Diversity and Inclusion: Understanding the Differences  

Diversity and inclusion are two important concepts that organisations need to achieve success. Most people use the two terms interchangeably, making it easy for one to assume that they share the same meaning. However, inclusion and diversity are terms with different meanings, and one should not use them interchangeably.

A working environment could be inclusive but do not reach diversity. Alternatively, most working environments are diverse but do not achieve inclusivity.

Failure to incorporate these two scenarios in the organisation can undermine the company’s culture and productivity. Therefore, as a leader in your company, it is important to grasp the distinction between the two terms and the best ways to incorporate them into your organisation.

The article below supplies a detailed explanation of the difference between inclusion and diversity. It further explains the benefits and the best methods to incorporate inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

Meaning of diversity

Diversity in a workplace setting means the variation in employees’ physical, personal, and social characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity, and education level. When looking to diversify your team you can also consider the differences and experiences that make each employee unique. Most employers look at diversity at a shallow level, which consists of physical traits that are easily noticeable.

Diversity can also look at the broad range of experiences such as religion, upbringing, sexual orientation, neuro-diversity, life experience, disability, and socio-economic status. Therefore, a diverse working environment incorporates employees with different backgrounds.

Studies show that companies considering diversifying their workforce are more innovative, have a higher retention rate, and enjoy increased revenue.

Meaning of inclusion

Inclusion focuses on the procedures companies use to accommodate all employees in the workplace. It involves allowing the differences of each staff to coexist mutually for the company’s benefit. Inclusion strategies aim to make all employees feel part of the company and ready to share their opinions without hesitation.

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Inclusion is a secret ingredient that adds to the benefits of a diverse organisation. It helps boost a company’s innovation, profits, and engagement levels. An inclusive company ensures that all individuals have a right to access resources, opportunities, education, and other treatments based on their unique characteristics.

Creating an inclusive environment can be challenging and requires a lot of intent and brainstorming. No law states that organisations must make their workplace inclusive. However, companies that promote inclusivity benefit more than those that do not. Inclusion is a vital practice, and it goes beyond the hiring process. It also involves cutting any form of bias.

What are the main differences between diversity and inclusion?

Most people find it challenging to differentiate between inclusivity and diversity. However, looking at diversity as a global concept that brings people from different regions into the same territory is essential. Inclusion involves using the right strategies to ensure that diversity works.
Managers must ensure diversity is part of their recruitment process before implementing inclusion tactics. Inclusion tactics help employees feel psychologically safe and bring diversity benefits to light. Some of the strategies organisations implement include training sessions in inclusive leadership and intercultural communication.

Achieving inclusivity in your company is difficult because it does not involve physical characteristics. Unlike diversity, inclusion revolves around respecting and valuing people regardless of their background. Studies show that employees who feel valued and appreciated perform better and can receive help from the company’s core values.

It is easy to reach a diverse working environment that is not inclusive. Most companies concentrate on diversifying their employee base, making them employ workers based on their visible characteristics. Employees who feel segregated at work cannot perform to their full potential and are likely to leave.

Tokenism is the term used to mean hiring a member from a minority and expecting him to work in a group with people from a majority group. A good example is hiring one man in an all-female team or having one black employee in a team dominated by whites. In most instances, such scenarios may not express tokenism. However, research shows that certain situations might indicate a level of tokenism.

Most companies practise tokenism, assuming it would help diversify their employee base. However, research shows that it can affect inclusivity and mental health adversely. Individuals who feel tokenised are likely to experience anxiety at their workplace.

Anxiety manifests from the pressure and scrutiny to speak on behalf of an entire group and speak on the issue of a diverse group. Therefore, they may have to cope with insensitive remarks made by fellow workmates, which can cause imposter syndrome, a reduced sense of belonging, and low self-esteem.

Most companies do not intend to leave out fellow workers or make them feel un-welcomed. Due to the pressures from social justice issues, companies are now working to improve their diversity. However, one major challenge most companies fail is to reach inclusivity. Using the wrong procedures to obtain diversity can adversely affect the company’s culture. Careless comments and snubs can make one feel socially worthless.

Importance of diversity and inclusion

Studies show that more than 75% of organisations view diversity and inclusion as a top priority to improve productivity. Some of the major advantages of embracing diversity and fostering inclusivity include:

It improves innovation

Diversity increases innovative skills among employees since it brings a mix of ideologies to the table. A company with an inclusive environment promotes acceptance, and employees feel free to share their ideas. It also brings new perspectives on brainstorming and solving problems within the organisation, thus giving the company a fresh outlook.

It increases company profit

A study in 2015 found that organisations that embraced cultural diversity had a 35% higher likelihood of boosting their revenue and profits. Therefore, companies considering diversity and inclusion in their culture generate greater revenue. A similar study also proved that companies with gender diversity generated more profits.

It improves customer satisfaction

Inclusion and diversity are beneficial to the company and its clients. Including these two concepts in your organisation helps you understand your client’s needs. Diversity makes marketing your product or services easier to customers from diverse backgrounds. Adding inclusion to your business strategy enhances your company’s reputation with employees, clients, and suppliers.

It promotes employee happiness

A working environment focusing on diversity and inclusion helps employees feel comfortable and happy. Happy and contented employees are more productive and produce more quality output than unhappy employees.

Employees who are free to express themselves within the organisation can become better team players, which is crucial to your company’s success.

It promotes a good company culture and image

Homogenous companies may only feel comfortable with employees that fit in. Therefore, they are inclusive to a specific group and hostile to most employees.

However, companies that recruit and promote employees with diverse backgrounds create a more inclusive and diverse workplace. It can positively affect the company’s productivity and its view from the public.

It improves employee retention

Nobody loves working in an environment that does not encourage participation in the company’s operations. The vulnerability and authenticity make employees more resilient, self-driven, and adaptable. However, employees who feel unwanted in their job place are at risk of burnout and depression.

Organisations that foster an inclusive and diverse workplace attract skilled job seekers who consider work culture as their primary priority. Employees who feel welcomed to their jobs perform better and are likely to retain their jobs for extended periods.

How can companies build diversity and inclusion?

Most people believe that talking about other people’s differences might not be polite. However, staying silent about inclusion hinders a company’s growth. Staying silent due to fear can cultivate racism and biases among people. Therefore, speaking up can help promote inclusion and diversity.

Leaders and managers should adopt good practises for courageous conversations about sensitive topics. Some of the best ways to enhance diversity and inclusion in your company include:

Educate employees on diversity and inclusion

As a leader, diversity should go beyond the observable characteristics. As a team leader, you should ensure that your members learn to embrace inclusion by making it part of your workplace conversation. Offer diversity and inclusion training to employees with diversity in mind and allow them to choose concepts that interest them.

Develop a working environment that promotes diversity and inclusion

It is important to connect with your team members to build a sense of belonging as a leader in the workplace. One of the effective methods to improve connexion is developing an employee resource group. These peer-led groups offer safe spaces for employees to connect and share their experiences.

Some of the good practises to enhance diversity include:

  • Making bathrooms more gender neutral
  • Avoid using inherently binary terms such as driver or genitor
  • Avoid using slang terms that can be offensive

Encourage people to participate fully at work

Knowing each team member is a perfect way to end unconscious bias. It is important not to refer to fellow employees by gender, skin colour, or other physical characteristics. Encourage your workers to highlight their interpersonal attributes.

Expand your calendar

It is important to review the company’s calendar and take note of upcoming holidays. While it may be impractical for a company to supply a day off for every individual holiday, acknowledging these occasions can foster a positive mindset among your team members. You can also add vacation days to ensure that all workers can honour important dates that are meaningful to them.

Review the company’s content

A well-established organisation may have content that uses biassed and outdated language. Train your team on terms that sound offensive or have any form of bias. Review your content and drop anything that does not focus on the company’s goal.

Other practises that can help improve diversity and inclusion in the company include:

  • Offer resources to help people learn about diversity and inclusion
  • Encourage the use of inclusive language
  • Expand the talent pool and hire diverse candidates for entry positions and leadership positions

In Summary

The difference between inclusion and diversity is narrow; most people use the two terms interchangeably. However, the article explains the key differences between the concepts and the best way to incorporate them into your organisation. Understanding diversity and inclusion does not involve only focusing on one aspect over the other. It also aids companies in pinpointing areas in their strategies that may be failing.

Diversified and inclusive hiring should not express any form of tokenism. The upper and lower management should show an elevated level of honesty and understanding when recruiting a new workforce.

Diverse populations in the younger generations are joining the workforce, which creates the need to have more opportunities for your company to grow. Therefore, companies should embrace honour and value the differences between diverse groups to fill the gap between diversity and inclusion.

About the Author

Caroline Reidy is the owner of The HR Suite, a HR consultancy firm in Ireland. She has also completed a Masters in Human Resources in the University of Limerick, she is CIPD accredited as well as being a trained mediator.

Team 6Q

Team 6Q