Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are often used in tandem rather than as diversity vs inclusion. While this is understandable, and while one certainly is necessary in order to achieve the other, they’re two different concepts. In this article, we’ll look at diversity vs inclusion, the difference between the two, how D&I leads to organizational success and 7 examples of diversity and inclusion activities in the workplace. Here goes!
Diversity vs Inclusion: What’s the difference?
If we want to understand the difference between diversity and inclusion, we need to define both terms first.
Diversity in the workplace refers to a workforce that’s made up of people from, among other things, different ages, cultural backgrounds, geographies, physical abilities and disabilities, religions, genders, and sexual orientation.
True workforce diversity, however, goes beyond these (social) categories. It includes all the elements that make individual employees unique from one another; their perspectives, preferences, characteristics, even their biases.
According to SHRM, inclusion can be defined as the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and contribute fully to the organization’s success.
So then, when we talk about diversity vs. inclusion, what’s the difference? Put simply, diversity is about the what – it focuses on the makeup of your workforce.
Inclusion, on the other hand, is about the how – the creation of a work environment and culture that enables all employees to participate and thrive.
How inclusion and diversity lead to organizational success
Separate concepts or not, diversity and inclusion do go hand in hand. After all, you can increase your diversity hiring efforts in order to reach your workforce diversity goals all you like, if you don’t have a culture that ensures everyone feels welcome, you might as well save yourself the trouble.
Let’s take a look at the various ways in which inclusion and diversity lead to organizational success.
Better financial returns
According to a 2015 McKinsey report called Diversity Matters, companies in the top quartile for both racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns that exceed their national industry medians. For companies in the top quartile for gender diversity this is 15%.
D&I drives innovation
Various research studies show that there is a relationship between diversity and innovation. A diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds is essential for innovation and the development of new ideas.
A study by Harvard Business Review found that companies with an above-average total diversity (meaning migration, industry, career path, gender, education and age diversity), had 19% higher innovation revenues and 9% higher EBIT margins.
In its 2018 report, The Diversity and Inclusion Revolution, Deloitte found that organizations with inclusive cultures were, among other things, six times more likely to be innovative and agile: they see more angles on potential problems, imagine smarter and multi-faceted solutions and spot the biases in what they’re creating.
In an inclusive workplace, all employees can find senior people in the organization who will endorse their ideas and convince those in charge of budgets to use resources in order to develop those ideas. In non (or less) inclusive organizations, this is a lot harder for minorities such as women, people of color and LGBTs – which means that those organizations lose out on a lot of potentially great innovative ideas and market opportunities.
Attracting and retaining talent
Organizations that embrace diversity hiring benefit from a larger talent pool than those who don’t. Their vacancies will gain interest from a wider range of candidates because more people with different backgrounds can relate to the organization.
The same thing goes for retaining talent. Employees who feel that they are accepted and appreciated for who they are – no matter what their gender, age, perspectives or sexual orientation, are happier and thus less likely to leave.
Along the same lines, companies that focus on D&I initiatives to make employees feel more welcome tend to have a workforce that is more satisfied too.
Better performance and greater productivity
According to an executive briefing by the Society for Human Resources, research shows that generational diversity can improve organizational performance. It also shows that HR practices that improve the age diversity climate in a company can potentially further improve that performance.
According to the same briefing, both older and younger workers are more productive in companies with mixed-age work teams.
7 Examples of diversity and inclusion activities in the workplace
Alright, we’ve identified what the difference is between diversity and inclusion and how D&I lead to organizational success. Let’s now have a look at 7 examples of easy to implement diversity and inclusion activities that celebrate employee differences.
Each of these activities shows that when it comes to diversity vs inclusion, the latter is necessary to make the former work.
1. The Respect Discussion
A simple yet important one to start with. The idea is for employees to walk up to one of their colleagues, preferably someone they don’t usually interact with, and introduce themselves. Once the introductions are made, they talk about what respect means to them, how they define it and give examples of how this can be demonstrated in the workplace.
Once this conversation is finished, the group gets back together and the various examples of respect are shared with the entire group and discussed. The goal of this exercise is twofold: to contemplate about the concept of respect from different points of view and to think about how others might view a person’s actions through the prism of their own, unique experiences.
The Respect Discussion is a fantastic way to make your employees really think about the manner in which they interact with each other.
What better way to unite people and celebrate diversity than with food, right? Organize a breakfast, pick-nick, lunch, 4 o’clock snack or what have you where employees bring in (homemade) dishes from or inspired by their culture and heritage.
Not only does this kind of activity offer a great opportunity to taste all kinds of delicious food, but it also gives employees a chance to share and connect on a different level.
3. Money in the jar
If you’re familiar with the concept of a swear jar you’ll know what’s next. The money in the jar idea can take various shapes. It can be used to encourage a gender-neutral language for better diversity and inclusion in the workplace for example.
A word like ‘guys’, for instance, can make female employees feel excluded and, by extension, unhappy. By making everyone who uses the word guys in a wrong context put a Dollar (or any other kind of amount and/or currency) in the jar, this increases people’s awareness against using gendered words at work.
4. The Paper Basket Exercise
Rather than giving you a lengthy explanation of this game I suggest you watch the below video.
The overall idea of this exercise is to show how privilege works and how a team of individual contributors can still support and help each other if they want to; it shows that inclusive actions can help a team to do more.
5. Step Apart, Step Together
This diversity and inclusion activity aims to show employees how similarities can (literally) bring people back together, no matter how different they might be. It works as follows.
You’ll need two volunteers who will stand in front of the group, facing each other. The rest of the group will then name things that might indicate that one person is different from the other.
Think of their hair color, where they’re from, the shoes they wear, religion, etc. When there’s a difference between the two volunteers, they take a step away from each other. When, on the other hand, they’ve got something in common, they step back together.
Put simply: no matter how different we are, there’s always a common ground for us to meet on.
6. The Diversity Calendar
This one makes complete sense from a D&I perspective. After all, keeping track of and celebrating only the ‘standard’ holidays won’t make all of your employees feel like they’re part of the family.
On top of that, a diversity calendar – and the celebration of multicultural holidays – is a great way to create awareness.
7. I am… But I am not
This is another simple yet effective diversity game. You can either hand out a piece of paper to each person in the group, or you can do a verbal-only version. Every participant fills in the phrase ‘I am… but I am not….’
For instance: “I’m over 60 but I am not counting the days until my retirement.” The goal of this D&I activity is, as you may have guessed, to get rid of stereotypes and bias among employees.
On a final note
And that’s a wrap! When it comes to diversity vs inclusion, we now know that the latter is crucial if you want the former to work. We also know that organizations that manage to make their D&I efforts work benefit from better financial results, a higher degree of innovation and improved employee retention. Of course, building an inclusive culture is not something that can be done overnight. The 7 examples of D&I activities in the workplace we listed, however, can be a valuable tool to use along the way.
Put simply, diversity is about the what – it focuses on the makeup of your workforce. Inclusion, on the other hand, is about the how – the creation of a work environment and culture that enables all employees to participate and thrive.
Truly diverse and inclusive organizations tend to have better financial results, be more innovative and agile, attract a more diverse pool of candidates, have happier employees who are less likely to leave, and show better organizational performance and productivity.
Organizations with inclusive cultures see more angles on potential problems, imagine smarter and multi-faceted solutions and spot the biases in what they’re creating. Also, in an inclusive workplace, all employees can find senior people in the organization who will endorse their ideas and convince those in charge of budgets to use resources in order to develop those ideas.
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