Diversity is overrated. Inclusion is what matters.
Both are important topics that go hand-in-hand when companies discuss their efforts to increase representation in their ranks, both are important for organizational success, and one cannot exist without the other. In essence, they are two different – albeit interrelated – concepts.
Diversity is defined as a workforce or organization made up of people from different cultural backgrounds, geographies, physical abilities and disabilities, religions, genders, and sexual orientation, among other things. Taking diversity a step further, it can be defined as the individual qualities that make each member of a workforce or organization unique, including their preferences, perspectives, characteristics, politics, and their biases.
In the long term, however, to have a workplace that truly values and retains its employees, inclusion is what really matters. Diversity is the what – the actual make-up of an organization, but inclusion is the how – how employers make employees feel valued, trusted, authentic, and psychologically safe, while also allowing them to hold different viewpoints and opinions and not being penalized for them. Inclusion is crucial because it forces organizations to take a hard look in the mirror and understand that in order to truly succeed as an organization, an inclusive workplace is essential. In other words, to throw a successful dance, inviting everyone to the dance isn’t enough. The people invited need to be asked to dance. They need to want to dance, and have fun and feel comfortable doing so.
An inclusive workplace is one that allows, enables, and empowers all employees to participate and thrive, while workplace diversity has many organizational benefits, including increased productivity and better creative problem solving. Furthermore, employers that have strong “diversity climates” have a larger talent pool to choose from and a workforce that is more satisfied and committed to the company. When employees feel included and that their employers support diversity, they report feeling more trust and increased engagement at work.
When thinking about organizational diversity goals, it’s important to avoid the mindset that hiring a certain number of a certain type of employee is enough. It’s not – but cultivating an inclusive workplace is.
Ultimately, inclusion is what will set you apart as an employer because it sends the message that the voices of all your employees are valued and are crucial to your company’s success.