If your organization hasn’t already embraced diversity and inclusion, now is the time to start. Here are a few key reasons why. 

Employing a diverse team isn’t just the right thing to do, or some kind of added bonus, anymore. Today, it is essential to the long-term survival and relevance of your company!  

Putting diversity and inclusion initiatives and policies in place, adding work to existing employees, or even hiring dedicated experts may seem costly, but this is an investment that pays dividends. In fact, the costliest course of action may well be to do nothing at all. 

The Way Diversity Pays Back 

According to a 2018 report from Hays Asia Diversity and Inclusion, greater innovation, along with improved leadership and company culture, represent the three most influential benefits of diversity in the workplace. 

By representing all groups of society, diverse companies are stronger and more innovative. This is a fact backed up time and again by statistics. A 2017 study by Boston Consulting Group, surveying 1,700 companies across eight countries, found a strong, statistical correlation between diversity in management teams and innovation. A 2020 McKinsey report found companies operating in the top quarter for gender diversity and inclusion were also 25 percent more likely to experience above-average profits. 

A study conducted by Kisi found: 

  • Companies that developed above-average diversity programs reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than companies that developed below-average diversity programs. 
  • Workplaces that are LGBTQ+-friendly saw increased job satisfaction, improved health, greater work commitment, and better relationships with co-workers among LGBTQ+ workers. 

The Benefits of Supporting Diversity

Supporting diversity in the workplace helps to attract and retain employees. A 2020 Glassdoor Survey found workplace diversity is a significant factor for 76 percent of job seekers. Understandably, diversity particularly concerned underrepresented groups. Thirty-two percent of minority workers surveyed would not apply to companies with poor diversity records. This rose to 41 percent among Black and LGBTQ job seekers. Quantum Workplace found 61 percent of employees believe diversity and inclusion strategies are essential. Diversity is particularly important to millennials and Gen Z employees. Given that millennials are expected to make up 75 percent of the workplace by 2030, this should give all organizations cause to stop and pause. 

The combined impact of all these factors, means a good record on diversity and inclusion has a huge galvanizing effect on any brand. It offers a reputational boost in the eyes of global consumers, who are increasingly concerned with brand ethics. Beyond this, a truly diverse organization immediately speaks to a far wider demographic in its messaging and product line.  

As workers and consumers grow increasingly diverse, businesses must keep up – or risk going extinct.  

The Ins and Outs of Diversity 

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines diversity as “the collective mixture of differences and similarities that include, for example, individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, preferences, and behaviors.” 

From here, they break diversity down into two categories – visible and invisible diversity traits. Visible traits can describe not only gender, race and age – but also less obvious features like body type. Invisible traits include sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, education, and parental status. 

Though they are often lumped together, inclusion is a separate concept altogether. SHRM defines inclusion as maintaining a workplace where everyone is “treated fairly and respectfully,” with “equal access to opportunities and resources.” 

Diversity and inclusion are intertwined – one without the other cannot exist for long. Even so, the mistake many organizations make is to treat them as one and the same thing. 

Three Practices You Need to Boost Diversity 

If you do nothing else to boost diversity in your organization, do these three things. They carry the greatest impact and returns for your organization: 

  1. Reinvigorate mentoring and coaching on offer

The best thing you can do to improve senior management’s diversity is to build a road to leadership and training opportunities for women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups at entry levels in the organization. This helps create a readymade pipeline of qualified, diverse candidates when promotions come up. Mentorship programs also foster inclusivity by offering employees a sense of belonging and a safe place to discuss sensitive issues. This can even make senior leaders more in tune with potential obstacles to diversity and inclusion, so that they can re-calibrate programs or approaches when needed. 

  1. Keep building your pipelines of diverse talent

By their very nature, minority groups contain fewer people. This inevitably makes them harder to recruit from. It also leads to the unfounded argument, sometimes used by diversity opponents, that organizations must sacrifice quality to meet a quota. The truth is that talented minority workers are out there. By proactively getting to know people from varying backgrounds, business and HR leaders will be prepared to hire diverse talent with speed and confidence. Engaging with diverse talent on an ongoing basis helps HRM build a list of potential candidates before roles arise. Engage in the right way and you will also put your company on the radar of strong minority talent as a brand that values diversity.  

  1. Be flexible and lead by example

Flexible work arrangements instantly make your workplace more inclusive and more accessible to many minority candidates. Work-from-home options make it easier for candidates who would have to relocate to take your role. Flexibility provides the added benefit of aiding in the recruitment and retention of women at the senior level who, despite working full-time, still take on the bulk of household and childcare responsibilities. 

And it’s not enough just to put a policy in place. Employees must understand and believe that taking advantage of flexible work arrangements will not reflect on them negatively. Senior leaders should find ways to demonstrate that sometimes family considerations take precedence – and that’s okay.  

The Bottom Line 

Diversity works. It makes companies more successful and innovative and makes them more attractive to both current employees and would-be recruits. 

With the perks of diversity being obvious, the question remains. When will businesses lagging behind, finally catch up to reap these benefits?