The business value of diversity and inclusion (D&I) is clear. For example: McKinsey & Company’s 2018 “Delivering through Diversity” report stated companies in the top quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. Additionally, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21 % more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation. These facts are proof that efforts to elevate your D&I initiatives can have a bottom-line impact on your organization.
Though often used interchangeably, diversity and inclusion are two different things. More importantly, diversity without inclusion is sub-optimal. Diversity absent of inclusion misses the potential to maximize the contribution of your workforce’s impact on your business and community.
Difference Between Diversity and Inclusion
Formal definitions help clarify the difference between diversity and inclusion, however a quote that I have found most insightful by Andres Tapia states — “DIVERSITY IS THE MIX, AND INCLUSION IS MAKING THE MIX WORK.” In my experience employers across industries seek to hire a workforce that reflects the community they serve. This enables them to be more in tune with the needs and expectations of consumers to better serve them.
Inclusion is the culmination of management practices, policies and behaviors that enable organizations to reap the full benefits of what diversity brings. Benefits include creativity, innovation, debate driven by multiple perspectives to gain buy-in and arrive at sound, better informed and improved decision making. Decisions are based more on facts and evidence instead of assumptions or opinions. Inclusion is the way employees and consumers perceive their unique needs matter, their voices are heard, and their needs are addressed. Being responsive requires the fundamentals of ongoing feedback, learning, and desire to continuously improve. Delivering quality experiences and the effort to monitor and improve services would become a normal course of business operations, adding value to consumers, workers (who can be viewed like consumers) and patients.
Providing leaders with tools and data to learn in the flow of work and take action rather than function separately or outside of work is key. Leaders will seize opportunities more naturally when the information, data, decisions and actions have been integrated, embedded into all phases of the employee life cycle. Phases include hiring, onboarding, developing, advancing, engaging and retaining unique high performing teams/network of talent teams committed to improvement every day.
Why we need to measure
Demographic data may be considered easy to monitor (although not always readily accessible, captured or fully disclosed). Data alone may lead organizational leaders to conclude “We are already diverse; therefore we are inclusive.” We can check the D&I box, we’ve attained our goal. The dimensions that represent deeper, less visible facets of the workforce can include unique backgrounds, life experiences, values, beliefs, religion, education, cognitive diversity (diversity of thought), sexual orientation, physical and cognitive disabilities. These are among many other aspects and the intersectionality that shapes our unique points of view. It’s what we mean when we bring our ‘whole selves’ to work.
When leadership teams lack the motivation or skill to cultivate those divergent points of view, a significant opportunity is lost. The decision to ignore resources, puts organizations’ competitive advantage (its unique talent) at risk. In turn undermines the ability to reach our organization’s full potential and serve consumers better with an engaged and committed workforce.
Hiring diverse talent may be a primary objective (diversity by the numbers) which is a place to start your data, (like a snapshot or balance sheet). However, maintaining and leveraging a diverse workforce is the ongoing challenge that is based on leadership culture. It requires focus, metrics, analytics and decision making throughout the talent lifecycle. My previous employers began with demographic data focused on gender and went beyond that using a dashboard of key indicators with off-track/on-track trending results.
While the demographic characteristics were available (if voluntarily disclosed) and a separate engagement survey (without deep participant data for anonymity), reports did include questions about psychological safety/speaking up, feeling valued, appreciated and that their opinion mattered. However it was annually assessed and not labeled with “inclusion specific” questions, nor trackable on an ongoing basis in daily operations.
Through root cause analysis from multi -source data, continuous learning and improvement can be achieved using hiring, retention/turnover, performance management, compensation, promotion and engagement information. Complex problems require different inputs that include evidence, people, process, outcomes, risks and options. Diverse perspectives and inputs make problem solving more effective. An approach that is prioritized based on strategic business goals, and technology with thoughtful metrics, data to gather and analysis for better solution finding, enables us to improve efficiency and effectiveness, which are standard strategic organizational goals.
To discover more ways to optimize diversity and inclusion, review my post “Essentials of Diversity and Inclusion Dashboard.”
The D&I dashboard brings a laser like focus to KPIs that matter. Monitoring progress with numbers that tell a story or serve as the catalyst that prompts further investigation makes us smarter. We will refine our understanding of the complex dimension of our dynamic workforce, the critical importance of inclusion and why it must be measured. By taking “a pulse check on our inclusion vital signs” we will improve the quality of the employee experience, to know what is working and what needs to improve.
Research conducted in 2011 on Inclusion and Diversity in Work Groups: A Review and Model for Future Research in the Journal of Management reminds me of the subtleties that make up the employee’s perception of an inclusive environment and workgroup.
The framework presents two dimensions, 1) the manner in which an employees’ uniqueness is treated and 2) the impact on the employees’ perception of belonging. It is a vivid reminder of the complexity of inclusion work designed to encourage team members to participate and fully contribute their unique skills, ideas, knowledge and deliver their very best work in an optimal work environment. We can always get better at being inclusive.