Numerous studies have shown the positive effects of a diverse workforce. It is now the general consensus that a more diverse workforce gives the company a competitive advantage and is the key to it’s economic success.

Diversity is who the workforce consists of – the blending of different inherent traits, experiences, perceptions and values. A diverse workforce comes together to find innovative solutions to problems as well as to meet business goals.

Despite the fact that businesses have started investing a lot more on diversity efforts, many programs still fail to achieve the goals that businesses had in mind. This is because despite putting the time and effort into building a multi-talented and multi-faceted workforce companies fail to align their diversity strategy with inclusion activities. Inclusion is the process of creating an environment that welcomes and embraces this diverse workforce and provides support to their ideas, perspectives and approaches.

Why is Inclusion Important?

It makes employees more likely to share information and participate in decision making.

Diversity is often linked to more creative and innovative problem solving and decision making. However, research suggests that inclusion facilitates an environment where employees feel encouraged to participate in decision making in the first place.

It increases employment engagement.

Gallup research shows that only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work worldwide. In order to increase employment engagement, it is vital for companies to give importance to inclusivity. Research by Deloitte shows that work forces which have high levels of inclusion outperform those with lower levels of inclusion by 8:1.

Authenticity.

A study conducted by the Centre for Talent Innovation reported that more than 35 percent of African-Americans and Hispanics and 45 percent of Asians felt that they “need to compromise their authenticity” to “conform to company’s standards of demeanor or style”. Additionally, a fifth of Hispanics, a third of African-Americans and 29 percent of Asians felt that a “person of color would never get a top position at my company”. By creating a more inclusive work-environment, companies ensure that employees are able to express their feelings and opinions openly. This leads to higher employee morale and loyalty – factors which are important contributors to employee retention.

AT&T: “A true culture of inclusion where every voice matters”

Over the past decade, American telecommunications company AT&T have created a dozen Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Employee Networks (ENs). ERGs are voluntary non-profit groups where employees come together to support, advocacy, education, mentoring, and more to groups such as women, people with disabilities, members of the LGBT community and military veterans

EN’s on the other hand are more informal and focus on business goals as well as professional development issues. These groups have cross-functional diversity as a priority.

Where Do Companies Go Wrong?

Companies do not recognize the barriers to inclusion.

Every workplace has certain barriers that may create an environment of exclusion for some employees. Examples of these barriers are – inaccessible spaces for people with disabilities, non-compliance with maternity leave laws or even something as subtle as not being invited to a company lunch. In one of the recent conversations while writing this piece, we came across an individual who was not allowed to bring non-vegetarian lunch to his workplaces because there was a temple space in his office. It took him six months to negotiate his way through the management. By turning a blind-eye to such barriers, companies often a create an environment that isolates certain sections of the workforce from the majority group.

Measuring inclusion is tricky.

When it comes to measuring diversity in a workplace, data can be easily gathered – a simple headcount of the number of employees that fall under the category of ‘diverse’. Inclusion, on the other hand, requires a more in-depth study and a series of one-on-one interviews with employees. Companies may sometimes not be able or willing to invest time and money to conduct such in-depth studies.

Companies get diversity training techniques wrong.

 A series of studies conducted on 830 U.S. companies found that training programs that focused on a multiculturalism and the business case for diversity – rather than the legalistic reasons behind it – had a less negative impact on employees’ biases. Additionally, programs that were voluntary were much more efficient than those that were compulsory. In fact, the studies reported that compulsory training programs created more exclusion than inclusion within the company since people often go against rules in order to assert their autonomy.

Leaders do not display ‘authentic leadership’.

The leader’s behavior towards the employee is crucial to the creation of an inclusive work-environment. According to a study conducted by Juliet Bourke, authentic leadership emphasizes self-awareness as well open and genuine communication with the employees. Authentic leadership not only encourages employees to be authentic themselves, but ensures that they feel a sense of group acceptance and value for their individual uniqueness.

Conclusion

In order to have a successful diversity program and reap the benefits that come with a diverse workforce, companies must realize that diversity and inclusion are mutually dependent. It is not enough to recruit a talented and diverse workforce. Companies must work towards creating an environment where all employees feel a shared sense of belonging.

 

Author: This post has been submitted by Moksha Sharma, as part of her assignment with Ungender Insights. Moksha Sharma is currently a student of Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat . 

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