Diversity and Inclusion
As we settle into the middle of Pride Month and protests across the world call out systemic racism, it feels appropriate that we use this time to address the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
We know innately that diversity and inclusion are an ethical decision. However, it’s also clear that they are a good business decision as well. This blog dissects broadly the benefits of embracing diversity and inclusion, the risk of ignoring it, and how you can plan for the future.
Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion
Firstly, fostering feelings of inclusion gives all employees the confidence to openly express their ideas, which increases the likelihood that they will make suggestions to improve the business. Also, the more diverse the backgrounds are of your employees, the more likely those ideas will be unique and valuable in their own way. Examples include targeting approaches in sales or marketing and themes for a new product launch. It is good business sense that your employees should reflect the makeup of your customers, and bringing in a diversity of employees better prepares you to appeal to more clients.
Other positives to a diverse and inclusive workplace include higher employee engagement, loyalty, and productivity. An inclusive environment shows each employee that they are seen and appreciated. This is common sense that an employee who feels safe and welcome is going to engage more with the brand and feel inclined to stay. In addition, studies show that employees who feel appreciated are up to 50% more productive!
According to a McKinsey study, the top racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to financially outperform the national median for their industry. Likewise, gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to financially outperform their industry’s median. Simply put, diversity correlates with better financial gains. While the study acknowledges that correlation doesn’t equal causation, “…the correlation does indicate that when companies commit themselves to diverse leadership, they are more successful.”
Diversity and Inclusion Compliance
Federal laws exist to protect employees from discrimination, and your organization must pay special attention to compliance with such laws. These include:
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
- Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
- The Civil Rights Act of 1991
- Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA).
Collectively, these laws prohibit job discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disabilities, or pregnancy status. Noticeably absent, federal laws don’t yet ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, health, or military status, though select states and cities have passed laws to aid in discrimination here as well. Areas that can result in violations include a company’s practices in hiring, promoting, transferring, or training an employee, as well as how their performance is measured and rewarded.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a government agency that enforces these federal laws against workplace discrimination. Most of them apply to employers in both the private and public sectors that have 15 or more employees. You will need to perform regular assessments and training to ensure your business complies with these protections.
Managing ReputationWhether intentional or not, actions or inactions are seen and noted. The narrative isn’t always going to be written in a way that positively reflects your company. Knowing this, organizations need to not just check the compliance box for the sake of requirement, but consistently work on being aware of how employees are treated, office climate, public stance on issues, etc. Companies want to prevent their brands from being seen as racist, misogynistic, homophobic, or any flavor of anti-inclusive. Mainly, because it is a poor business decision. As we know, technology has provided many platforms for the otherwise powerless to utilize. A single social media post can spread and create a movement. In a current example, Julia Bond, an employee of Adidas, spoke out about “consistent complacency in taking active steps against a racist work environment.” She described a work environment where black employees’ complaints were often ignored and black workers are seldom. Reportedly, fewer than 4.5% of the 1,700 Adidas employees at the Portland, Oregon, campus identified as black. This example serves to prove the momentum a single voice can carry and the ability to bring a magnifying glass upon your company. Preventing that magnifying glass from focusing on you is a reasonable goal, but the real focus of your efforts should be on creating an environment without anything negative to call out.
The Five LevelsNow that you understand the importance of a diverse and inclusive environment, the next step should be to evaluate your organization as it stands today. These criteria listed below are created by The Center for Global Inclusion and show the five categories an organization can be placed in. Knowing your organization’s placement can help you better understand your effort in relation to other organizations and set the bar for where you can improve. Companies should strive to reach levels four and five.
Level 1. InactiveIn this bottom level, no diversity and inclusion work has begun. Diversity and a culture of inclusion are not a part of the organization’s goals.
Level 2. ReactiveLevel 2 organizations have a compliance-focused mindset. Any action taken is primarily to comply with any relevant laws and social pressures.
Level 3. ProactiveOrganizations in this tier have a clear awareness of the value of diversity and inclusion. And have begun to implement them systematically.
Level 4. ProgressiveOrganizations at level 4 are implementing diversity and inclusion systemically and are showing improved results and outcomes from their efforts.
Level 5. Best PracticeAt level 5, an organization is demonstrating the current best practices in diversity and inclusion and stands as an exemplary model for other organizations globally.
Next Steps Towards ProgressThe Center for Global Inclusion provides a great resource of Global Diversity & Inclusion Benchmarks for organizations aiming to do better. This is comprised of 266 total benchmarks that help support organizations develop and implement best practices for diversity and inclusion. According to the CGI, the GDIB helps organizations:
- Realize the depth, breadth, and integrated scope of D&I practices;
- Assess the current state of D&I;
- Determine strategy, and;
- Measure progress in managing diversity and fostering inclusion.