The difference between diversity and inclusion — and why it matters

The difference between diversity and inclusion — and why it matters


In recent years, many organisations have sought to increase diversity on their various teams, often to great effect. However, just because your workforce is more diverse does not mean that it’s more inclusive. There is an important distinction between these two things, and if your leaders aren’t cognisant of that difference, all your efforts to diversify won’t have the impact you might want.

To make sure your workplace can thrive in these hoped-for conditions, you need to set yourself up for success by truly understanding the interplay between diversity and inclusion. You must also continually promote it in your workplace culture from the boardroom straight down to the entry level.

Get everyone in on the decision-making process.Get everyone in on the decision-making process.

What is diversity?

Having a diverse workplace is something many companies prioritise these days, and for good reason. With more people who don’t fit the same mould, there are more opportunities to identify areas of improvement and view things from different perspectives. An organisation that is truly diverse will have a healthy mix of people of different ages, races, ethnic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, education levels and economic statuses, according to ADP.

This is something you can certainly prioritise in your hiring practices: When two people are equally qualified for a position, it might be wise to hire the person who doesn’t look or think in a way that many other people at your office do.

And the good news is that diversity is self-perpetuating. If you hire a lot of people who are cut from the same cloth, that can dissuade others from even wanting to join your organisation, and potentially prevent you from connecting with the best talent for a given job. But when you have more people of different backgrounds in active roles — front and centre — you’ll keep attracting a wide swath of candidates.

How is diversity different from inclusion?

The problem, of course, is what happens when your hire people with backgrounds or demographics different from your organisation’s norm but don’t include them in important decision-making processes. You won’t actually reap the benefit of those diverse hires.

Put another way, what good is the diversity you seek if you’re not making sure everyone has the same opportunity to direct the company’s growth and success?

With that in mind, it’s important to ensure that you are being proactive at every level of your organisation about making sure there’s little to no groupthink due to homogenous groups being in charge of major decisions. Workable notes that there are many ways to achieve this goal, including creating policies around psychological safety and holding training sessions to make sure people are aware of their conscious and unconscious biases.

Why it’s important to have both

You can’t have true inclusion without diversity, but you can’t reap the benefits of diversity without inclusion. As AIHR points out, there is great benefit to increasing diversity and inclusion. Study after study finds that companies that prioritise these things have better financial results, are more innovative in their fields and can do a better job of both attracting and retaining talent.

All it takes is a bit of extra follow-through on your initial instinct to increase diversity and inclusion in your workplace, and all those benefits — and more — can be realised.

To make sure you can truly achieve and maintain a diverse, inclusive workplace, it’s important to ensure the effort starts at the top. Your organisation’s leaders should strive to set the right example, and ICML’s Workplace Diversity Course will help them do just that. With offerings that can be adjusted to meet your company’s specific needs, there are plenty of ways to grow in the right way going forward. Get in touch with us today to learn more.

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