Diversity has grown so much over the years that there’s a lot to break down and process. Let’s uncover the differences between diversity, inclusion and everything in between.

Workplace diversity has seen a resurgence in the United States following the Black Lives Matter protests across the country in 2020. Organizations want to show their support and create environments where all people can thrive.

Yet, for many companies, diversity is challenging. What does it all mean? What is “diversity and inclusion,” really, and how do they differ? Should you be concerned about your organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts?

Workplace Diversity

What Does Diversity Mean?

According to SHRM, diversity is a mixture of what makes different groups similar and different. Diversity includes things like values, experiences, backgrounds and even behaviors. SHRM believes that there are certain visible traits like skin color and gender, but it can also go deeper to more invisible traits like beliefs, marital status and religion.

What does that mean for organizations, though? It typically means that you have a blend of people at your company. Diversity comes in many shapes: racial, ethnic, gender, religious, age, etc. The goal of diversity is to mix it up and ensure that you have various people working at your company.

What Is Inclusion in Your Workforce?

Inclusion is a bit different. SHRM defines inclusion as what organizations do to go above and beyond to truly include employees and make sure they are treated fairly and have equal access to opportunities and work resources. It’s an achievement and something you have to truly work toward.

When you feel included, you are free to share your voice and speak up. You feel comfortable and confident bringing your authentic self to work and feeling heard in the spaces that matter for you professionally.

Inclusion is more than having people of color or women in your organization. Inclusion goes the extra step to invite diverse groups into important conversations, processes and decisions.

At the end of the day, inclusion needs to be woven into every aspect of your recruitment and talent retention process. Through this work of recruiting and engaging diverse talent, you will hopefully begin to uncover what makes these employees stay at your company.

How Diversity and Inclusion Lead to Success

The numbers are in: diversity leads to greater success for companies.

According to Catalyst, companies with the highest representation of women vastly outperformed companies with the lowest representation. In fact, these companies outperformed their counterparts by 35 percent on return on equity and 34 percent on total return to shareholders. We all know that when our shareholders are happy, we have a greater ability to perform and grow.

How does racial and ethnic diversity come into play? According to McKinsey & Company, companies in the top 25 percent for racial and ethnic diversity outperform industry medians in terms of financial returns. This study also found above-average returns for companies that do well with gender diversity.

If you want to outperform and grow your organization, investing in diversity is a clear way to connect with today’s generation (which is more diverse than ever) and build your business.

Diversity and inclusion (or D&I) bring a variety of voices to the table. That way, leaders can make better business decisions and avoid damaging their reputations with tone-deaf ads or products.

How to Maintain D&I

Maintaining D&I isn’t easy. It takes buy-in from the entire organization and especially company leaders.

You might need to check your own privileges and thoughts along the way, which can be a huge challenge in itself. For example, a common dichotomy that women face is “pet to threat,” wherein they are appreciated as they are new and getting started, but once women start to become more confident in their job duties, they are shut down and shut out of workplace conversations and decision making.

It is not enough to post a statement or throw money at the problem with donations to nonprofit organizations. First, you have to admit there is a problem, then you have to create fixes and educate yourself, and then you have to keep doing the work. Your employees are counting on you.

The Evolution of Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion have changed a lot over the years. You may have heard terms like DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) or DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging). All of these evolutions are necessary to solidify what diversity and inclusion hope to accomplish.

For example, equity was brought into the conversation to help others understand that everyone needs different levels and kinds of support to contribute successfully. You may have seen the famous illustration that shows the difference between equality (giving everyone the same support) and equity (giving support to those who need it most).

Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire

As the conversation around diversity and inclusion evolves, the message’s core is the same – making sure that people feel supported wherever they are.

Examples of D&I in the Workplace

Establishing the most effective diversity and inclusion program can be a challenge. Take things one step at a time and implement some of these examples first.

Employee Resource Groups

Employee resource groups are a wonderful addition to company culture. They help our employees grow and navigate the workplace.

Encourage your employees to create resource groups and give them time and resources to thrive in your organization. Investing in these spaces can lift up your entire company.

Reevaluating Your Hiring Practices

Another example of D&I in the workplace is taking the time to reevaluate your hiring practices. There is a chance that some of your hiring practices don’t lead to diversity and inclusion for minority groups. Here are some changes you can make to your hiring practices today.

  • Use inclusive language on job applications.
  • Remove unnecessary required skills (women only apply to jobs if they meet 100% of the qualifications).
  • Remove names from applications if possible.
  • Implement diverse interview panels in the hiring process.
  • Take stock of the current diversity in your staff by department, management, age range, etc.
  • Use a predetermined rubric during hiring to even the playing field.
Creating Expansive Training Programs

Employee training is key to creating a truly diverse workplace. Employee training programs can sometimes feel like an afterthought, but they don’t have to be. Work with a consultant or lean on resources like Harvard’s Implicit Bias test hub to build a program that your employees can turn to often. Once you get diverse employees, you need to do the work to retain them.

Training your employees on diversity, inclusion, bias and equity are great first steps to creating a diverse workforce. Make sure that your employees take these resources seriously and keep diversity and inclusion top of mind as they are connecting with colleagues.

Final Thoughts on Diversity Vs. Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are an integral part of work today. The bottom line is that we live in a country that’s only going to get more diverse. Our workplaces need to be a reflection of the society that our employees live in. At the end of the day, diversity builds strong and profitable organizations.

Do you want to learn more about how to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Download our white paper on diversity intelligence.