Diversity and Inclusion is Good Business

Fortune magazine recently published a list of the companies who have practices that are most effective at creating diverse workplaces, and employers of any size can learn from them. Topping the list is Ball Corporation, who describes these three practices as essential to their diversity commitment:

  • Leadership commitment to build a diverse and inclusive culture
  • Relationship development with organizations that serve diverse communities to build diverse workforce pipelines
  • Resource groups for employees of diverse backgrounds to eliminate alienation and provide career development support

This ranking makes for good press and PR, but is it good business for employers to make efforts to create a diverse workplace?

Research indicates that proactively creating workforce diversity provides benefits to employers. Perhaps most beneficial of all is that it increases the pool of qualified applicants with skills that enhance innovation. In a competitive and tight labor market, this alone substantiates the value of diversity. Diversity alone, however, is not enough to maximize the business impact; inclusion must also be practiced, defined here by Ferris State University:

Inclusion is involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized. An inclusive university promotes and sustains a sense of belonging; it values and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of its members.

Applying this definition of inclusion to the workplace, an intense degree of commitment and self-awareness may be needed on an organizational level to become a truly inclusive employer. As mentioned earlier by Ball Corporation, commitment begins at the top with Leadership. Additional research shows these steps offer a path to building a workplace culture of inclusion:

  • Evaluate current state
    • Review processes and practices: how decisions are made, communicated and if questions and opposing views are tolerated.
    • Observe meetings: are they dominated by the same few people?
    • Survey employees to measure their attitudes, feelings and beliefs.
    • Seek evidence of tolerance and support for diversity during hiring and promoting interviews.
  • Identify and attack
    • Survey employees to identify problem areas and biases
    • Develop strategies to target those problems
    • Adjust processes as practical to be more transparent and inclusive
    • Seek external expertise and new resources as necessary
  • Train and celebrate
    • Define inclusive practices (e.g. communication, body language, word choice)
    • Celebrate diversity and the benefits of inclusion
  • Promote psychological safety
    • Foster civility: employees speak up when they feel safe to express their honest opinions.
    • Model inclusion at every level of leadership.
    • Address bullying or harassment of any kind, at any level, by anyone.
    • Enforce policies that communicate behavioral expectations.
  • Establish workplace decorum
    • Listen respectfully during meetings; studies show women are interrupted during business meetings far more than men.
    • Recognize contributions of all members of a team; give credit to whom it is due.
  • Assign a champion for diversity and inclusion
    • Empower them with direct access to Leadership and resources
    • Make efforts visible with frequent communications to employees
    • Set expectations and hold supervisors and managers accountable
    • Measure progress using post-intervention surveys, Stay/Exit interviews, etc.

For help with any of your inclusion or diversity strategies, leverage your membership to tap into the brain trust, experience and resources of Employers Council. Contact us today.