Make sure that your business is also prepared to walk the walk. Prepare key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring diversity, equity, and inclusion in your workplace. These will help keep leaders accountable and help drive progress.
In order to set effective KPIs, you need to dig deep into existing data. Run HR reports to investigate retention rates of historically marginalised groups. Do they tend to leave earlier than their non-marginalised counterparts?
How will you get these employees to stick around longer? Talk to current employees and see what you need to do to retain talent. Make sure you’re also looking into recruitment, promotion, and development metrics. These things have a big effect on employee engagement and retention.
Set a concrete goal for improving the retention rate among marginalised by X% over the next year. Break this into smaller, more achievable steps and measure progress regularly. The path to DE&I is through responsibility, accountability, and commitment.
One company’s commitment to DE&I will not be enough to overcome centuries’ worth of systematic oppression and deeply ingrained prejudices and discrimination. That’ll take a coordinated, herculean effort from parties and players that extend far beyond your organisation.
But your commitment to improvement will be a valuable and notable step that can energise everyone connected to your company and inspire others to do better. The world moves forward when people and organisations make it so. By making diversity, equity, and inclusion part of your operations, you’ll be doing your small bit in the name of progress. And if all companies and people do that, then the future will look much brighter than the past.
This post is also available in: English US