In an increasingly diverse workforce and increasingly interconnected world, diversity is more important than ever, and that trend is sure to continue in the years and decades to come. A diverse workforce has important benefits for any organization, primarily giving the organization access to a wide range of insights, experiences and values. However, the key word here is “access.”
Diversity alone doesn’t ensure that those insights, experiences and values are being capitalized on. Just because you have access to something doesn’t mean you are taking full advantage. In addition to diversity, then, it’s essential that your organization and its leaders practice inclusion as well. Inclusion means not only having diverse people around for the sake of diversity. It means actively engaging them to bring them into the decision-making and brainstorming process.
In an article for The CEO Magazine, Tim Nelson writes:
“Although it has its own challenges, moving from diversity to inclusion can have a multiplier effect on the workforce. Research shows that when employees work with, and for, an inclusive leader, there are high-impact benefits, including improved collaboration, higher performance and productivity, greater engagement and loyalty, increased motivation, greater innovation and creativity, and enhanced potential to capture market share. It is also bolstered by an individual’s exposure to diverse people, as well as situations that challenge their preconceived notions and force them to overcome unconscious biases.”
To illustrate these points, echoed by PwC, consider the description of a diagram from a Berlitz white paper:
“The upper left quadrant (A) shows high diversity but low inclusion. The lower left quadrant (B) represents low diversity and low inclusion. The bottom right quadrant (C) shows high inclusion but low diversity. Quadrant D shows high inclusion and high diversity. Organizations that practice inclusion as well as diversity are able to experience high levels of collaboration, engagement and retention, which provide a competitive advantage.”
Diversity and inclusion are both important goals and have benefits in their own right; however, as the white paper by Berlitz points out, the synergy that comes from both a diverse and an inclusive team can generate a competitive advantage for leaders who are greater than the sum of the benefits of either diversity or inclusion alone.
Diversity alone won’t get you from here to there. You need to also be inclusive!