Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is more than just a hot topic. A diverse workplace is critical for the health of your organization and your employees.
Here we break down diversity and inclusion at work simply so you can improve your company’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts today.
What is diversity and inclusion?
Diversity encompasses all the different people that are a part of your organization. Inclusion involves helping every employee feel support and belonging within the organization.
There are many different types of diversity:
- Diversity in thought
- Racial and ethnic diversity
- Gender diversity
- Diversity in age
- Skill and talent diversity
- Diversity of beliefs
- Diversity in upbringing and background
- Diversity in job and industry experience
- Diversity in education
Does your organization have a good diversity of age but not in gender? Do you have a wide variety of skill sets represented in your company, or does everyone specialize in the same things?
Workplace diversity can be measured on any of these scales. Ideally, your company will have a high range of diversity in all of these areas.
What about neurodiversity in the workplace?
Neurodiversity (or mental diversity in the workplace) refers to how the brain processes social situations, focusing, moods, learning, and other functions. 1 in 4 people has a diagnosable mental health disorder. Changes are nearly everyone knows someone that considers themselves neurodivergent. Hiring those that aren’t typical neurologically can be great for business and your company culture.
Chances are, you have employees at your company who identify with this group.
Here are some examples of neurodiverse variations:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Tourette Syndrome (TS)
Let’s not forget those that suffer from anxiety and depression, too. These big two are the most common mental illnesses in the world.
6 Reasons Why Diversity and Inclusion are Important in the Workplace
Here are our top six reasons why diversity and inclusion are essential in the workplace.
- It’s healthy for company culture
- It fosters new ideas and innovations
- It improves understanding of your customers
- It opens the door to more mental health conversations
- It improves employee retention
- It boosts the bottom line
1. It’s healthy for company culture
Building a workforce that challenges each other to look at the world differently leads to growth.
Diversity opens the door to allow people to make their own decisions and own the results of their work. It can help create a culture that fosters freedom and kindness.
Millennials and Gen Zers especially value diversity. 69% of Millennials led by diverse senior management teams felt that their workplace was more motivating and stimulating. 47% of Millennials make diversity a top priority when looking for a new employer. Considering the majority of the workforce is Millennials, companies cannot afford to ignore this aspect of their business.
Diversity makes your company more attractive for more people—from new hires to customers.
2. It fosters new ideas and innovations
When we talk to people from different backgrounds, we open the door to learning and perspectives—a great catalyst for creativity and problem-solving. It is a great way to avoid groupthink and create an environment that accepts innovation.
When we hire people with a range of skills, industry experience, job experience, belief systems, and cultural backgrounds, we create a place where new ideas can be born.
When everyone thinks similarly, it can be tough to think of innovations for your product or company.
Thus, diversity will help your company stand out from the competition.
3. It improves understanding of your customers
Gathering all these new ideas and perspectives can help you help your customers better.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace foster a culture of empathy. When we work with many different people, we learn to communicate with other people better. What a great way to serve your clients better!
Whether through marketing messaging, customer service, or the product or service itself, diversity helps companies gain the skills to communicate and help more effectively.
This increases customer satisfaction, helping your company keep more business and grow more effectively.
4. It opens the door to more mental health conversations
Mental health is one of the most underrated challenges in the workplace today.
Everyone deals with a mental health challenge at some point in their lives. The reality is we cannot separate our work life and mental health. They affect one another deeply.
Diverse companies are often open to new ideas and experiences, creating an excellent opportunity to discuss mental health.
If employees feel accepted, heard, and respected, they are more likely to speak up.
Why is this so important?
Talking about mental health is the first step to healing.
Having a wide range of mental health experiences allows teams to help each other on their journies.
Diverse workplaces also foster places where people’s self-esteem can grow, helping with healing from mental health challenges.
5. It improves employee retention
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace enhance the overall employee experience.
Deloitte found that companies with more diverse teams have a 22% lower turnover rate than companies that aren’t diverse.
People want to stay with companies that embrace who they are and encourage them to grow.
Diversity creates a more welcoming, loving community for all.
6. It boosts the bottom line
McKinsey & Company analyzed the connection between ethnic and gender diversity at work and greater profits. They found that the more diverse a company is in those categories, the more likely it will outperform other companies financially.
Why? Diversity opens the door to points 1-5, leading to more remarkable company growth.
Diversity attracts top talent, improves retention, increases innovation, improves customer satisfaction, and improves company culture.
3 Steps to Improve Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Want to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace, but you aren’t sure where to start? Here are three steps companies can take to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Keep in mind that you are embarking on a journey here. There are no quick fixes for diversity and inclusion. These company diversity and inclusion goals can serve as a guide as you build your diverse workforce over time.
1. Create specific, measurable goals for success
Determine where you are now and where you want to be. In which areas would you like your company to be more diverse?
Here are some inspiring diversity and inclusion goals for companies:
- Increase the percentage of women and minorities in our workforce by 20%.
- Increase the number of minorities in leadership roles.
- Fundraise $10,000 for disabled or neuroatypical people in the community.
- Encourage employees (or managers) to create one diversity and inclusion goal for themselves to reach by the end of the quarter.
- Hire five employees with industry experience or skillsets that we have never hired before.
2. Build up your core diversity and inclusion folks
Many companies create a core group of people that direct diversity and inclusion efforts in the workplace. This can be a committee, the leadership team, the HR team, or all company managers.
This group should ultimately choose the diversity goals and metrics your company will strive to reach. They will own these metrics and be responsible for achieving them.
It is essential to get your company’s leadership team on board to set an example for the entire company. Educate them about the importance of diversity inclusion in the workplace.
3. Evaluate your progress
In addition to the metrics your diversity and inclusion team settled on, keep track of how these efforts impact the employee experience.
Survey your team right at the beginning of the process and after a few months. Ask them to respond to questions and statements like:
- What can our company do to improve diversity and inclusion efforts?
- Diversity is valued at our company.
- Everyone has an opportunity to be successful at our company.
- I feel like I belong at this company.
- I can be myself at work.
You can also hold a focus group with employees and have an open dialogue on the subject.
Consider talking to new employees (or even customers!) about their experience with your company as well.
Congrats! You’ve taken the first step towards improving diversity and inclusion in your workplace. We hope this serves as a good guide for you as you bring these ideas to your team. Here are some more resources that may be helpful:
- How HR Leaders Can Support Disabled Employees
- How to Influence Progress on DEI Initiatives When Leadership Isn’t On Board
- How to Use Your Mental Health Program to Increase Retention
Learn About the Power of Self-Care
Download the Mental Health Tool Kit to learn about mental health in the workplace – what it is, why it matters, and how you can start supporting employee mental health!