The Difference Between Diversity and Inclusion [And Why it Matters]
You hear about diversity and inclusion a lot these days.
But they’re not just buzzwords—they’re important concepts that are shaping the workplace.
A 2020 diversity hiring study revealed that 76% of job seekers consider a diverse workforce an important factor when considering employment opportunities, and more than 50% want their employers to do more to prioritize it.
But diversity and inclusion are two very different things.
Here we’ll explore the definitions of each and how your organization can—and should—work towards inclusion for all employees.
Diversity vs. Inclusion: What’s the Difference?
The simplest way to distinguish between diversity and inclusion is this:
- Diversity is a fact: A diverse workplace is simply a fact about the type of people who work there and their different identities. It can be based on demographics such as gender, race, age, religion, physical ability, or socioeconomic status.
- Inclusion is a feeling: An inclusive workplace is broader—it’s how someone feels while working there. To feel like you’re included is to feel like you belong, matter, and are valued.
Diversity can be used as a measurement. For example, if you have five employees and one of each is in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, you’d consider it a diverse group.
But how each person feels while working there is another story. Despite this age diversity, the 20 or 30-year-old employee may feel like the organization values their older colleagues’ opinions over theirs.
Many organizations use diversity almost like a checkbox—a stamp of approval that they are prioritizing employees from different backgrounds and demographics.
But that doesn’t guarantee each person feels like they belong.
And, for this reason, diversity isn’t the goal. It’s simply a prerequisite to what really matters: inclusion and belonging.
Why You Need to Prioritize Safe and Inclusive Workplaces
As a precursor to inclusion, diversity still matters. A lot of data backs this up:
- Gender-diverse executive teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability (2019 study).
- Top-quartile companies in relation to ethnic and cultural companies (i.e., the most diverse) outperformed first-quartile ones by 36% (2019 study).
- Companies with above-average diversity scores had 45% of their revenue come from innovation, compared to 26% for below-average diversity-scoring companies (2017 study).
- 76% of job seekers and employees report that a diverse workforce is an important factor when considering job opportunities (2020 study).
With this, we see that diversity has a strong impact on overall company performance, innovation, and employee attraction.
At Co-Balt we can see first-hand how beneficial diversity is to an organization, workspace, or community.
We’re proud of the safe and inclusive environment we’ve built where professionals can form a close-knit community with each other and within the broader city.
We focus on thinking hyperlocal by supporting Baltimore-based businesses and offering locally-made products in our workspace. Hampden, specifically, is a very diverse neighborhood and the deep-rooted sense of community is one of the best things about working in Hampden.
You’re welcome to contact us directly if you want to know more about our commitment to a safe and inclusive environment.
All of these benefits of diversity lay an important groundwork for success, but it’s not enough to stop there.
While a diverse workplace may attract employees, an inclusive one keeps them. Data illustrates this as well:
- 47% of Black and 49% of Hispanic employees have quit a job after witnessing or experiencing discrimination at work (2020 study).
- Based on an analysis of employee reviews, results showed that overall sentiment on diversity was 52% positive, but only 29% positive on inclusion (2019 study).
- Lack of a sense of belonging, a feature of inclusion, was among the top three reasons employees cited for quitting their organizations (2021 study).
All of this, plus the fact that Millennials and Generation Z are the most diverse generations in history, means that inclusion must be central to any company’s employee attraction and retention strategy.
5 Tips for Fostering Inclusion at Work
1. Celebrate Differences
Inclusion isn’t about trying to make everyone the same, it’s about accepting and celebrating our differences and similarities.
There are a few ways you can do this in the workplace:
- Celebrate or recognize important cultural holidays and celebrations for everyone in your organization
- Offer non-gendered washrooms
- Have a room for prayer, meditation, or other purposes
- Take personality quizzes (i.e., Myers Briggs, Enneagram, or StrengthsQuest) to learn about how people work and think differently
2. Embrace Education and Learning
Inclusion isn’t somewhere to arrive, but an ongoing journey.
Leaders and managers, in particular, need to educate themselves and prioritize professional development around inclusive communication, inequality and injustice in the workplace, and cultural sensitivity.
Here are some ways to do it:
- Offer training or seminars to leaders or employees
- Create a resource library that’s available to everyone
- Host a workshop with your team led by a DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) facilitator
- Develop a mentorship program between colleagues
3. Prioritize Open Communication
Open communication is essential to developing a safe and inclusive workplace. Without the ability to share honestly and authentically, employees may feel like they aren’t being heard or aren’t allowed to speak up.
You can foster open communication through these methods:
- Regular employee check-ins to build trust and offer support
- Anonymous employee feedback surveys
- Formalized HR policies that follow-up on concerns and complaints
- Modeled authenticity and openness from leaders and managers
4. Be Transparent
Prospective and current employees alike want to know: will I be treated fairly here?
One key way to ensure they will be is through transparency. You can do this by publishing or making available data on salaries, employee feedback, corporate policies, and more.
When a prospective employee visits your website, will they understand what you stand for?
If a current employee opens a conversation about their salary, are they given clear and direct answers?
Transparency is important because it shows you have nothing to hide, which builds trust and fosters inclusion.
5. Document Your Workplace Safety Policy
Inclusion shouldn’t just be a stated value, but a documented one. Leaders can “talk the talk,” but formalized policies and procedures will help keep them accountable to “walking the walk.”
Your workplace safety policy should include:
- Detailed information about initiatives and steps that support inclusivity
- Targets, goals, and timelines—as needed—for new project implementation (i.e., launching a mentorship program)
- Expectations for communication between all team members
- Information on how to report harassment, discrimination, etc., plus steps HR or leadership will take to address it
When documenting your workplace safety policy, you may consider consulting directly with your team members. They can provide information on what they expect and hope from working at your organization.
Formal and documented policies are an effective accountability mechanism for organizations that truly desire change.
Diversity and inclusion aren’t the same, though they are both important. And to foster employee engagement and retention while boosting business outcomes, you need to make them a priority in your organization today.
If you’re a small business owner or independent professional and you’re in search of an inclusive work environment for yourself or your team, book a tour of Co-Balt today.