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What are the key differences between diversity and inclusion?

In today’s workplace, prioritizing diversity and inclusion (D&I) isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s also quite valuable for the company’s bottom line – but how do companies go beyond the “D&I statement and make inclusivity a part of culture?

Research by the BCG Henderson Institute discovered that companies with above-average diversity averaged 45 percent of revenue from innovation—products developed and sold in the three years previous. That percentage drops to 26 for companies with below-average diversity.

Also, McKinsey found that companies with the most diverse leadership teams outperformed those with the least by 36 percent.

Clearly, D&I are crucial in attracting and keeping the best employees, interacting with and serving customers, and building a healthy bottom line. However, the two concepts, though closely related, aren’t interchangeable. Companies may think that by achieving diversity, they are fostering inclusion—and vice versa—but that’s rarely the case. Here is a look at how diversity and inclusion differ and what organizations can do to work toward effective D&I.

Diversity, Defined

Diversity represents the demographic variety—including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, physical characteristics, and socioeconomic background—of an organization. Although the United States has made improvements in terms of avoiding discrimination during the hiring process, companies still struggle with diversity.

For example, consider two job candidates with the exact same qualifications, both of whom equally impress the hiring manager during the interview process. A tough decision needs to be made—and it might be made based on the unconscious biases of the hiring manager. A white, upper middle class female candidate could get the job over a person of color, a person of a different socio-economic background or someone who has a different ethnicity—simply because the decision maker subconsciously feels like they have more in common with the first candidate, potentially leaning on “culture fit” as a reason for the decision. . The white female may truly be the better choice, but implicit biases can get in the way of impartially reaching that conclusion.

Unfortunately, in the business world, societal systems deny opportunities to underrepresented groups. In other words, diverse candidates sometimes don’t even make it to the point in the process where unconscious biases hamper them. For example, a role might require an MBA, but pursuing that degree is out of financial reach for many people and their work and life experiences could still make them qualified for the role..

Diversity matters because having people of different backgrounds and experiences counters narrow-minded thinking and erodes the implicit biases that hold organizations back. It’s just one side of the equation, however—for diversity to thrive at a company, inclusion must also be prioritized.

Inclusion, Defined

After putting a great deal of effort into ensuring diverse hiring practices, some organizations fail to overcome an equally pressing issue: The new hires don’t feel like they’re fitting in. Worse yet, coworkers, managers, organizational policies, and the company culture may create an environment that doesn’t welcome, embrace, and value these employees.

Inclusion deals with how employees—and, to an extent, customers—of different perspectives and needs are accommodated and respected by an organization. The movie Hidden Figures, which celebrates the real-life achievements of African-American women in the early days of NASA, offers a pop culture look at why inclusion matters. The heroes of the story had jobs with the space program, but attitudes toward women and minorities prevented them from doing their jobs to their full potential and blocked them from meaningful advancement.

Prejudiced attitudes and preconceptions still exist. Companies that don’t support a diverse work environment with an additional commitment to inclusion may find hires disillusioned and leaving the organization. Developing an understanding of what hires with different backgrounds need to feel supported and included in their new roles is key. Inclusive environments foster deeper connections among employees and throughout the organization, which helps reduce discrimination and harassment while strengthening the culture.

Delivering D&I in the Workplace

If diversity is ensuring everyone is invited to the party, inclusion is giving everyone a chance to plan the party and enjoy themselves. Yet neither diversity nor inclusion is automatic. Forward-thinking companies with nice people and sensible policies still struggle with D&I. Striving for diversity and inclusion means taking active steps toward changing hiring and operational practices—in essence, changing the company culture. These steps include:

Leadership Buy-In

Although the story behind Hidden Figures was amended a bit for Hollywood, one takeaway stood out: Inclusion began to flourish when NASA leaders took action to improve conditions, attitudes, and, subsequently, productivity. When executives and managers prioritize diversity and inclusion, not only is there more follow-through with those initiatives, but rank-and-file employees take notice and follow their bosses’ leads.

D&I conversations are potentially uncomfortable—no one likes to admit that their unconscious biases might be hurting others. When leadership encourages vulnerability and doesn’t look at diversity and inclusion as “check the box” initiatives, the organization can grow, both culturally and financially.

Unconscious Bias Training

By its definition, unconscious bias occurs without someone realizing it. Training helps your workforce identify how these biases affect everyday decisions, as well as how to overcome their impact.

D&I training benefits leadership as well as front-line employees—and everyone in between—so it should be tailored to the individual. It should also place users into relevant scenarios so they better experience what they might encounter on the job. In other words: Don’t just tell employees that diversity and inclusion are important, but rather, let them discover how they can and why they should make a difference.

Ongoing Commitment to D&I

Diversity and inclusion are always evolving. Companies may struggle sometimes to catch up, but at least being prepared to evolve is half the battle. As such, you can’t approach D&I as a one-and-done effort—your initiatives must be ongoing, be comprehensive, and involve people from various demographics and roles within the organization.

Data offers additional insight into an organization’s D&I progress. Hiring and turnover numbers provide obvious benchmarks and create accountability in how leadership is seeking out diverse employees and making them feel included. Training data also provides a look at what employees know about diversity and inclusion, what they struggle with, and how they improve over time.

A Partner for Your D&I Journey

Outstanding training should be a part of any diversity and inclusion initiatives. The best training solutions are user-friendly, resonate with employees, produce compelling data, and provide tools to help employees all year long. Learning Pool is more than just great training software—we’re a partner to help you reach your D&I goals. Contact us to learn more.

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