Diversity In The workforce—Why It's Important To Make Progress

Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice. Therefore, making that choice makes all the difference and can improve the bottom line for organisations, position them as unique and lead to innovation breakthroughs.


The work on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is vastly expanding, as organizations are leaning in to address the most important issues of our time. But there's no playbook in the practice of DEI. It is a continuous journey of learning, accepting and realizing the value of having people with diverse identities align and grow alongside each other. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices have a multiplier effect on teams and businesses embracing diversity. A notable change is seen when people can be their true selves at work, which naturally makes them energised and productive. The outcome is a work environment of continuous innovation, churning out intelligent products and services for customers—making them the biggest beneficiary.  

It's well known that the unprecedented competition for talent has put a lot of pressure on organizations to do the right thing. There's growing evidence that embracing diversity—in all its senses—is key to ensuring inclusivity. People want to be engaged, valued and heard. A study by Citrix observes that people want to work for organizations that prioritize diversity. It cites that 86% of employees emphasize a diverse workforce will become more important as roles and requirements change. 

Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice. Therefore, making that choice makes all the difference and can improve the bottom line for organisations, position them as unique and lead to innovation breakthroughs. 

Take a hard look at people experiences 

The key to understanding the degrees of inclusion in a workplace—is the people. When people are brought together in groups, they bring different perspectives and experiences to the table, collaborate, and share information with each other as means of collective growth. This makes obvious sense when we talk about diversity across disciplines, but do they feel valued and appreciated? Can they express views without facing barriers? In other words, is the culture inclusive? 

Those questions can only be answered when organizations make a conscious effort to assess how people feel—encouraged, empowered, engaged—or alone, unheard and unproductive. Getting employee views through multiple channels and understanding their sentiment is crucial and important. Then, it is only a matter of time before identifying the root cause behind what they feel, assess areas of improvement and build an array of equitable practices and experiences. 

Having dedicated networks is one of the best known mechanisms to foster an employee-driven culture and patrol unconscious biases in the workplace. They can often lead to meaningful changes, shaping experiences through multifaceted engagements, awareness, allyship and mentorship—as people—individually and collectively aspire to be nurtured. What’s more is that, in these networks, when people come together as change agents they build empathy and personal connections through shared experiences, which is often key to a cultural breakthrough. Time and again, allies enrich organizations because they sustain the practice of inclusion for the long haul, influence and become role model champions that others draw inspiration from. It's the magical network effect!

Lean in to drive high-impact value

When organizations become more cognizant of the fact that having a narrow focus on execution matters most, with a higher say-do ratio—half the battle is won. Demonstrating progress builds confidence and  sets the motion to attract, retain and advance diverse top talent.

Diversity enhances creativity. Being around people with diverse individual expertise makes us more diligent and better at solving complex problems. It encourages us to look for novel information and perspectives, according to decades of research by organizational scientists. Emphasizing on that fact, research shows that diverse organizations have nearly 20% higher revenue coming from innovation; 45% are more likely to improve their market share; and 70% can potentially capture a new market. And so, organizations cannot afford to lag. 

A sustained focus on pay equity will position organizations as equal opportunity employers and maintain a safe space. People want to work with organizations that are committed to a larger cause and have a visible impact on what they believe in. A wide spectrum of employees are most likely to connect with organizations when they deliver true to life examples of community engagement and align values with inclusion efforts. As an example, tracking women in technical roles and underrepresented minorities in the workforce, can help to set specific representation goals.

Dialogue of inclusion is an ideal 

Organizations despite size and influence, should keep the channels of communication open to fully realize their commitment toward DEI. Introducing a myriad of leadership op-mechs and live town halls into the system can facilitate transparent dialogues between leaders and employees on top of mind topics. That is where learning stems from—even for leadership—opening up wide opportunities to understand the nuances of diversity and promote inclusion. Investing in training and building leadership awareness and capabilities will pave the way for meaningful conversations. 

Many leaders have different ways of role modeling diversity. However, the value comes through when organizations foster open collaboration between the talent force and leadership. There is nothing more powerful than leaders discussing their diversity learnings with their teams, cascading accountability to everyone who is part of the journey—making real progress as an organization. This sets the stage for strategic reinforcement: In such contexts, championing diversity will be valued and successfully achieved. 

(The views expressed in the authored piece have been curated solely for BW People publication, by Jharna Thammaiah, Director and India Site People & Places Leader, Intuit)

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