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Diversity was the number one priority for employers in 2018, but are we forgetting about inclusion? We argue that without an inclusive culture your diversity efforts will be futile.  

In light of National Inclusion Week,  we conducted our own research to address the diversity efforts by businesses today. Our report, Mind the Gap: Could apprenticeships hold the answer to the diversity crisis? discusses how apprenticeships are the not so hidden secret to diversify your organisation.

While the two terms are often lumped together, diversity and inclusion are very different. Diversity is “the full spectrum of human demographic differences — race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status or physical disability”; with a diverse workforce reflecting that.  

Inclusion is a culture that creates a sense of belonging where people from all backgrounds feel comfortable. Without it, businesses won’t retain a truly diverse workforce. 

Inclusion is a top priority at executive-level and data shows it has a positive effect on the satisfaction of the wider workforce too. But what do businesses need to do to successfully achieve both diversity and inclusion?

There’s no diversity without inclusion

When companies view diversity and inclusion as the same, they won’t achieve either one very well.

Businesses that neglect inclusion and focus primarily on diversity won’t get the results they’re looking for. A diversity recruitment drive will be meaningless if a toxic work culture pushes new hires out within a year, whereas inclusive talent practices can generate up to 30% higher revenue per employee. 

A work environment that isn’t inclusive will not only make your diversity efforts redundant but will also negatively impact your employee turnover, engagement and satisfaction rates.

Become a truly inclusive business and diversity will be woven into everything you do. 

Where to start

What’s your culture now?

Your first step is understanding how inclusive your business is today. 

Engage with your existing employees and understand what your work culture is. Hear from workers from a variety of backgrounds, at different career stages, to get an accurate portrayal of your workplace.

It’s especially important to hear from the members of underrepresented groups; their experience is often quite different. Non-minorities can automatically feel ‘included’ and might not be aware of exclusionary behaviour happening. It will often be those from minority groups who end up feeling left out. 

Where does it need to improve?

Open, honest communication is important to an inclusive workplace. 

All employees need to be made to feel comfortable to speak up, without risk of embarrassment or disregard. Make it easy for workers to get in touch with HR and ensure HR are equipped to provide support for the issues that underrepresented groups face.

Encourage employees to connect and support each other too. Think about mentorships, buddying systems and sponsorships. Sponsorships have a huge impact and can raise a protege’s visibility. In fact, men and women with sponsors are 24% happier with their rate of advancement when compared to those without. 

Networks and groups developed by employees aren’t just a source of support for existing staff, they’ll attract new applicants to your roles too. 

But there’s only so much HR can do

HR need the support of the c-suite for real impact to be made. Leadership must prioritise inclusivity; they have to be held accountable in making it happen. 

Diversifying your board and executive committee will ensure an assortment of thought while avoiding groupthink. Having a c-suite that accurately reflects your clients, customers and society, will lead to better decision making. Your workforce wants it too; 95% agreed that their boards need to seek more candidates with diverse skills and perspectives.

However, c-suite need to do more than just hire diverse board members. Leaders need to ensure that diversity and inclusion are reflected throughout the business, from recruitment to marketing practices. 

Without c-suite sponsorship, true diversity and inclusion cannot be achieved. 

Scrap D&I, it’s I&D now

Some businesses have gone as far as swapping D&I to I&D to emphasise their focus on inclusion. It may just be semantics, but their goal is right. Businesses cannot achieve diversity without an inclusive culture.

At AVADO, we support employers to build an inclusive culture by providing all staff, regardless of their background, with the opportunity to up-skill themselves. From entry-level young people to experienced career changers, AVADO’s products support people to climb the career ladder faster.

Find out how AVADO could help your employees unlock their potential and take a look at our courses and apprenticeships available. 

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Nilesh Jha