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How to Improve Inclusion in the Workplace

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Inclusive work environments are a win-win situation. Not only do your employees feel that they’re respected by their colleagues and valuable to the workplace, but your company benefits too. By bringing together new perspectives and methods of problem-solving, your workplace generates higher revenue and a better reputation, giving you a leg up on your competitors.

In today’s society, diversity and inclusion in the workplace are widely accepted as positive aspects of a business, but cultivating a holistic, community-oriented workplace can seem like a vague path to embark on. How can you make sure you’re doing your best to foster a positive, productive, and diverse work environment? 

Keep reading to find out.

Benefits of Inclusion in the Workplace

Having a diverse workforce, in terms of age, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, and gender identity, is an ideal situation for employees and employers—and there have been many studies to prove it.

Impressive workplace diversity statistics prove just how valuable an inclusive work environment is. And while these aren’t the only rewarding aspects, these five benefits are the highlights that carry the argument that diversity and inclusion in the workplace should not be overlooked.

#1 Diverse Companies Outperform Industry Standards

Different life experiences, personalities, and belief systems result in varied ways of thinking, bringing together a wide range of worldviews and problem-solving tactics. As people come into the problem-solving process from different angles, high levels of creativity and innovation are sparked, helping your company make successful time-sensitive decisions.

When comparing data sets of 366 public companies across a wide range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company came to the following conclusions:

  • When it comes to racial and ethnic diversity, companies that are in the top quartile for diversity are 35% more likely to outperform their industry medians.
  • When it comes to gender diversity, companies that are in the top quartile for diversity are 15% more likely to outperform their industry medians.
  • Not only are the companies in the bottom quartile for gender, race, and ethnic representation not leading in their industries, but they are lagging—statistically, they are less likely to achieve higher than average financial returns than companies with mid-range levels of diversity.
  • While some industries performed better on gender diversity, and others on racial and ethnic diversity, no industry or company was in the top quartile in both categories.

If companies that had top-tier levels of gender diversity performed similarly in terms of racial and ethnic diversity, the financial returns would benefit two-fold, far surpassing the respective industry standards.

#2 More Candidates Will Apply for, and Accept, Jobs

When people of diverse backgrounds see varied representation in a company’s workforce, the company immediately seems more attractive—especially if diversity is apparent in positions of leadership. This gives the message that not only is everyone included in the workplace, but there is room for advancement no matter who you are.

What many companies don’t realize is that candidates are now researching a company’s reputation in regards to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and without finding satisfactory results, the majority of people are willing to overlook job opportunities.

In fact, 67% of job-seekers feel strongly that a diverse workplace is important when evaluating companies and considering job offers, according to Glassdoor.

#3 Diversity Captures a Larger Share of the Market

Diversifying the workplace is an extremely effective marketing tool. By appealing to a greater number of groups, your audience grows dramatically. Even if someone doesn’t identify with the specific kind of diversity you represent, be it gender or sex, race or ethnicity, or sexual orientation, the idea that you are providing a space for these groups makes your company more attractive to other minority groups too.

By appealing to consumers, clients, stakeholders, and business partners, you increase your business’s overall market share and better your reputation.

#4 Inclusivity Lowers Employee Turnover Rates

When an employee feels like they’re a part of a community at work, they are less likely to leave. This is especially true because members of diverse groups often find it difficult to find an ideal work environment that fosters a sense of belonging.

Demand for Supportive Policies

In order to make a workplace a safe and supportive space, adequate benefits and nondiscrimination policies are important, especially to members of diverse groups. More specifically, members of the LGBTQ+ community believe benefits and non-discrimination policies that serve them are key to choosing a workplace.

Here are what workers said after leaving their jobs, according to a study by the Center for American Progress:

  • 43% of non-heterosexual workers said they would have stayed if their former employer had offered better benefits, in comparison to 19% of straight workers
  • 67% of LGBTQ+ employees said that a company’s nondiscrimination policies were important, as opposed to 49% of straight and non-transgender workers

Cost of Employee Turnover

Discrimination and bias-free work environments have to undergo less change by avoiding high employee turnover rates, which is not only great for employee morale but has the added bonus of saving companies money.

These are the costs associated with employee turnover, as reported in the same study:

  • Hourly worker – It costs between $5,000 and $10,000 to replace a worker who is not in a salaried position.
  • Executive worker – For executives making roughly $100,000 per year, it costs between $75,000 and $211,000 to establish a replacement for their position.

#5 Diverse Workforces Maintain Relevance

The world is growing increasingly diverse—in a matter of decades, there is expected to be no racial or ethnic majority in the United States.

This is due to the fact that immigrants and their children already account for a significant amount of the population. As diverse Americans from one group have children with diverse Americans from another, racial and ethnic lines become blurred, and continue to get blurrier.

As diverse populations grow, the workforce follows suit—at least it should. By not adapting to this global shift, you are choosing not to be competitive in the economic market, setting your company up for failure. Over time, it will become impossible to avoid an inclusive environment because diverse candidates are all you’ll have to choose from—get ahead of the curve and solidify that your company is here to stay.

Creating Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

The benefits of having a diverse and inclusive work environment are clear, but creating such an environment is less so. While every process will be different depending on factors like what industry you’re in and whether you’re a startup or an established company, these tips will help you initiate a more well-rounded workplace.

Tip #1: Distinguish Between Diversity and Inclusion

One of the best places to start is to consider the differences between diversity and inclusivity. The terms are often used interchangeably since a holistic workplace requires both, but understanding the difference between the two is a helpful way to make sure your anti-discrimination policies cover all the bases:

  • Diversity – Having employees who come from different backgrounds and are of different races, ethnicities, religions, gender identities, and sexual orientations.
  • Inclusivity – Creating an inclusive culture that lets your diverse employees be who they truly are in the work environment, avoiding the all too common situation where diverse members of the workforce feel like they have to mask parts of themselves in order to be respected.

You may think that you have a diverse and inclusive workplace because you have diversity, but inclusivity is even more important. Establishing a workplace where everyone feels safe, seen, and heard, and is aware that discrimination of any form will not be tolerated is key to creating and maintaining a diverse workforce.

Tip #2: Acknowledge a Variety of Holidays and Celebrations

Making small changes like having a nondenominational holiday party in the winter, serving kosher and halal foods at work events, and offering “floating holidays” that allow employees to take time off during their own religious and cultural celebrations is important.

Beyond cultural, religious, and national celebrations, you should also consider the fact that some employees may want to celebrate other identity-related events like LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The ideal inclusive workplace not only acknowledges and accommodates everyone’s differences, but genuinely encourages employees to be proud of who they are.

Tip #3: Consider Every Level of the Workforce

Having a truly diverse and inclusive workforce means that every level of your company has diverse members of their community that are supported and valued. With diverse members of higher-level staff and executives, lower-level employees have people to look up to, be mentored by and reassure them that there is room for advancement in the company.

Tip #4: Encourage a Multilingual Workforce

No matter how comfortable you are with a language, being a part of a work environment where you aren’t using your native tongue is difficult. Make sure to take language barriers into account during day-to-day practices in the workplace, and consider alternative solutions for events and large gatherings, like hiring translation services so everyone can be a part of the experience.

As a long-term approach, you may also want to consider educational opportunities for workers to strengthen their English or to learn languages that are foreign to them.

Tip #5: Think of Group-Specific Benefits

While your company may offer mainstream benefits like health, vision, and dental insurance coverage, including other opportunities that aid specific groups is a great way to promote inclusion in the workplace.

Here are some examples that diverse groups commonly identify as desired benefits:

  • Maternity care and parental leave
  • Onsite or emergency back-up childcare
  • Mentoring or sponsorship from higher-level staff
  • Regular, mandatory sensitivity training
  • Structural aspects like gender-neutral restrooms and nonbinary options on forms

Put Inclusivity in Action

Alliant International University is committed to diversity and inclusion, offering award-winning educational programs from critically acclaimed faculty and staff. If you want an educational experience that matches your values, consider Alliant.

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