- Diversity means having various skills, abilities, genders, races, ethnicities and more in the workplace; inclusion creates a safe and supportive environment for all.
- Diversity and inclusion in the workplace can improve your financial returns and give you a competitive advantage.
- Your company should seek to support and celebrate differences and promote positive change in the communities around you.
- This article is for small business owners who want to learn how to implement robust diversity and inclusion practices.
Diversity and inclusion have become vital parts of modern business as the benefits of having diverse team talent have become increasingly apparent. And while it’s easy to recognize the importance of a diversity-and-inclusion policy, it can be daunting to create and implement one that works.
We’ll examine the benefits of diversity and inclusion, share tips for becoming a more diverse and inclusive company, and highlight examples of companies successfully promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
What are diversity and inclusion?
To create a diverse and inclusive environment, entrepreneurs and business owners should clearly understand what diversity and inclusion mean in the workplace.
What is diversity?
Diversity means having various abilities, skills, ages, genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds, experiences and other identifiers present in your workplace. Diversity extends to anything that makes a person unique.
Within a work context, there are four types of diversity, also known as dimensions:
- Internal diversity. Internal diversity comprises things a person is born with and cannot change, such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and age.
- External diversity. External diversity includes things someone isn’t born with but that heavily control or influence them, such as interests, education, appearance or citizenship.
- Organizational diversity. Organizational diversity relates to your workplace and includes job function, work location or seniority status.
- Worldview diversity. Worldview diversity relates to anything someone experiences or observes that changes how they see the world around them, such as politics, world events or pop culture.
What is inclusion?
Inclusion is when diverse differences are valued and supported. In the workplace, it means removing barriers that would prevent anyone from reaching their full potential. A workplace culture of inclusion celebrates diversity factors and enables every employee to perform at their best in a safe, supportive environment.
When training employees on inclusive communication, cover topics like listening and speaking with inclusivity, acknowledging unconscious bias and understanding microaggressions.
How can you be a diverse and inclusive company?
As with any facet of company culture, businesses can proactively work toward becoming diverse and inclusive. Below are five ways you can increase diversity and inclusion within your business.
1. Seek (and act on) diversity and inclusion feedback from employees.
It’s one thing to desire a more diverse and inclusive workforce. It’s another thing entirely to actually include diverse employees in your plans. If you don’t get their involvement, you might end up speaking over them or making incorrect assumptions (and taking incorrect steps) on their behalf.
There’s an easy way to solve this problem: Get input from all your employees, then act on it. You can use employee surveys, informal talks and meetings to get everyone’s perspectives.
Once you’ve gleaned a variety of perspectives from employee feedback, you can make changes and introduce new programs that lead to true diversity and inclusion. These initiatives will be more meaningful for the people they seek to help.
2. Recruit anonymously to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
Subconscious bias may affect hiring decisions. When hiring employees, indicators of internal diversity on a resume or job application can subconsciously — or consciously — influence decisions. To improve your hiring process, consider anonymous recruiting. Anonymous recruiting eliminates recruiting bias because hiring managers will only see the candidate’s qualifications. With this reduced bias comes a more diverse team.
3. Enroll in a diversity and inclusion training program.
You and your team may find it easiest to achieve diversity and inclusion if you enlist professional help. This is where diversity and inclusion training programs enter the picture. These programs — which all your employees should go through — combine cultural awareness training with education on more inclusive workplace behaviors. The lessons your team takes away from these programs can make for more harmonious, inclusive everyday interactions.
4. Check your artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms for bias.
Technology reflects the biases of its creators, so auditing your artificial intelligence business tools and algorithms for bias is key to any meaningful diversity and inclusion strategy. This can be as simple as removing specific internal diversity indicators from your algorithms’ consideration. It can also mean getting several pairs of eyes on the conditions your recruiting algorithms or AI use. The more people who review your technology, the more potential bias sources might be uncovered.
Use tech tools for a more diverse talent pool. Some applications use skills-based tests and surveys to match people with jobs without looking at demographic info. Others enable blind resume reviews so hiring managers can’t make assumptions about candidates.
5. Build an inclusion council.
An inclusion council acts as a check on managers’ and leaders’ conscious and subconscious biases. It typically comprises diverse employees a level or two below the C-suite. These employees advocate to leadership and management for diversity on behalf of the entire team. With quarterly council meetings to review hiring, training, and management practices and diverse groups’ engagement, more inclusive policies become within reach.
What are examples of diverse and inclusive companies?
While the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace cannot be understated, it isn’t easy to know where to start and how to implement practices or strategies that work. We’ve gathered a list of companies and what they’re doing to help you see what great diversity and inclusion initiatives look like.
Sodexo — a food and management services provider — has gender, age and sexual orientation explicitly outlined in its diversity hiring strategy. Historically, the company has placed the highest priority on gender equality, making gender balance a focus of its overall business strategy for 20 years.
This focus has paid off. Sodexo places among the top 20 of Equileap’s global gender equality rankings. Women comprise 29 percent of Sodexo’s executive committee and 60 percent of its board of directors. The company aims to have women representing at least 40 percent of its senior leadership staff.
While the workplace gender gap is closing, women still only make 84 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make.
2. Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson — a global medical devices, pharmaceutical, and consumer goods company — has a detailed diversity-and-inclusion vision that aims “for every person to use their unique experiences, abilities and backgrounds, together — to spark solutions that create a better, healthier world.” Johnson & Johnson is accomplishing this through employee resource groups, diverse hiring, and incorporating diversity and inclusion initiatives into the company’s everyday work.
For example, Johnson & Johnson makes a point to prioritize ability diversity with resource groups, hiring partnerships and supplier-based initiatives. The company is also a founding member of the Unstereotype Alliance, which works to tackle gender imbalance in advertising.
Mastercard has ranked in DiversityInc’s top 10 for diversity in nearly all recent years. This is due to Mastercard’s commitment to several initiatives. For example, Mastercard is dedicated to equal pay for equal work; uses technology for social good; and sponsors Girls4Tech, a STEM curriculum that provides mentorships and career support to girls ages 8 to 16.
Mastercard also offers work-life balance initiatives. Mastercard’s practical, direct employee benefits include transgender surgery coverage; same-sex domestic partner coverage; and fertility treatment, surrogacy and adoption assistance.
4. Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente, a healthcare provider, is unique among many corporations in that 69 percent of its staff are people of color. What’s more, 73 percent of employees are women. The company has attributed its success to leadership teams that model inclusive behavior, promoting a “speak up” culture and encouraging employees to “lead from where they stand,” which helps give everyone a voice and a platform to enact change.
L’Oréal is notable for its long-standing commitment to multicultural diversity, with a presence in over 150 countries on five continents. The company has stated its commitment to gender equity and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ employees.
Women comprise 68 percent of L’Oréal’s total workforce. Half of all L’Oréal board members are women, as are 32 percent of executive board members. Furthermore, the company has earned the EDGE (Economic Dividend for Gender Equality) certification in the U.S. This certification acts as confirmation of L’Oréal’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Lenovo, a global PC provider, has built its company on the concept that “different is better,” championing and weaving diversity into the fabric of its business. Lenovo has scored 100 percent on the Corporate Equality Index, a benchmarking report on corporate policies and practices regarding LGBTQ+ equality, as recently as 2022.
The report evaluates LGBTQ+ policies and practices, including non-discrimination, workplace protections, domestic partner benefits and transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits.
Lenovo demonstrates that including progressive and inclusive policies and benefits helps you attract and retain top talent and makes more employees feel supported at work.
Companies that make a point to include women in leadership positions, have inclusive employee benefits plans, and make positive changes in their communities are great examples to follow.
What is the importance of diversity and inclusion at work?
Diversity and inclusion are vital to the success of your business. Here are some significant benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace:
- Improves profits. Organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusion are 35 percent more likely to have better financial returns than companies that don’t, according to a 2020 study by McKinsey & Co. Additionally, a Wall Street Journal survey found that diversity and inclusion give companies a significant advantage over their competitors.
- Boosts creativity and innovation. A more diverse company culture can spark creativity and innovation. “Creating a diverse company culture gives you a unique advantage in the marketplace to create products that appeal to a diverse community,” said Jonathan Bass, owner and CEO of Whom Home. “Brainstorming, idea generation and creativity are always enhanced with diverse input. If everybody in the room only likes gray and white, all your products will be reflective of a gray-and-white motif. Diversity brings color to product development, creativity and innovation.”
- Appeals to top talent. Diversity and inclusion are also crucial factors for many of today’s job seekers, 76 percent of whom say they want to work for a company committed to diversity and inclusion. Your diversity and inclusion policies can attract talented employees who want to make a difference. Additionally, when you commit to diversifying your workforce, you open yourself to a broader talent pool with candidates you may not have considered. These workers can bring fresh perspectives and new skills to your business.
- Reduces turnover. Employees want to stay at a company where they feel valued and supported. A strong diversity and inclusion strategy can ensure that happens. Employees will be more engaged and likely to be committed to staying at the company and performing well, so you’re likely to experience reduced employee turnover.
- Connects you to a wider range of customers. A diverse workforce increases your ability to connect with and understand a wider audience, which can help boost your revenue and marketing reach.
- Increases productivity. The McKinsey study also found that diversifying your team can help boost productivity by 35 percent by encouraging employees to innovate and think outside the box. Additionally, diverse employees are more engaged with their work and more committed to the company’s overall mission.
Improve diversity and inclusion by adding floating holidays to your employee benefits package. This ensures employees can observe religious and cultural celebrations most organizations don’t recognize as paid holidays.
Diversity and inclusion benefit everyone
Rich diversity and inclusion policies and programs make for happier employees and stronger recruiting prospects. On top of that, they benefit your customers because a diverse, inclusive workplace promotes higher-quality work that improves your products and services. With the right initiatives in place, you can even operate on the same level as household-name brands. And that’s a surefire sign you’re doing something right.
Kiely Kuligowski contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.