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HR Administration | 5 min read

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Part IV: The Case for Inclusion

If you’ve ever done any group training or teambuilding exercises, you’ve likely been exposed to the benefits that come with working with a diverse team. The presentation varies, but you’re usually asked to participate in a decision-making exercise, first on your own, then as a group. As you can probably guess, the group almost always comes up with a better approach to solving the problem. Why is this?

When you have a diverse group working together to solve a common problem, the various group members bring a wider range of work and personal experiences to the table. This means the group can offer far more insights than any one person.

Individual group members also bring a wider range of talents and strengths with them to solve the problem. Some people are inventive problem solvers; some are analytical and are able to find the most efficient way to execute a plan; some are great collaborators; others are great communicators who energize the group and can draw others to contribute. As a result, groups tend to be more creative, do a better job problem solving, and make better overall decisions. That’s a key message about diversity. It pays off, both at a team level and at an organizational level.

Check out more posts in our diversity and inclusion series:

Data on Diversity

In a recent study by McKinsey & Company, researchers surveyed data from over 1,000 companies across

12 countries and found the following correlations between workplace diversity, profitability, and value creation:

  • Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation.

  • For ethnic/cultural diversity, top-quartile companies were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability.

  • Companies with the most ethnically/culturally diverse boards worldwide are 43% more likely to experience higher profits.

  • Overall, companies in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnic/cultural diversity were 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability.

According to ScienceDaily, a study by Cedric Herring from the University of Illinois found workplace diversity to be among the most important predictors of a business' sales revenue, customer numbers, and profitability. The study found:

  • Companies reporting the highest levels of racial diversity brought in nearly 15 times more sales revenue on average than those with the lowest levels of racial diversity.

  • Gender diversity accounted for a difference of nearly 600 million dollars in average sales.

  • And companies with high diversity levels reported an average of more than 15,000 additional customers.

The Value of Inclusivity

To successfully incorporate more diversity into your organization, the act of exclusion needs to be removed from the workplace. Inclusivity is a good thing, as the research above demonstrates. The better you are at bringing a variety of voices to the decision-making table, the more competitive your organization will be. Here are some steps you can take to promote diversity and inclusion in your workplace:

1. Understand the Need for Inclusion

All people have a fundamental need for inclusion and belonging, and that’s particularly true of anyone in the minority. High levels of inclusion drive many different performance measures, such as reduced turnover or higher team engagement. When people feel included, they’re more likely to share information and participate in team activities.

2. Guard Against Groupthink

According to MindTools, “Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when the desire for group consensus overrides people's common sense desire to present alternatives, critique a position, or express an unpopular opinion.”

The first step to avoiding falling into this way of thinking is to recognize that people tend to form groups with other people like themselves. When this finds its way into the hiring and promotion process, it sends the organization down a path of sameness. However, the best team includes people of all types.

This means you need to be on the lookout for people who are not like you for precisely that reason. You want teammates and subordinates who compliment your team’s talents, not duplicate them. You want to work with others who cancel out your weaknesses, not reinforce them. That means being open and inclusive to diversity not only in terms of race, gender, and age, but also talents, perspective, experience, and expertise.

3. Be on the Lookout for Discrimination

Discrimination can be very subtle. Newcomers or outsiders can be excluded from important meetings, left out of decision-making teams, passed over for challenging or interesting projects, or evaluated according to higher standards. All this leads to more exclusion.

If you’re in the majority, recognize that there may be unintended forms of discrimination that you’re not aware of. People tend to favor those they have a relationship with. As any new hire knows, it can be difficult to break into existing office cliques.

Institute a personal policy of zero tolerance for prejudice and stereotyping. Speak out against even small acts of discrimination or harassment. Offensive jokes, gestures, or comments; derogatory terms; supposedly funny emails—there is no room for any of this in the workplace.

Efforts around diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging should be a top priority for organizations if they want to be cutting edge, profitable, and efficient. These efforts can hart with open dialogue and educational efforts around these topics. When we all focus on getting the best out of others, it makes us all better.

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