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What Does True Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Look Like?


If you really want to unlock your company’s full potential, diversity and inclusion are key. To see what I mean, consider the following findings from McKinsey & Company and Quantopian:

  • Organizations in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry averages.
  • Women-led companies have been shown to generate three times the returns compared with enterprises run predominantly by men.

But progress in this area is still remarkably slow. As we mentioned before, most companies still lack representation from a wide range of ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations—despite a growing body of research on the bottom-line benefits of diversity.

The reason is simple: Creating a culture of true diversity and inclusion can be hard, especially when there are so many misunderstandings about what it means to create a company culture that’s unquestionably dynamic.

The question to ask is: What makes for a truly diverse and inclusive workforce?

Let’s take a look…

The two dimensions of diversity

When most people consider diversity and inclusion, they immediately think of characteristics like gender and ethnicity. But as researchers have explained, these “inherent diversity” traits that people are born with are just the start.

To achieve a culture of true diversity and inclusion, you’ll also need to address “acquired diversity.” Think of the employee who’s gained a deep appreciation of different cultures from working overseas, or the male manager who relates well to female colleagues after working with an all-female team. It’s these kinds of experiences that lead to a dynamic work environment powered by a rich combination of backgrounds and perspectives.

Turns out, companies with “two-dimensional diversity” out-innovate and outperform others. In the study mentioned above, employees at organizations that were strong on both types of diversity were 45 percent more likely to report company growth than those working within less diverse cultures.

Bottom line: To unlock innovation and drive growth, you’ll need to create a culture that embraces both inherent and acquired diversity.

Knowing this, however, is half the battle.

While many organizations have declared a commitment to diversity and inclusion, few have reportedly found ways to put those strategies into action.

In a recent benchmarking survey from PwC, the vast majority (87 percent) of surveyed organizations said diversity and inclusion were top priorities. Yet just 10 percent of them had reached full maturity based on the firm’s model for measuring program success.

One possible explanation is that these organizations are overlooking the very foundation of diversity in the workplace: employee engagement.

The foundation of employee engagement

At its core, true diversity and inclusion come down to strength in employee engagement. Here’s why:

In the two-dimensional research mentioned above, analysts identified several mission-critical components necessary for unlocking the full potential of a diverse workforce. Among others, they include:

  • Making it safe to propose novel ideas.
  • Giving actionable feedback.
  • Implementing feedback from the team.

So…how can you know if your organization is using each of these effectively? You measure.

For example, organizations that use Emplify to measure employee engagement regularly benchmark more than a dozen engagement drivers including authenticity, fairness, trust, feedback, and shared values. By analyzing this data, leadership can get a much stronger sense of which core areas need to be addressed so that the doors to diversity and inclusion can be opened wider.

As Accenture’s Tracey Patterson put it, the process “starts with a deliberate intent to create an authentic and truly human environment where everyone feels respected.”

However, this is one area where guesswork won’t cut it. When you have a system for collecting genuine, continuous feedback, it becomes much easier to create the foundation for a dynamic culture where a wide range of backgrounds and viewpoints are represented.

Yes, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. But with the right tools in place, companies can begin to create truly dynamic work environments—the kind that will foster innovation like never before.

Did you know? Emplify Insights analyzes 14 different drivers of employee engagement and segments them by tenures, teams, generations, and more—all so you can easily identify areas of improvement in your diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Unlock the true potential of your people.

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