The movement to increase diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the world of work has been gaining pace in recent years, and for good reason.
Businesses that embrace DEI policies and working practices reap a range of benefits, and are better positioned to thrive than rivals that sideline the progressive ethos and ideals these underpin.
Let’s look at why DEI is so important in modern organizations, and what you can do to promote the concepts involved.
Diversity leads to profitability
If you want your business to make more money and breach more markets, it’s better to have a diverse workforce than a set of employees who are all from roughly the same background.
This is empirically proven, and so promoting DEI is as much about making your organization more successful and profitable as anything else.
It’s also a process which can gather momentum over time, and doesn’t have to be done in one fell swoop. Having a more varied workforce means that you’ll appeal more to top talent from across the board, so it’ll be easier to recruit skilled team members who might otherwise have passed you over for a rival.
Equity accelerates employee engagement
Getting to grips with the idea of equity is key to understanding DEI in the workplace. It’s a distinct concept from equality, because it recognizes that there isn’t a level playing field to begin with, and takes into account the innate privileges and disadvantages that are still part and parcel of modern society.
The purpose of pursuing equity is to ensure that you appreciate which team members need additional support, and also do your bit to eliminate obstacles to fairness across the organization, whether that’s in terms of wages, job opportunities or anything else.
The ideal upshot is that employees will feel that they are valued and respected as individuals, above and beyond what basic measures of equality can provide. In turn this will increase engagement and give them more of a reason to stay loyal to your company.
An engaged workforce is more productive, satisfied and happy, which reduces churn and lessens costs for recruitment, among other things. This means battling discrimination in all forms, whether on the grounds of race, gender, or even age.
Inclusion leads to innovation
In this context, inclusion can be a fairly holistic term; one which covers everything from ensuring that the working environment is pleasant and genial, to being proactive in helping people from different backgrounds to integrate and feel comfortable in diverse teams.
It should also mean that you aren’t just including people at entry level positions, but are also facilitating paths forward which allow them to progress to roles with more power and responsibility in future.
One of the most compelling results of an inclusive workplace is one which fosters and encourages innovation, rather than expecting everyone to tow the line or keep their potentially game-changing ideas to themselves for fear of upsetting the status quo.
If employees know that there is an atmosphere of inclusion and equity within an organization, they will not be reticent about revealing their ideas to the rest of the team. This again benefits the entire business and further explains why diversity leads to profit.
Connecting with customers becomes easier
The key to a successful business is working out what your customers want or need, and fulfilling this with a product or service which hits home.
Your customer base is likely to be diverse, so it makes sense that with a more diverse workforce, managed in an equitable way and encouraged through an inclusive office environment, you will be able to understand their pain points.
Moving away from seeing consumers or clients as a homogenous mass, and instead exploring the differences which exist and the opportunities that are there for forging more meaningful connections, is another of DEI’s business-focused benefits.
Training is needed to promote and perpetuate DEI
It’s all well and good to know why you need to adopt diversity, equity and inclusion in your business, but unless you actively adhere to the tenets covered above, it’ll all be bluster without substance.
That’s why training is the most important tool in this context. Managers and leaders in particular need to be given an education in what DEI means, how its impact is universally positive, and what they have to do to reflect it in their own actions and decisions.
Employees at all levels will benefit from diversity, equity and inclusion training, and you should also be open to feedback from team members so that you can pinpoint areas where you need to improve that you haven’t identified yourself.
The bottom line
Businesses that want to flourish in the future have to take diversity seriously today. It sounds simple, but of course takes time and requires commitment to get right.
Working on DEI is objectively worthwhile, and starting now is better than wishing you had in months or years to come.