More companies are investing time and effort into improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace because of the impact it has on the employee experience and the tangible performance improvements it creates.

“The business case is glaring. Diverse companies with inclusive cultures outperform more homogenous companies. Revenue, market share, smarter teams, retention – there’s just no lack of evidence.” – Miriam Lewis, Chief Inclusion Officer for Principal.

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How diversity and inclusion efforts impact a company’s performance

According to a six-year study completed in 2020 by McKinsey, diverse companies are 36% more profitable than less diverse companies. 

Diversity and inclusion (D&I), when done the right way, create a domino effect of improvements for businesses. 

D&I is linked with employee engagement, which is a foundational element of productivity and employee retention. Both employee productivity and retention can directly impact financial performance. 

To show you what we mean by this web of improvements, the graphic below shows how the benefits of D&I intersect in various areas. 

Bubble chart showing how diversity and inclusion improves business performance by impacting different areas such as engagement, communication, retention, collaboration, training, and financial.

How to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Understand the difference between diversity and inclusion

As organizations begin planning, it’s important to understand the difference between diversity and inclusion, which are sometimes used interchangeably or even as a joint term.

“Diversity is the mix of individuals. Inclusion is how you make that mix work.” Jameel Rush, PHR, SHRM-CP, Vice President for Diversity, Equity,  and Inclusion at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Adjunct professor at Villanova University

Focus on first creating inclusion and THEN building diversity in the workplace

Many organizations’ knee-jerk reaction to diversity and inclusion efforts is to hire for diversity. 

The problem is that you can hire for diversity, but it can still be a poor experience for the employee if they’re entering a workplace that isn’t inclusive. It isn’t enough to set up occasional employee training and hire a few diverse employees as a way to check the box.

So, before you hire, focus on creating an inclusive culture that’s genuine and ongoing. 

“Adding diversity to a team isn’t what drives better outcomes. It’s adding diversity and making sure you can leverage the different points of view and different perspectives to work toward a stronger solution. That’s what adds to the better business results.”  Jameel Rush

Focus on diverse hiring at senior levels on a larger scale

Diverse hiring doesn’t necessarily create inclusion, and it doesn’t mean that your efforts are sustainable. For the best chance of success, hire for diversity at senior-level roles across the company. 

Why hire for diversity at senior-level roles? Because these leaders likely know what it’s like to be excluded from an organization and understand their role in creating a truly inclusive workplace.

Be transparent and create awareness

Be transparent about D&I efforts and create awareness about the impact and importance.

Leadership can’t shy away from communicating the organization’s efforts and goals around D&I. They need to be transparent and open about the organization’s short-term and long-term goals and what efforts will be made to get there. 

Leaders need to create awareness about how a diverse and inclusive work culture benefits each employee in the organization and everyone around them on a day-to-day basis. 

Set expectations about behavior and accountability

Ultimately, every employee at every level needs to know what their role is in creating an inclusive culture. This means that employees need to understand what’s expected of them and what they can expect from organizational leaders and the organization as a whole. 

Explain exactly what’s expected from each employee and what behaviors won’t be tolerated. Likewise, they need to know what to expect from leaders and the organization in return. Detail what to expect from measuring and communicating progress, anticipated timelines, and how leadership will be held accountable for progress towards D&I efforts.

Educate employees and assess their knowledge 

Conduct frequent diversity and inclusion education programs in the workplace and use assessments to track progress and gather feedback. Set specific timelines to conduct employee D&I educational opportunities and stick to the plan. Whether it’s once per quarter or twice a year, make sure that you educate employees and get their feedback.

Once employees have completed the educational requirements, it’s important to test their knowledge. You can use a variety of question types, such as multiple-choice, written responses, and true or false. 

As part of the employee education and assessment process, gather feedback within the assessment or offer a separate low-stakes assessment where employees can provide anonymous feedback through polls, written responses, and other surveys.

Create a diversity and inclusion statement for the workplace

Create a diversity and inclusion statement for your team and/or company that describes your commitment to creating an inclusive and diverse workplace and how it impacts everyone in the organization.

Employees need to know that it’s a true effort and that they’re welcome regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background.

What is a diversity and inclusion statement?

A diversity and inclusion statement explains:

  • The individual/team/company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • How D&I impacts the workplace
  • What employees can expect from the leader/company
  • What the leader/company expects from employees 

How to write a diversity and inclusion statement for the workplace

Describe your commitment to DEI and why it’s important 

This is where you set the tone for the rest of the statement, provide context, and begin building trust. 

Explain how D&I impacts each employee’s experience

The goal is to explain exactly how D&I benefits the workplace experience for each employee and their coworkers. Create an understanding that regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, or condition, each employee is welcome and included in the company.

Describe what employees can expect from the company and its leaders

At a high level, explain what efforts will be made to create and maintain a diverse and inclusive workplace, what success looks like, and how employees can hold the company and its leaders accountable. Acknowledge challenges and describe what will be done to overcome them.

Be clear about what’s expected of each employee

Employees at all levels need to know exactly what is expected of them and how they play a role in creating an inclusive work environment. 

Be direct about what behavior is expected
Explain that derogatory and offensive language won’t be tolerated and the consequences that will be enforced. 

Explain why their words are significant
Speak about the importance of using inclusive language and how it can help create a sense of belonging for other employees.

Example diversity and inclusion statement for companies to use

[company name] is committed to creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace because it’s these differences that drive innovation, encourage creativity, and build a respectful and safe work environment for every employee. Regardless of any differences, whether race, gender, ethnicity, age, or condition, you are an important part of this organization and community.

As [company name] works toward improving DEI, expect us to provide frequent and transparent updates regarding our progress, challenges, and plans moving forward. 

Your role in creating a diverse and inclusive work environment is equally important because you can make an impact on others. You’ll treat each employee with respect and understand that your words and actions influence everyone around you. [Company name] will not tolerate any derogatory or offensive words or actions. It’s your duty, just like ours, to stay aware, informed, and proactive.

Remember that we all play an equal part in an ongoing effort to create a diverse, fair, and inclusive workplace that welcomes all employees, encourages open and respectful communication, and supports each of you throughout your career and life. 

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