Many of us in business are familiar with the concept that diversity in our staff is beneficial. What we don’t necessarily realise is that diversity, in itself, is meaningless without inclusivity. It is inclusivity which enables us to benefit from diversity.
The difference between diversity and inclusivity
Diversity is to do with your headcount. You can take a quick look at the make-up of your workforce and see the proportion of women, people of colour, and more. Inclusivity is a little more blurry. It is more subjective.
Inclusivity is how diversity actually works in practice. So, it’s not just having women on the board but ensuring the barriers to their entry are understood and lowered. It’s not just having a workforce which represents the society you operate in, but actively including and collaborating with each individual so that they are loyal to you and add value.
Inclusivity is how we go from being shocked but nervously laughing about the fact there are more CEOs named David than there are women to understanding why women aren’t being actively represented on the board. Not making assumptions, but finding out if it is because of flexible working arrangements, or imposter syndrome, or any other surmountable barrier.
Why your organisation needs to be inclusive
There are many reasons why an organisation benefits from inclusivity. You will gain in terms of innovation and creativity. You will increase retention amongst valuable employees. You’ll prove to be attractive to a wider audience.
However, if for no other reason, a business should be inclusive because of what it does to your bottom line. A study by Gartner showed that inclusive businesses saw some startling profitability benefits:
- They generate 2.3x more cash flow per employee
- They generate 1.4x more revenue
- They are 120% more capable of meeting financial targets.
Being inclusive pays.
Inclusivity takes conscious effort
However, inclusivity doesn’t just happen. Businesses, and specifically their leaders, need to take steps to actively tackle inclusivity. There are a number of different ways in which they can do this:
Shift the focus
Typically we expect individuals to put themselves forward for roles, promotions and opportunities. However, this glosses over the barriers minority groups face. For example, if a religious employee feels they must pray in their car, rather than in the office, they are unlikely to feel the same loyalty to the business as if their religious practice was not just tolerated but understood and provided for. It may therefore come as a surprise to the business’s leaders that the individual doesn’t see their future in the business, because the reason is hidden. The same occurs with women and their willingness to put themselves forward for the board. They may suffer from imposter syndrome. If leaders actively shift the focus on to understanding the barriers faced by minorities, they can work to eliminate them.
Talk and learn
A culture of openness needs to be developed whereby everyone can learn from one another about what is important to them. Focus groups can help organisations learn more about what really matters to all employees, not just the majority voices.
Lead by example
Being more open about the challenges faced by those in positions of leadership can help others.
Listen to the minority voice
Employee engagement surveys only give a snap shot of the majority. If you segment results based on minority groups then you suddenly get a more informative picture.
For your bottom line, and for a range of benefits, inclusivity is perhaps even more important than diversity itself.