HR & Management

Why businesses can't have diversity without inclusion

6 min read

09 July 2019

Diversity and inclusion are hot topics in business right now. But you can't have one without the other.

Diversity and inclusion, (D&I) are topics that are discussed on a daily basis. Thanks to legislation, employers and employees can see how wide salary and bonus gaps are when defined by gender and race. This means it’s essential for companies to demonstrate how they’re taking active steps to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

The dangers of shallow implementations

If an organisation is only working on diversity and inclusion because of the current political and social climate, they end up taking one of two approaches, (both of which are ineffectual).

Diversity 101

It’s the most basic form of diversity and inclusion work and is driven by compliance. Diversity 101 is simply ensuring your organisation isn’t breaking any laws around discrimination and equal rights. This is essential but the bare minimum of what a business should be doing.

Diversity 2.0

This is a more enlightened way of doing diversity and inclusion work and is based around marketing. Diversity 2.0 is about having key milestones to prove to consumers and recruits that you care about diversity and inclusion. It also shows you have made progress in the right areas.

These are things like winning awards, highlighting a diverse workforce, or sponsoring or hosting talks on disability rights or marriage equality. However, these are more indicative of the image the company wants to portray rather than the actual inclusiveness of the company day-to-day.

The problem with both

The problem is they see diversity and inclusion as being about “the other”, and about helping these ‘others’ fit in. It’s almost considered like extra charity work that a company does ‘on the side’. Consequently, none of these companies end up being truly inclusive. Their “diverse” workforce often end up leaving in frustration as they feel like they have been duped.

Choose inclusion 3.0 instead

There are positive and effective diversity and inclusion policies, but there are also ineffectual ones.

Businesses that follow this approach believe that a diverse workforce is critical to the success of a company. They also believe that inclusion is essential to leveraging that diversity. Inclusion 3.0 considers diversity and inclusion work as a way of doing business, rather than being a segregated concept. Inclusion becomes a consideration in all actions taken by leaders. If these sentiments are put into concrete policies it makes inclusion part of all day-to-day behaviours that employees practice.

Diversity and inclusion is good for business

We know from academic research that diverse teams are more productive, more innovative, more accurate in their predictions. They are also more committed to the company and more satisfied with their jobs.

Research by Scott Page and James Surowiecki has found that diversity in teams is more important than average IQ as a predictor of team effectiveness in tasks like brainstorming, predictions, and problem-solving.

However, what research has also shown is that these benefits are not always the outcome of diverse teams. It’s not automatic. For diversity to thrive, for a team or organisation to get the benefits of diversity, they need to be inclusive as well.

Diversity and inclusion are NOT the same things

Gig economy interim managers

Avoid conflating your diversity and inclusion policies or goals.

Diversity is about the mix of people in a team and the different identities, backgrounds, and experiences that inform the way people approach problems.

Inclusion is about making sure the mix works. It’s about making everyone feel like they belong, like their voice matters, and like they don’t have to conform to others for their opinions or ideas to be valued. Inclusion is about leveraging the diversity in your team. It’s also about taking advantage of the different ways people approach problems to ensure better decisions.

An example of executing an inclusive approach at work

Leaders should consider rotating a dedicated devil’s advocate in meetings to encourage a culture of healthy argument. We know that members of minority groups are more likely to be interrupted or have their ideas attributed to other people. So, if leaders especially can take note of when these behaviours occur and call them out, other staff will follow suit. This means that microaggressions will happen less often.

Without inclusion, diversity doesn’t work

The benefits of early talent diversity: Bringing different ideas and opinions together

Diversity and inclusion are often seen as the same thing.

If companies want to succeed in the long run, taking an inclusion 3.0 approach is vital. Policies like anonymising CVs, having a robust parental leave policy and making work flexibility the default are all examples of an inclusion 3.0 approach. However, it’s important that leaders exemplify inclusive behaviours and embed inclusion in their day-to-day work.