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What You Need to Know About Diversity and - Inclusion in the Workplace: What Does Diversity Mean and Why Is It Important?

  • 15 September, 2023

Why are diversity and inclusion so important to businesses? We've all seen it, the little equal opportunity disclaimer that the business doesn't exclude people on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. From a political standpoint, this helps business owners avoid potentially superfluous lawsuits and other types of corporate backlash, but what does diversity do for companies that actively seek to include a diverse workforce in their company? In what way does having a diverse set of people benefit the company directly?

Let's talk a little about what diversity and inclusion in the workplace really means, how to maintain a certain level of diversity, and why they're so important.

What You Need to Know About Diversity and - Inclusion in the Workplace: What Does Diversity Mean and Why Is It Important?

What does diversity and inclusion in the workplace actually look like?

Diversity and inclusion are terms that both complement and depend on each other. Diversity is the variation in people's social and personal characteristics, while inclusion refers to the procedures that organizations implement to ensure that each person has an equal say in company procedure on their level. Diversity can come in many different forms. There are cultural separations between peoples that offer diversity, but it's more than skin color or sexual orientation. Diversity is the unique perspective that a person has and their ability to think critically within the scope of that perspective. It's in the valuable offering that they bring to the table.

Companies across the globe are working hard on creating more diversity within their own sphere of influence. Here are 5 examples from Top Work Places' list of companies making diversity and inclusion efforts a priority.

1. Coalfire Systems is a cybersecurity firm making the world a better place by tackling the toughest cybersecurity issues. Their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) program utilizes employee-lead groups with special interests like motorcycles and fishing. They encourage women in cybersecurity, support parents of children with disabilities, and veterans.

2. Kastle Systems International LLC pioneered managed access for real estate owners, enabling property owners to take advantage of technological developments without becoming security experts themselves. Using things like open floorplans, low cubicles, and open doors, Kastle encourages collaboration from everybody.

3. Northwest Federal Credit Union offers financial services and products to individuals and families. They've been in business for over 70 years and understand how important these aspects of company culture are. Their Inclusion Champion Committee has employees who are passionate about diversity and inclusion and emphasize accountability across the organization.

4. The Village for Families & Children works to build strong and healthy families. They provide behavioral health support and help facilitate foster care adoption for those in need. Driven by diversity and anti-racism, their staff is skilled in fighting against racial discrimination.

5. GreenLight Biosciences aims to solve the most significant scientific problems using RNA technology, including climate change, rare diseases, pandemics, and more. The company actively tracks their diversity data in search of ways to improve. This has led to 44% of their employees being women and 46% identifying as non-white.

Reasons why diversity and inclusion are important

Diversity and inclusion are only a small part of creating a highly proficient and productive work environment. So why are diversity and inclusion so important? Here are some ways that the practice of DE&I in the workplace benefits everybody involved.

1. They promote a shared experience. The moral case for diversity, equity, and inclusion is all about the experiences we share as a group. When one person fails, we all fail. When one person wins, we all win. So, when we invest in diverse outcomes, the entire group benefits.

2. Diverse workers bring broader perspectives. Culturally speaking, many people from the same place are born into similar living situation. While this can help in building comradery, it does little for expanding a person's point of view. With diversity and employing people from multiple backgrounds, companies can help each employee develop broader perspectives in one company, which helps in creating business plans and reaching goals.

3. They help nurture a positive work environment. Diversity means accepting everybody for the benefit of their unique experiences. Inclusion means that everybody has a chance to contribute to the growth and expansion of the organization. When everybody is able to contribute and have their voice heard along with the crowd, it creates an environment of positivity and engagement.

4. Integrity gains importance to the team. Integrity is the state of being whole and undivided. In terms of creating a group of workers with integrity, you're creating an unimpaired group. Effective communication, the ability to make good decisions while under pressure, and the ability to put specific instructions into action are all examples of demonstrating integrity.

5. Equitable opportunities are prioritized. If diversity is acceptance, and inclusion is when everybody is able to contribute, then equity is ensuring that everybody has the opportunity to participate in the final outcome. In creating a diverse group end ensuring that everybody has a say in the company operations at their level, creating equity, or an environment where everybody has the ability to participate, becomes second nature, making the company a place where diverse groups want to be.

6. A diverse workforce mirrors a diverse market. Diversity can be seen everywhere: on a culture-wide level and also between cultures. Needs and desires change based on which group you're focusing on. The ability to change tactics and meet needs as they arise comes from having a person on your team that knows what they're looking for because they're part of that group. Having multiple people from the same group can only show you what people in that specific group need, whereas diversity helps reach multiple markets with the same team.

7. Diverse workforces experience better employee retention. Fostering an inclusive work environment creates a staff that feels valued and part of the team. When employees feel their voices are heard, companies experience less turnover and a reduction in associated hiring costs.

8. A diverse skillset builds a better team. Diversifying a team enables a company to take advantage of the multiple skills within that team. Teams with multiple skillsets can teach each other and grow in their skills together, creating a well-rounded group of top workers.

How to build and maintain diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Fear has always been a motivator of creating diverse environments because of the level of discrimination that certain people receive based on their beliefs, physical characteristics, or any number of things that make people different. Fear can stem from potential consequences: legal reprimand or unjust persecution because of individually perceived events. Fear should not be the factor that forces people to act. Instead, a focus on the benefits is what truly fosters a diverse and inclusive environment. Here are some ways that help maintain this level of inclusion.

1. Equitable access to resources - By enabling each individual with the opportunity suited to their diverse nature, you're creating an environment where each person is included.

2. Recognizing and promoting employee differences in a positive way - By recognizing a person for their experiences and success more than their physical or social attributes, you're creating a diverse workplace.

3. Having a voice - Each person in a workforce needs to have the ability to voice their opinions for certain events or tactics to help them feel like they have real influence in a given scenario.

4. Recruit for the purpose of diversity, not reverse discrimination - Creating a diverse environment is a benefit to the workforce in more ways than just filling a quota. It can lead to balanced conversation and multiple points of view on any given subject.

5. Accept and value employees for who they are - In creating a diverse workforce, each person should be able to be seen for who they are and the individual value that they bring.

6. Focus on skillset - Finding a diverse team can be easier than you might expect when you search for specific skills and abilities, rather than making diversity the only goal.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace provide organizations with unique experiences that benefit the entire team. By making DE&I a priority, you'll find skillsets and perspectives that help the company grow from a business standpoint, as well as cultural. There are many good examples of companies developing DE&I initiatives that make diversity a priority. They're able to maintain inclusion by creating equitable access and recognizing people for the individual assets they bring to the company on a personal level. By recognizing the value that diversity brings to the table, you'll be one step closer to creating an initiative that benefits your own company.
About the Author: Anna Taylor

Anna Taylor is a freelance writer and avid researcher- a jack of all trades, but a master of none. She graduated from the University of Hawai'i with an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts because she had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up. She has since found her love of Extended Reality and the possibilities it brings to the world, as well as gardening, cooking, and writing. Anna lives in Interior Alaska with her family.

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