How to Position Diversity and Inclusion at the Core of Your Company Culture

It’s easy to make the business case for diversity and inclusion. In fact, the hard part isn’t finding the research to support it, but narrowing down the impressive array of statistics to share. 

According to recent studies, diverse and inclusive companies are 70% more likely to capture a new market and make better business decisions 87% of the time. At a more granular level, ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their competition, and gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to do the same. Diversity and inclusion are also an integral part of the employee recruitment process. Approximately 67% of people consider diversity an important factor when deciding where to work. 

But before we dig into the details any further, it’s important to identify the distinct differences between diversity and inclusion and why leaders need both in the workplace. According to Gallup, a diverse workforce is one that represents the full spectrum of demographic differences — race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status, physical disability, etc. — as well as lifestyle differences like family composition and education level. An inclusive culture, on the other hand, is one in which all people, regardless of their background and demographic makeup, feel welcome. 

Without inclusivity, the benefits of a diverse workplace are rendered ineffective. Together, however, these two factors can create high-performing, trusting, collaborative teams in which every member feels valued and contributes to the success of the group. 

Unfortunately, many modern organizations are not well-positioned to reap the benefits of diversity and inclusion. In fact, according to proprietary data from the Partners In Leadership Workplace Accountability Index, just 33% of employees agree that individuals in their organizations seek out the perspectives of others. It’s up to organizational leaders to create a diverse and inclusive culture — they can do so effectively by taking a multi-tiered approach that engages all employees, from the C-suite down. 

Shifting Employee Beliefs

Creating a sustainable culture of diversity and inclusion starts by treating the move as a mindset rather than a one-time initiative. An initiative is often seen by employees as a set of protocols in which they play no active role. However, to create a workplace marked by diversity and inclusion, employees at every level must feel personally accountable for achieving diversity and inclusion. When employees take accountability, they take full psychological ownership for achieving desired results.

When understood in this way, accountability is empowering because it is about agency and manifesting the results one would like to see. Accountable team members are proactive in spotting gaps that stand in the way of creating an inclusive culture, taking psychological ownership for bridging those gaps, practicing creative problem-solving, and following through with the execution of effective solutions. 

By framing diversity and inclusion as a mindset to which all employees are held accountable, leaders can shift the cultural beliefs that define their organization and create a workforce that appreciates and celebrates diversity. 

Taking a Leader-Led Approach to Diversity and Inclusion

To inspire employees to take personal accountability for creating a more inclusive workforce, leaders can’t just “talk the talk,” they must also “walk the walk.” Leaders who own the need for greater diversity and inclusion — rather than approaching diversity and inclusion as mere HR initiatives — set the bar for the organization as a whole. 

Leaders ought to identify company and department goals centered on diversity and inclusion, and subsequently ensure that employees understand, agree with, and are invested in these targets. Leaders can then emulate the behaviors that all employees should take on in order to deliver on those goals, and create opportunities for all employees to express their ideas and feedback for optimizing the culture shift. But above all, ensure you’re modeling the change

When leaders model the beliefs, actions, and behaviors needed to achieve organizational goals, they encourage the same patterns in those looking up to them. The result? All members of the organization begin demonstrating and acting in alignment with the new beliefs — beliefs such as Diversity makes our team stronger and When we include others, we achieve better outcomes. Collectively, these patterns translate to an organization-wide shift toward greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace, which generates improved topline results

Developing a Strong System of Support

While leaders play an integral part in culture change, they can’t drive a renewed sense of inclusivity among every employee alone. This is where the organization’s human resources (HR) department comes into play. 

In partnership with HR, leaders can create more systemic change through company-wide trainings that teach all employees what role they must take in creating an inclusive company culture. These experiences generate beliefs that align with desired diversity and inclusion goals, driving the behaviors needed to create a more welcoming company culture.

Fostering Innovation Through Diverse Perspectives

When leaders welcome and celebrate a diverse organizational culture, they’re not only upholding ethical business policies — they’re gaining a competitive advantage. 

Our research found that nearly one in three people feel their organizations’ ability to gain the perspective of others is a strength that gives them a leg up on less diverse and inclusive corporate cultures. They aren’t wrong in this assumption: decades of research suggests that working with diverse groups of people encourages more innovative thinking, inspiring team members to embrace creativity and develop more effective solutions. 

But to reap the benefits of a truly diverse workforce, leaders must define the organization’s diversity and inclusion goals, model the beliefs and actions needed to achieve these goals, and collaborate with HR to implement engaging company-wide trainings. Following these steps, leaders promote increased personal and organizational accountability for diversity and inclusion at work. As such, they advance workplace equality and position their organizations for improved topline performance. 

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