Diversity and Inclusion – just fluff?


It still surprises me that I often still hear people express the opinion, whether overt or non-overt, that diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts are simply a nice, fluffy thing to do, or to comply with legislation. From my experience, what’s perhaps more shocking is that such statements are often made by senior leaders in prominent organisations.

However, there’s so much research that proves that D&I efforts, done properly, can actually make a real difference to the bottom line of your business.

Firstly, let’s start with inclusion, because that’s the core catalyst to everything else I’m about to tell you. We’ll come back to diversity later on.

Inclusion is when each and every employee feels that their uniqueness is valued and that they belong.

There’s no point in trying to achieve diversity if you don’t first start with inclusion. You can also read about the difference between inclusion and diversity here.

So starting with inclusion..


Inclusion leads to engagement

An inclusive culture leads to more engaged staff. More engaged staff means that your customers are more engaged. We recently interviewed Sophie, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Asia Pacific, Japan and Chine at Dell, who explained to us that at Dell they have drawn direct correlations between staff engagement and the levels of customer engagement. And it’s not just Dell, Deloitte found that if just 10% more employees feel included, the company will increase work attendance by almost one day per year per employee.


Inclusion leads to diversity

Here’s an example: your company wants to achieve a 50/50 gender split, at the moment it’s around 70% men. Hiring more women will not solve this issue. Why? Are there support initiatives in place to make these women stay? If you don’t have an inclusive culture, you won’t be able to retain these women you’ve hired – they’ll leave, and you’ll be back at square one.


Inclusion leads to collaboration

When you have an inclusive culture, employees share information freely with each other. There’s no desire to hoard information and power to themselves. The benefits of collaboration include a stronger united voice, mutual support and respect amongst employee, success can be replicated, new starters can get up to speed quicker, and the list goes on.

University of Michigan professors calculated a 30% error rate when problems are solved via the application of one dominant approach against a 100% accuracy rate when five different approaches are applied.


Inclusion leads to innovation

Following on from my last point, with a collaborative team who are sharing information freely with each other, comes the really exciting part – innovation. Diversify your company’s offering, satisfy customer needs, streamline processes, become more efficient, gain the competitive advantage, and make more profit. Do I need to go on?

When employees feel like their uniqueness is valued, they are able to express themselves and bring their new and innovative ideas to the table. They are encouraged to have constructive conflict, and disagreeing with their peers and superiors is okay.

And the research to back this up? The Centre for Talent Innovation found that inclusive organisations are 70% more likely to have captured a new market in the last 12 months.


Inclusion leads to psychological safety

Employees who work in a team where they feel that they can speak up without being embarrassed, rejected, or punished, are the ones that succeed. Read our previous article about what psychological safety is and how to implement it into your workplace.


Inclusion leads to productivity

With employees no longer needing to focus their energy on ‘fitting in’, they can focus fully on the task at hand, and doing their job well. With increased productivity, your company makes more profit without increasing costs.

Opportunity Now and Shapiro Consulting found that moving from diversity to inclusion can have a multiplier effect on the workplace; Employees who’ve worked with an inclusive leader experience an 81% increase in productivity and performance.

Neurological research compiled by David Rock and others also shows that our most productive, innovative, and collaborative times at work happen when we feel like we are a part of the team. When we feel included and respected, our bodies create hormones and healthy energy that raises our performance at work.

Lastly, for those of you who are wondering about the direct impact on your sales and profits: McKat et al. (2008) reported that employees in inclusive teams generate larger sales in stores, with an annual sales gain of $27,000 per employee.

So there you have it, D&I, or inclusion more broadly, is absolutely not just a fluffy nice thing to do, when done properly it makes a real difference to your organisation.


When I say ‘done properly’ I mean embedding change with the longevity required to create new habits that stick, which results in a truly inclusive internal culture. By embedding inclusive knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours, you ultimately engage the hearts and minds of your leaders, which results in real business outcomes.

We’re excited to have just launched our new and improved Courage: Inclusive Leadership in Action program! It has been designed around core adult learning principles, microlearning bites, and an interactive new design.

The program guides leaders on inclusive leadership concepts and frameworks, and challenges them to undertake experiments and to TAKE ACTION!

By the end of the program, the leaders will be empowered to create and sustain an inclusive culture, leading to increased diversity, productivity, innovation, engagement, and collaboration. This culture then cascades throughout the whole organisation.

You can request a quick and free demo of Courage: Inclusive Leadership in Action program here.

And finally, to celebrate the launch, we are also giving away 10% off emberin programs for orders signed off by 22nd December 2017!*

• For any orders signed off by 22nd December 2017 save 10% off our programs per person. Minimum purchase of 20 online licences. Offer applies to Courage: Inclusive Leadership in Action and my mentor: Courageous Woman programs only.

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