Diversity and Inclusiveness: Definition, Benefits and Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 2 August 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Diversity and inclusiveness are two different ideologies that, together, can encourage a thriving workplace. Creating a culture that's diverse and inclusive can have a profound effect on an organisation, with benefits that extend beyond making a good impression in the marketplace. If you work in human resources or management, knowing why diversity and inclusion are important and understanding the benefits can be a strong motivation to change. In this article, we discuss what inclusiveness and diversity are, describe why they're important, explore the benefits of a diverse and inclusive corporate culture and explain how to transform an organisation's ethos.

Related: Guide to Workplace Diversity: Meaning, Benefits and Tips

What are diversity and inclusiveness?

Diversity and inclusiveness are two concepts that describe objectives for shaping workplace values. Diversity relates to any dimension that can differentiate individuals or groups from each other. Inclusion refers to efforts to socially and culturally welcome and accept those from different backgrounds. Diversity is often called the 'what', while inclusion covers the 'how'. It's possible for an organisation to be diverse, but not inclusive or, conversely, inclusive, but not diverse. Here are key defining traits of the two concepts:

Diversity

Diversity covers any element that makes individuals and groups different from one another. It creates a safe environment that nurtures and celebrates the exploration and understanding of differences. A diverse hiring process takes place with no bias and only according to merit. Diversity speaks of the full range of human expression and experience in the workplace, including the following:

  • national origin

  • socio-economic status

  • educational background

  • ethnicity

  • community

  • gender identity

  • sexual orientation

  • religion

  • disability

  • culture

  • personality (for example, introverts and extroverts)

Related: Why Does Cultural Awareness Matter in the Workplace?

Inclusiveness

Inclusiveness refers to an organisation's practices and effort to ensure individuals are welcome regardless of different backgrounds. Inclusion recognises and respects an individual's worth. Employees typically thrive when they can be authentically themselves and are still welcome as part of a group. A shift towards inclusion typically requires an employer mindset shift and a change in organisational culture, which may result in the following:

  • wider employee participation in meetings

  • the physical rearrangement of office space

  • granting access to information or facilities

Diversity and inclusiveness lead to belonging

Recognising and valuing diversity and intentional inclusiveness often results in a sense of belonging for employees. Belonging is what an employee experiences when they feel safe, appreciated and a valuable part of an organisation. Achieving this sense of belonging often contributes to contentment in the workplace and deep loyalty to the organisation. This level of satisfaction typically sees employees giving their best to see the organisation grow and prosper.

The importance of diversity and inclusivity

Diversity and inclusivity foster a good employee environment and working experience, as all team members can see that there's respect for their unique perspectives and needs. By taking the time to hear and acknowledge the employees' concerns regarding diversity and inclusion, employers may earn deeper trust and commitment from their employees. Employees who are happy tend to work together more fruitfully and achieve more.

Related: What Is Equal Opportunity Employment? A Basic Guide

Diversity and inclusivity effects on business

Developing a culture of diversity and inclusivity can influence an organisation's revenue and cultural ethos and the marketplace's perception of what the organisation stands for. Here are six ways diversity and inclusion can affect an organisation:

Increases creativity and innovation

Employing people from different backgrounds brings a variety of knowledge, skills and experience to a work team, which can increase creativity and innovation. Harnessing creative ideas and ingenuity can contribute to long-term business growth. Establishing a setting where imagination and originality are welcome can create a safe workplace for employees to share their unique or unusual ideas. This diverse environment can set an organisation apart from others that have yet to embrace inclusion and diversity.

Provides access to a range of skills

Hiring a diverse range of employees who bring with them various job experiences may benefit the organisation, giving them full access to a wide range of skills. Expanding the hiring pool creates a broader collection of knowledge to draw from and a greater number of experiences to access when it comes to problem-solving or brainstorming.

Promotes an increase in work performance

Employees who feel safe and welcome at work are more likely to invest in their jobs and engage with the organisation and its vision. They're often more inclined to ask for help, which fosters collaboration and increases problem-solving and productivity. Inclusiveness and diversity typically create an environment that encourages employees to offer ideas without fear of rejection, which can speed up brainstorming ideas and strategic planning. Diversity and inclusion enable employees to become agile thinkers and relate to each other in a healthier way.

Related: Measure of Performance: How to Evaluate Achievements at Work

Helps attract and retain high-quality employees

Candidates increasingly prioritise work culture when choosing a new job, so they often seek workplaces that demonstrate a strong commitment to inclusion and belonging. Being able to be authentic and vulnerable at work leads to employees who are resilient and adaptable. Employees who feel accepted and valued tend to perform better, develop loyalty to the organisation and often remain in their positions for longer.

Related: Finding Companies That Value Diversity & Inclusion

Offers insight into a wider range of customers

Having a diverse team can grow an organisation's marketing reach, as each team member understands and represents a different section of the business's target market. Employees can market the organisation effectively as they have similar backgrounds to the customers with whom they're communicating. Diverse employees can offer the organisation insight from the viewpoint of the demographic they represent, helping to shape product development, marketing and advertising methods.

Leads to happier, less stressed employees

A happy, productive and cooperative workforce within an organisation can contribute to a less stressful working environment for most employees. Working in a happy state with lower stress levels can have a marked effect on the overall physical health of employees. Exposure to constant stress can lead to vulnerability and illness. Sick employees may require time off work, struggle with mental health and experience a drop in productive output. Happier employees tend to be healthier and available for work with less need for time off.

How to create a diverse and inclusive work environment

Understanding how a diverse and inclusive work environment can benefit the organisation and the employees individually is a strong motivator for change. Consider making use of the following ideas to encourage the process:

1. Broaden recruitment efforts

Actively changing the recruiting process is a useful step in pursuing inclusiveness. Selection teams can begin choosing diverse candidates for both entry-level and leadership positions. Using tools that create anonymous resumes is a simple way to remove the potential for subconscious bias.

2. Allow leadership to lead the way

When the entire leadership team is on board with the idea of transformation, it sets the tone for the rest of the employees and provides an example for them to follow. Transforming an organisation's culture requires modelling, emphasising and encouraging new patterns of behaviour. This may require the appointment of under-represented sectors to leadership positions and open discussions between leadership and employees.

Related: Diversity and Inclusion Resources

3. Develop the organisation's culture to use inclusive language

Intentionally fostering an organisation's culture that embraces a move towards inclusive language can usher in a new level of inclusiveness. As a manager, you can help employees identify and avoid insensitive terminology. You can demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion by training employees to use 'people first' language, which focuses on the person first and not their race, gender or disability status.

Related: Sensitivity Training: Definition, Benefits and How-to Guide

4. Provide training and resources

Consider educating employees on the benefits of diversity, equality, inclusion and belonging. You can offer bias training or discuss stereotypes. If necessary, bring in an external coach to work with employees and guide them toward deeper conversations regarding inclusiveness and diversity.

Related: Learning About Diversity and Inclusion: 10 Free Virtual Courses

5. Appoint an inclusion and diversity overseer

Pursuing a diverse culture in the workplace often requires employing someone known as a diversity and inclusion officer to help manage the process. An organisation's culture can take a long time to transform and embrace change. Appointing a specialist can speed up the process as they can assist individuals in understanding what creating a welcoming and diverse culture looks like.

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