In the last few years, inclusion and diversity in the workplace have become more than just buzz words. Many employers have adopted entire divisions devoted to inclusivity. Diversity and inclusion fuel employee engagement, boost retention and show respect.
However, authenticity in these efforts is needed. Today’s discerning jobseeker places high importance on diversity and inclusion, and easily sees through the fluff. According to Deloitte, more than 80% of young workers indicate that inclusion is important to them when choosing an employer. This statistic is further supported by the 39% who say they would leave a company for a more inclusive one. As younger generations begin to dominate the working population, we can only expect to see these numbers rise.
So, what is inclusion?
Inclusion is the level of comfort, representation, safety, and celebration of diversity within a group. It goes without saying that when employees can safely express themselves, it validates and inspires them. A company that values the uniqueness of any person(s) perspective and value ultimately helps keep the worker engaged – and makes them want to stay.
Visibility, engagement, and innovation are the results of authentic inclusion.
According to Gallup, 52% of employees are reportedly disengaged and feel disconnected from the companies they work for. This lack of engagement yields lower productivity and overall poor employer perception. When an employee is disengaged, it can also impact morale.
But why would lack of inclusion make an employee less interested in work?
It’s not as complex as it seems. If employees feel uncomfortable or unsafe in their workplace, these feelings will impact their output. How could it not? The lack of representation can lead to invisibility and thus a harder time connecting with coworkers, tasks, and the inner-working of the corporate environment.
To combat this, some companies have been promising to increase diversity percentages, but this increase needs to be authentic and genuine. People are more than just numbers and part of a brand image. They are the lifeblood of the industry they work in. Diversity may be about counting the different groups of people, but inclusivity is what makes them count. Creating a more inclusive environment makes workers feel more respected, understood, happy, and willing to collaborate.
Collaboration is a major component of workplace success.
When cross-functional teams and members can come together, this enables reciprocity and flow — ultimately leading to greater cohesion across the brand or company. This coming together fosters innovation. Recently, the Harvard Business Review reported that diverse and inclusive workplaces are 70% more likely to lead industry standards and capture new markets/clients.
With a diverse staff, there are considerable opportunities to gain deeper perspectives. This can come in the form of differing life experiences based on socio-economic status, religion, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and physical capabilities. As ideas are brought to the table, so are the personal stories and exchanges that help to inspire creative problem-solving. In turn, it makes a company more willing to experiment to find unique solutions.
Leadership plays a role in visibility, too.
Employees look for representation from the top down. If their leader reflects their identity, it helps to show the employee that there is a growth opportunity and that their opinions/ideas matter. HBR states that women are 20% less likely to receive endorsements for their ideas. This likelihood only worsens for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ workers, with 24% and 21% less likely to feel valued. Having leaders that reflect the experience of their employees also cultivates empathy and compassion. This, in turn, helps employees know their employer sees them.
Happiness is key to employee well-being and productivity.
Employee happiness is a way of keeping engagement high. The engagement of more inclusive companies yields better job performance. Gallup mentions that profits can increase by $2,400 per employee per year when employees are happier in the workplace. This leads to an average of 2.5 times more revenue growth overall. Of course, this isn’t about profit. Employee happiness also improves the overall health and well-being of workers. In addition, the more represented and included an employee feels, the more likely they are to remain at a company — leading to higher employee retention.
Without authenticity, we don’t have diversity and inclusion.
Lack of representation matters, especially as Millennials and Gen Z begin to take over the vast majority of the working population. By 2025, these two generations will make up 75% of employed people. Because of this, 69% of executives rated diversity and inclusion as their top priority. Partly, this is due to employee retention and overall employee safety. Deloitte mentions about 1 in 4 employees surveyed have left jobs in the past due to a lack of inclusivity in the workplace.
Retention goes beyond just the integration of diversity. Deloitte highlights three major areas of focus that employees consider when remaining in their workplace, all of which relate to inclusion:
How can one show up authentically for their employees?
The first of the topics listed above is being able to feel safe in expressing identity. According to Gallup, 45% of Americans have been discriminated against at work in some capacity. When there’s a company culture that fosters safety for all, the rate of discrimination decreases.
This is backed by a majority of employees (55%) that want to see a diversity and inclusion policy in their workplace. Supporting inclusion and creating safe spaces can ultimately show workers that the employer is listening and willing to advocate for their needs. Simply put, having policies in place that protect minorities and marginalized communities within your workplace is one way to be authentic.
One may also consider employee-led D&I operations. This gives agency and voice to those who may feel most marginalized or those who are minorities. Employee-led D&I operations or committees create equity and distribute the responsibility. Allowing workers to take the helm in inclusivity keeps engagement in the workplace higher as they become more invested in their time within that company. This also inspires passion within the workplace, stimulating innovation.
Another solution can be to hold company-wide or department-wide town hall meetings where employees are empowered to speak up and share their perspectives. Firsthand understanding can open viewpoints and teach others about a day in the life of someone different from them. Of course, this sort of meeting style is only effective if there are open-door policies in place. Employees need to know they don’t have to fear voicing their concerns or that they will be discriminated against for opening up.
Celebrating diversity can be a great way to show you care.
Hosting celebrations and honouring the diverse network of employees can also be a great way to show workers that they are cared for. These celebrations can’t be done in vain. Getting employees involved in the acts of uplifting a community can help foster trust and active participation within the company. This goes beyond just posting a Pride Flag or mentioning Black History Month.
Consider donations to specific organizations and/or spotlighting employees representing communities to show visibility and allyship. This also promotes the purpose and impact portion of the Deloitte research findings. Purpose through a shared vision and ideal, and impact through actionable steps that have a ripple effect outside of just the company.
Flexibility is also part of inclusivity.
If a workplace has more flexibility, then it will cater to differing communities — especially those that may require childcare or are part of a lower-income class. Flexible schedules show respect for diversity even outside of creed, race, or orientation/gender. Socio-economic status inclusion is just as important. Employers can offer 4-day workweeks, work-from-home options, or general flex schedules. Each of these has its own benefits, leading to higher employee retention.
Inclusion is not just the future, it is the present.
Overall as younger generations dominate the workforce, there is a shift toward the importance of visibility. In fact, 71% of workers prefer organizations that showcase inclusive behaviours (Deloitte). When a workplace has greater diversity and inclusion, it retains employees and shows respect for the vast backgrounds and experiences that come with each person. Innovation and collaboration increase, as does revenue by result.
But inclusivity efforts must extend outside target percentages and empty gestures. Employees look for active participation from companies to foster safe spaces and make an impact on the community. When an employer effectively does this, it creates safety for the employee. Safety in expression leads to higher retention rates, employee engagement, and improved employee well-being.
Authenticity reigns supreme with diversity and inclusion.
The best way to show authenticity is through integration and action. Giving back can be a great way to be genuinely supportive. Employers can also impart agency to their workers, inspiring them to lead the inclusion efforts. Plus, town-hall meetings and celebrations can create visibility, spotlighting the diversity within a company. But the most important is having policies in place for those that need them most. Implementation of protection is the foundation for inclusive success. When it comes to the workplace, employees are the spirit of every industry.
How are we doing our part at CareerBeacon? We are proud to be supportive of every person regardless of socio-economic status, religion, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and/or physical capabilities. Connecting jobseekers and employers – and creating better work is our mission. Follow us on social as we engage with the community toward this mission!