The Overwhelming Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Sheree Atcheson
The Overwhelming Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Belonging is perhaps one of our most important needs — right after food, water, and shelter. It’s ingrained in our DNA. The desire to belong and feel accepted by friends and family, communities, and countries is a key part of our happiness, wellbeing, and productivity.

And our workplace is no different.

“A sense of belonging is a fundamental human need,” said Patrick Cournoyer, Chief Evangelist at Peakon. “For organizations to guarantee a sense of belonging, they must first have a refined diversity and inclusion strategy.”

(According to Forrester, workplace belonging significantly increases job performance)

Yet, many organizations are not committed to driving systemic change through diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives. According to Forrester’s report “The business of belonging,”  90% of Fortune 500 firms have employee resource groups, but most organizations are making minimal progress in achieving their diversity objectives.

The good news is that organizations have a way forward. In their report, Forrester provides key takeaways to help organizations get started. Here are some highlights.

DE&I’s business benefits to organizations is clear — innovation, connecting with customers, and overall engagement

In short, diverse companies outperform the competition. According to the report, inclusive cultures translate into real value: Organizations are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial goals, three times more likely to be high performing, six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

However, many organizations are falling behind by continuing to debate the benefits of DE&I and not prioritizing it in their strategy. They are losing out on attracting and retaining talent, profits, and reducing employee attrition.

DE&I initiatives need real commitment, resources, and accountability to see results

Companies need to move beyond the important first step of transparency or hiring diversity executives and commit to long-term change, backed by resources and accountability.

For example, the report mentions that well-intentioned initiatives by big technology companies — such as releasing demographic statistics on their workforces in 2014 — was a step forward for transparency. But “six years later, there has been little change in terms of the representation of women, Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), and Latino/Latina employees.”

If done incorrectly, DE&I initiatives may even have a negative impact on companies, leading to such issues as tokenism, overburdening their underrepresented employees to respond to concerns surrounding #MeToo or Black Lives Matter, or sitting on the fence for key issues of social justice.

(According to Forrester, workplace belonging significantly reduces turnover risk)

Diversity is the destination, not the starting line

In their report, Forrester writes that companies should “focus on belonging at every moment.” Why? Workplace belonging leads to a 56% increase in job performance and a 50% reduction in turnover risk.

For organizations in competitive talent markets, pay transparency can be a powerful tool to attract and retain women.

The business of belonging, Forrester

To start, you can include an interactive approach to belonging that:

  • Pursues equity for your employees relentlessly so you can overcome structural bias that can be hidden. The report uses the example of the hiring process for people with disabilities. Forty-six percent of people with disabilities rated their last experience applying for a job online as “difficult to impossible”.
  • Practice intersectional inclusion. Closing gender and race gaps is only one dimension; characteristics like ability, age, culture, dependents, gender, geographic region, neurological processing, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background make perspectives unique.

    According to the report, DE&I programs often “ignore intersectionality — overlapping forms of inherent and/or acquired diversity that can create unique perspectives.” This can have unintentional consequences, such as “programs designed to benefit  women or Black employees [that] may exclude or reduce the hiring of Black women…”
  • Ensure there is executive sponsorship. Senior DE&I leadership roles must have a seat at the table — that means they are at the decision-making tables, are given budget and have clear accountability so they are set up for success.
  • Transparency is a powerful way to uncover unequal treatment and elevate equitable practices. The report uses pay transparency as an example: “Women currently earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, which is a significant improvement, but that still represents $406,760 over the course of a 40-year career. And for Black women, that pay gap is 63%. For organizations in competitive talent markets, pay transparency can be a powerful tool to attract and retain women.”
  • Leverage strategic listening tools. Ensure that every voice is heard, no matter who they are.

    One example of this is Peakon’s Include product, which allows leaders and managers to connect DE&I initiatives to employee engagement, identifies individual cases of discrimination, and helps your managers to take a more active role.

    Peakon Include makes it possible to create a culture of accountability that empowers every employee to be their most authentic self and perform at their best.

The modern workplace — just like the modern world — is complex, interconnected, and shaped by globalization and technology. And what makes it work is people.

But it’s only going to work well if companies can instill belonging in all their employees. If organisations are going to foster belonging at work, they need to empower diverse, equitable, and inclusive cultures. It’s the right thing to do and it’s good business.

Read Forrester’s report today: “The business of belonging.” 

Author - Sheree Atcheson