From Abstract to Action
Last month, I wrote about the importance—and benefits—of a diverse workforce.
That elevating women, people of different ethnicities and abilities, and LGBT individuals, helps deliver a competitive edge when selling products and services to diverse end users. All of that is true, but it’s not as simple as making good hires.
You may boast a diverse workforce with all the talent in the world but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a booming environment. Diversity and inclusion, while often used interchangeably, are not the same thing. The first step toward implementing successful D&I initiatives in your organization is understanding the difference between the two.
Diversity equals representation and that’s pretty straightforward to measure by analyzing HR and recruiting data. Defining and quantifying inclusion on the other hand, is a bit more complex. First, you have to identify where barriers are emerging in your systems, then you have to bust them up from the inside out. That brings into center focus the hard challenges that come with change management.
Inclusion is the only scalable way to build diversity within an organization. Numerous studies show, in fact, that without inclusion there’s often a diversity backlash.
What that means to us as leaders is that recruiting and hiring a diverse pool of employees is just the beginning of a continuous journey that requires support from the top. Leaders can begin a top down revolution on the way and sequence in which critical matters are discussed by putting talent and finance on equal footing.
Leaders of companies have long recognized that it’s easy to talk about D&I in abstract terms but it’s really difficult to take that talk and turn it into action. And without practicing the active efforts of inclusion—such as making people feel welcome and involved; celebrating their differences, ideas and experiences; and elevating different people for key opportunities and high-profile assignments—energy, productivity and dollars will be wasted, and innovation and growth will stall.
Harvard Business Review research finds that employees with inclusive managers are 1.3 times more likely to feel their innovative potential is unlocked; employees who are able to bring their whole selves to work are 42% less likely to leave their job within a year; employees with mentors are 62% more likely to have asked for and have received a promotion; and nearly 70% of female employees say they would have stayed at their company if they’d had flexible work options.
Keeping diversity and inclusivity a consistent part of the conversation is important for your culture because it’s the right thing to do, but it also drives business results. There is a huge opportunity to boost your firm by leading a culture change that brings in all kinds of very talented people who ultimately will reflect the changing patterns of customers going forward. As you’ll read in this issue (flip to The I’s Have It), diversity and inclusion done right (or wrong, I suppose) is linked to your current financial performance. Companies with high D&I rankings had 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee, were 2.9 times more likely to identify and build leaders, and were 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market.
The visible backing of leadership coupled with more awareness and competency around D&I is necessary to create and sustain a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. Don’t let your time, money and talented people go to waste because of the nuances between the two. With better understanding comes better results and stronger organizations.