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How to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace

What is diversity in the workplace? Diversity means a multiplicity of difference, multiformity, and variety. But why is this important in the workplace? And how does it relate to equality, equity, and inclusion?

According to the Chartered Institute of personnel and development (CIPD), diversity refers to the demographic differences of a group – often at the team or organizational level. Often, diversity references protected characteristics in UK law: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. 

  • Equality means equal rights and opportunities are afforded to all. The 2010 Equality Act in the UK protects those with protected characteristics from direct and indirect discrimination in the workplace.
  • Equity recognizes that treating everyone equally has shortcomings when the playing field is not level. An equity approach emphasizes that everyone should not be treated the same but according to their own needs.
  • Inclusion is often defined as the extent to which everyone at work, regardless of their background, identity, or circumstance, feels valued, accepted, and supported to succeed at work. 

There has been significant progress in diversity across businesses in recent years, but is increasing diversity all that is needed? Diversity does not address workplace equality's fundamental challenges, unconscious bias, or exclusionary cultures. Hiring a diverse set of people doesn’t guarantee every employee has a voice or the same experience or opportunities as others.

Inclusion is needed to give diversity a real impact and drive us towards building workplaces where everyone can flourish. All people in a business are unique, so inclusion is relevant for everyone.

According to SurveyMonkey, diversity and inclusion may be in the news, but there’s still work to be done. In their survey of nearly 10,000 US workers, 1 in 4 said they don’t feel like they belong at their company. This number jumps to nearly 1 in 3 for black workers.

Creating a diverse and inclusive company culture is easier said than done. But done right, the benefits are clear. Some of the major global research and insights providers say businesses with successful diversity and inclusion policies and cultures benefit from:

  • 2.3x higher cash flow per employee (Deloitte)
  • 19% increase in revenue (Boston Consulting Group)
  • 30% improved team performance (Gartner)
  • 60% improvement in decision-making (Cloverpop)
  • 70% higher chance to capture new markets (Harvard Business Review)

So, let’s look at some ways you can work towards this in your organization.

Use your data

Diversity and inclusion aren’t based on emotional metrics—you need hard data. You could carry out anonymous company surveys to find out how your people feel about diversity, inclusion, and your company culture. Set visible company goals about where you’d like to be 12 months from now. Then, repeat your survey regularly to see if you’re making progress towards changing your company culture.

You could also use customer or other stakeholder research to learn more about your hiring needs. Having that relatable expertise on your team would be good if your customers represent specific demographics. Use technology available to you to help you with your company’s diversity and inclusion data analytics. This will allow you to sift through data to provide insights into the organization's recruitment, compensation, and benefits patterns. This will reveal any pay or diversity gaps across the workforce. But remember, becoming diverse and inclusive is a transformative journey, not a destination.

Give everyone a voice

Inclusive organizations listen to their people, no matter where they sit in the organizational chart. They’re always open to hearing ways they could be doing things better. And they want to understand where they’re failing so they can fix it. Everyone needs to feel included enough to be able to speak openly and honestly at work.

Strategy, not an HR initiative

If you view diversity and inclusion as an HR box-ticking exercise, your efforts will go nowhere fast. You will only be scratching the surface of what an effective strategy could achieve. Making diversity and inclusion part of your business strategy will make it part of your business values. Your values usually describe your culture and how you think, behave, and treat others. Businesses that get their diversity and inclusion strategies right are rewarded with a more engaged, productive, and effective team.

Think about word choices

Inclusivity includes what you say and how you say it. Make an intentional choice to cut harmful language from your company’s everyday vocabulary. This isn’t just what you put on your website or advertising; this is about what is considered acceptable when people speak in meetings, hallways, and at company events. Respect preferred pronouns. Make sure it’s the norm to cut the use of jargon that some people may find offensive.

No one is perfect, though, and inclusivity is not a switch that can be flicked on, so when unintentional mistakes are made, make a deliberate effort to make sure a lesson is learned, and the same mistake is not made again.

Hire with Intention

Diversity and inclusion won’t just be about your existing workforce; it’ll be strengthened by the people you hire next. All businesses need varying skills, perspectives, personalities, and behaviors. Think about what your teams might be lacking and consider being more diverse with your hiring to get more perspectives in key decision-making.

Creating diverse and inclusive teams isn’t about being politically correct. It’s about making your teams better, happier, safer, more engaged, more effective, and more productive.

Create safe places

Despite the rise in remote working, many people still spend a lot of time at work, and they should feel comfortable and safe. Think about the diversity in the workforce and what they might need. This could include things like accessibility, gender-neutral bathrooms, quiet or reflective spaces, prayer rooms, and for remote workers, maybe allow them to block off time in their diaries to focus or have personal time when they are not expected to respond to messages.

Don’t try to fit the culture

Don’t try to make your workforce fit the company culture; change the culture. Hiring for ‘culture fit’ makes some sense as people will quickly gel with the rest of the team, hit the ground running, and maybe stick around for longer. But to be truly diverse and inclusive, you are better off harnessing the benefits of diversity by hiring for new skills, perspectives, and experiences as part of your organization’s talent strategy. In the long run, this will give a much bigger boost to your organization’s productivity and profitability than hiring people who fit with your team but aren’t bringing a new perspective.

Training and Events

Inclusivity is shaped by culture and relationships, but it takes more than just a deliberate decision to be more inclusive; it requires training and repetition. Your people need to be educated on how to be more inclusive. Organize training events, invite guest speakers, host small team sessions, and make it part of your personal and career development strategy for everyone, so it becomes part of the company culture.  

Encourage empathetic leadership

Promoting diversity and inclusion at work isn’t a one-off; it’s an ongoing process. See it as an opportunity for business leaders to learn how to relate to their teams’ problems. Diverse and inclusive organizations are more innovative, more profitable, and more likely to be an employer of choice than their competition. Successful leaders are patient, open-minded, and empathetic; they listen more than they talk when it comes to understanding how people feel. If your leaders don’t live up to the values that are key to inclusivity, you’re not going to have an inclusive organization. Lead by example and promote diversity and inclusion in your workplace, and you will get your team pulling in the same direction and firing on all cylinders.

How Unit4 can help your organization

HCM systems can help employers identify bias and objectively assess skills, competencies, and talents while ignoring demographic factors like gender, race, and age. The right HCM platform will comb through data from multiple sources and provide insights into the organization's recruitment, compensation, and benefits patterns, revealing pay gaps across the diverse workforce. A data-driven approach attaches real numbers to the diversity issue and can help CHROs create a strong business case to tackle diversity and inclusion.

With Unit4’s HCM software systems, you can use technology to assist in the implementation of your diversity strategy. Unit4’s next-generation smart ERP software solutions are built for people in the business of helping people. With us, you can ‘Experience Real Purpose’ with an adaptable solution that’s right for you, now and in the future.

To discover more, click here to book a demo and see what our HCM solution can do for your organization.


What are the main types of diversity in a company?

There are many different views on this. Some say the main areas of diversity are based on internal, external, organizational, and worldview representations. This will include subsets for each consisting of things like culture, race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, political views, moral compass, job role, status in the organization, education level, and personal interests.

How do you write a DEI statement?

A DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) statement outlines your company’s commitment to furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. While no two DEI statements will be the same, they will usually explain the role of DEI in shaping company values and the overall ways that DEI manifests itself through company actions. In most cases, a DEI statement will include the company’s mission, how DEI connects to the mission, and examples of DEI efforts.

How can inclusivity policies be put into practice?

Start with a diversity audit using diversity and inclusion data analytics and then create a strategy and report with policy guidelines and practices to implement. Run training events and build the policies into your company culture to ensure it becomes an ongoing transformational journey for the whole organization rather than a one-off exercise. 

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