The Value Of DE&I In The Workplace

A diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace benefits your business and your employees., February 17, 2022

Creating A Workplace For All Employees
Conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) have grown in recent years, but it’s commonly misunderstood when discussing company culture. Creating and maintaining an inclusive workplace is crucial for company success and longevity, but why is a diverse work environment important?

Diversity And Inclusion Defined
While diversity in the workplace looks different for every company, it is defined as providing an equitable opportunity to all individuals regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, and mental illness. Fostering an inclusive workplace means employees should feel that their differences are viewed as assets for a diverse workplace to prosper.

Inclusive workplaces celebrate their employees’ unique and varied backgrounds by accommodating differences. This also involves listening to the needs of employees and creating change internally wherever it may be necessary. While creating a representative team is imperative, managers and supervisors must formulate an environment where employees from all walks of life feel valued and encouraged to express their individualities.

The Value Of DE&I In The Workplace: Creative Ideation And Cognitive Diversity
A diverse and equitable workplace can have social, financial, and economic benefits. Put simply, investing in a diverse workforce can foster a more creative and innovative environment. When a group of like-minded people works together, there is a greater likelihood of similar patterns and ideas being created. Different and multifarious individuals are more prone to exchange perspectives and ideas.

An inclusive workplace supports cognitive diversity and uniqueness. Although some may claim it’s easier to participate in a team that thinks and works the same way, there is value in variety. A team that feels supported in its dissimilarities is more likely to resist creative burnouts, bring in new ideas, and discuss ways to improve.

According to Mckinsey’s Diversity Matters report, companies in the upper quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have noticeable financial returns above their national industry medians. In addition, companies in the upper quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

Foster Employee Engagement And Retention
Cultivating inclusivity also encourages employee engagement, morale, and retention. This can lead to greater productivity and a better understanding of customer needs. According to a Deloitte/BJKLI study, millennials are more likely to value the importance of employee diversity and unique experiences, as 83% of millennials are more likely to actively engage with a company culture they consider inclusive [1]. At the same time, only 59% of millennials believe their employers understand and support this perspective of equity and inclusivity.

Alternatively, Gen Z is a generation of digital natives raised using social media from a young age, so they approach the workplace with different expectations. According to a Gallup study, Gen Z and younger millennials want leaders who support a diverse and inclusive workforce. Diversity initiatives are no longer viewed as “nice to have,” as young workers want to feel appreciated for their unique contributions. In addition, the study found that Gen Z desires employers that care and to work under ethical leaders.

As younger employees are changing the workforce, it becomes more critical for organizations to foster a culture of community and engagement. Respect and recognition from all directions can make a difference in how the team operates. A more diverse group can make employees feel valued and appreciated, leading to higher rates of employee satisfaction and reduced employee turnover. A dynamic team works to support and inspire one another while making it easier for potential hires to view themselves as valued teammates.

Facets Of Establishing An Inclusive Workplace
While there are a multitude of benefits to building an inclusive work environment, the process of creating a culture where people are respected and appreciated requires extensive work, time, and effort. Companies may need to restructure existing departments and policies to become more inclusive by looking at leadership, communication practices, hiring practices, and office accessibility.

1. Leadership
A commitment to creating a diverse environment starts at the top, where diverse executives and leaders are visible and active participants. They need to be involved in decision-making processes across various leadership roles. This is a crucial step in attracting more diverse candidates to entry-level positions and ensures that there is action behind DE&I efforts. Additionally, organizations must establish a diverse council of board members to uphold inclusion initiatives and goals over time. This demonstrates an intentional, long-term effort behind maintaining DE&I initiatives for the coming years as new team members join.

2. Direct Communication
One key component in improving diversity efforts is direct communication between employees and upper management. Employees are the most involved participants in a company’s culture, so they know how to provide the most valuable feedback. This feedback needs to be encouraged through weekly meetings, private discussions, or by fostering an open-door policy.

Creating support groups is another effective tactic for strengthening interpersonal and professional connections. Rather than isolating potentially marginalized employees, support groups and committees can give team members a space to share their experiences and have open conversations. This can create stronger bonds internally and foster a culture of safety and inclusion.

In addition, making formal, company-backed efforts to support organizations that stand for diverse causes can go a long way to show support. For example, LinkedIn supports a group called out@in, a resource for LinkedIn employees who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community [2].

3. Office Accessibility And Design
Office and workspaces should be functioning and easily accessible for employees with disabilities. Recruiting a diverse team means paying attention to the physical office space. Some examples of this could include providing space between desks, a ramp, elevator access, or a unisex bathroom. Although these accommodations require some investment and close attention, they work to increase employee accessibility and, ultimately, productivity and talent retention.

4. Hiring Practices
Although it is crucial to be aware of potential biases in place, employers must also remain fair. For example, there are several hiring software solutions that prioritize impartial and inclusive hiring practices by eliminating the names of job applicants, allowing them to have a fair chance. Job postings should be free of gendered language and easily understood by avoiding too many niche words.

DE&I Can Improve Engagement And Culture
While more than just a hot topic, DE&I initiatives are essential for fostering a thriving and equal workplace with benefits such as increased creativity, employee engagement, and retention. Creating a workplace culture that ensures all employees are included and valued is crucial. While it may be an investment, employees are the most essential part of any company and should be the first priority. By following these strategies, employers can create a company that employees trust and a culture where they feel valued and respected.


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