It hadn’t occurred to me that Diversity and Inclusion could be a sensitive subject until I read a recent report suggesting that many organisations still haven’t got their heads around the obvious benefits. Although we may not have called it D&I 20 years ago, having a genuinely inclusive environment is a natural and normal way for us to operate as a business.

For sure there is legislation that places responsibility on employers in areas such as age, disability, gender, race, religion, belief and sexual orientation. But to slavishly stick to the minimum requirements of the legislation is to miss the real opportunities of an inclusive workplace.  On a personal level it has been a pleasure and massive privilege to work and interact with a diverse range of people. Even when I might not have agreed with them, I’ve always learned something. Different views, experiences and perspectives in the teams I have worked with have made a major contribution to generating new and often innovative ideas.

From a recruitment perspective, don’t underestimate the importance an enlightened D&I environment. Many of the best candidates we see are keen to know about an organisations approach to D&I and it definitely features as part of their decision making.

Defining D&I

There’s the legal definition of course but to reap the full benefits you need to go beyond simple compliance. Fundamentally D&I is about the broad mix of people in your team and inclusion is how you involve them so that everyone is given the opportunity to make a positive contribution.

To be genuinely inclusive means recognising and then setting aside conscious and unconscious bias.  Avoiding assumptions based on differences starts with the example set by management- and starts from the moment a job role is being defined in the recruitment process. Assumptions can lead to discrimination – bad news legally but even worse for individuals and for the business.

The benefits

Taking positive steps to avoid any type of discrimination can lead to real benefits.

Diversity in the workplace can provide:

•  Increased retention and lower employee turnover.
•  Reducing recruitment costs.
•  Greater innovation.
•  Greater employee engagement leading to higher discretionary effort from employees.
•  Increased staff loyalty.
•  Higher staff morale.

Valuing differences

Inclusion is about ensuring everyone feels valued, respected and supported.  It’s about focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve their full potential.

When we talk about a culture of inclusion, we think about an environment that allows people with multiple backgrounds, mind-sets and ways of thinking to work effectively together and perform to their highest potential in order to achieve organizational objectives. In that type of environment, different voices are respected and heard, diverse viewpoints, perspectives and approaches are valued and everyone is encouraged to make a unique and meaningful contribution.

It starts at the top

The culture of a business is heavily influenced by the support from senior management.  Senior managers should lead from the front to support diversity and inclusion best practices. Workplace diversity initiatives need to receive proactive encouragement from the top, and they should support the ongoing commitment from other people within the workplace.