Diversity vs Inclusion in the Workplace: What’s the Difference

Diversity and inclusion have become the buzzwords in the current corporate world. Companies are welcoming individuals from different walks of life and are striving to create a culture where each individual feels a sense of belongingness. Diversity and inclusion are crucial not just from an ethical standpoint, but also as a facilitator for business growth and success. 

Although the terms are used interchangeably, diversity and inclusion are two closely related but different concepts. Diversity without inclusivity can become futile, or worse, lead to organizational chaos. Also, inclusion without diversity cannot foster creativity and innovation. Hence, building diversity and inclusion in your workplace is quintessential for an organization.

Also read: Continuous Feedback: What is it and its benefits

Let us have a discussion on diversity vs. inclusion to understand their differences and how they contribute to organizational success. 

What is diversity in the workplace? 

Diversity refers to a wide spectrum of characteristics that shape an individual’s identity. These differences can be attributes like gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, familiar background, education, age, etc. 

Diversity in organizations refers to a unique mix of people from diverse groups that constitutes an organization. It is about the representation and overall makeup of the entity. 

Diversity in the workplace can be segregated into four categories.

Internal diversity 

This includes different factors that a person belongs to or inherits from birth. They cannot be changed or modified. Some of these factors include nationality, race, age, culture, gender, etc. 

External diversity 

External diversity refers to characteristics that an individual acquires externally and that become an integral part of their identity. These factors can be modified by a person.

Examples of external diversity factors include educational qualification, skill set, geographical location, citizenship, marital status, etc. 

Organizational diversity 

These differences are specific to the workplace as they occur within the organization. Factors for organizational diversity include department, seniority, managerial level, work location, job responsibilities, etc. 

Also read: Why do workplace goals fail?

World view diversity 

Every individual has a unique perspective and point of view. Numerous internal, external, and organizational diversity factors shape our worldview. World view diversity changes with time as different factors and experiences shape our outlook on the world. Factors of worldview diversity include political beliefs, ethics, opinions, etc.

What is inclusion at the workplace? 

According to SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) ‘Inclusion’ refers to creating a fair and impartial work environment where each individual is allowed equal access to opportunities and resources to help them achieve their true potential and contribute to organizational success.

Hence, inclusion in the workplace helps create a sense of belongingness for individuals from diverse groups. It creates a unique culture where people feel that their presence, contribution, potential, ideas, and opinions are welcomed, heard, valued, and respected. 

Inclusion is the glue that holds a diverse workforce together and boosts innovation, cooperation, engagement, and productivity. 

What is the difference between diversity and inclusion? 

Diversity vs Inclusion in the workplace is a highly debatable topic. As we discussed earlier, there is a close interconnection between the two. However, an organization needs to understand the differences between these concepts to create a positive work environment.

Diversity vs Inclusion in the workplace: The Difference

  1. Diversity is the unique mix of people belonging to different groups having diverse attributes like race, social background, ethnicity, nationality, gender, etc. Inclusion is a set of policies, initiatives, and behaviour to create an organizational environment that provides these diverse individuals with a sense of belongingness.
  2. The recruitment process in an entity ensures representation by welcoming people from different groups into an organization. Hence, diversity is primarily a Human resource function. It aims at eliminating any biases in the hiring process and creating a culture where people are chosen based solely on their skills and experiences. Having a heterogeneous population to choose from ensures that you recruit the best talent.

On the contrary, inclusion needs to be observed at all levels of management. It ensures that diversity works in an organization to foster creativity and productivity. It eliminates biases in organizational functioning. When people are represented at each managerial level and department, they feel safe and included. 

Hence, for diversity to reap the desired benefits, it needs to be accompanied by inclusion. 

How can you improve diversity and inclusion in workplaces? 

Ensuring diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a crucial task that requires effective and consistent efforts. The human resource recruitment and administrative policies should be designed in a way so that every individual irrespective of who they are and what they do feels welcomed and included. 

Hence, it is not enough to hire a diverse workforce. It is also essential that people feel represented at all levels. For example, a company could hire a certain percentage of a minority group as employees. However, if none of the members of the said group are included in leadership roles, the people may not feel adequately represented. Hence, inclusion needs to be followed at all levels in the organization. 

Let us look at a few ways to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Recruitment from diverse groups

The whole discussion about diversity vs Inclusion begins with the recruitment process. Hiring individuals from different groups helps in incorporating diversity into the organization. Also, it provides you with a larger talent pool to choose from. 

According to McKinsey, companies with a gender-diverse workforce are 21% more likely to achieve above-average profitability. The people from different walks of life bring a fresh perspective to the organization and encourage innovation. 

Honour religious and cultural practices

The company policies should be formulated to honor different religious practices and cultures. Focus and give priority to holidays and celebrations. For example, observing women’s day or pride month in the office can make the employees feel a sense of belongingness. 

Also, having floating holidays for minority group festivals helps accommodate the preferences of all groups. Boosting employee engagement in the workplace also increases employee retention and morale.

Anti-discriminatory policies

Stop or prevent biases against individuals based on their gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc. As per an article in Harvard Business Review, 75% of people believed that a significant and real difference cannot be created with superficial policies and language. 

Hence, there is a requirement for clearly stated anti-discriminatory policies. Also, the top leadership should formulate policies based on the specific needs of the entity and should commit to their proper execution. 

Also read: A New Manager’s Guide To Employee Performance Reviews

Set up a council 

An independent council maintaining diversity and inclusivity in the workplace can ensure that people feel safe and welcomed. The council should include members from different socio-economic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. 

Also, there should be representatives from different genders, geographic locations, and sexual orientations. This will ensure that all voices and opinions are heard and respected. Also, personal biases against people from a particular group can be identified and eliminated. 

Elimination of bias in the evaluation

The Human Resource team should strive to eliminate prejudices and partiality in evaluation and promotion. Sometimes, the professionals may suffer from subconscious biases that restrict them from conducting a fair recruitment, evaluation, and promotion. 

A blind system of reviewing resumes can ensure that individuals are chosen based on their merits and not their age, sex, religion, or other such factors. Also, the job description for higher positions should be rewritten to make them more inclusive and gender-neutral. 

Also read: 4 Ways To Prevent Rater Bias In Performance Reviews

Encourage one-on-one discussion

To understand the challenges and opinions of your employees, you need to encourage one-on-one discussion with management. Encourage your workforce to speak freely and openly about their issues and concerns.

 This will help instill trust amongst employees. Also, it can shed light on some of the existing biases in the organization. 

Encourage diverse thinking 

Having a diverse workforce can infuse the organization with a fresh perspective. People from different age groups, gender, and social-economic backgrounds have different viewpoints. Such diverse opinions and feedback can stimulate creativity and innovation.

 The varied outlooks enable the organization to come up with culturally diverse solutions. An organization set up where individual opinions and ideas are encouraged and respected can help in fostering diverse thinking and also creates a sense of belongingness. 

Diversity vs Inclusion

From the above discussion, we can conclude that both diversity and inclusion are interconnected in such a way that one is futile without the aid of the other. 

Diversity and inclusion are the foundation for an ethical and successful business. When employees feel a sense of inclusion, they are more likely to take part in decision-making and assume responsibilities for the business’ success. 

In the absence of sound inclusion policies, the diverse workforce may develop a sense of alienation, which can result in a lack of cooperation and a drop in overall performance.

A company with a diverse workforce without clear policies for inclusion is unable to safeguard the psychological safety of its employees.

Also read: How To Conduct An Effective 360 Degree Feedback

The employees may feel unwelcome in the organization, which can lead to poor engagement and a decrease in employee retention. Also, if the organization does not have a diverse workforce, it can become stagnant with a limited perspective and a lack of ideas.

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Building Diversity and Inclusion In Your Workplace

McKinsey in one of their recent research found that companies with racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more profitable than their competitors. Diversity and Inclusion or (D&I) has become one of the crucial factors for businesses to thrive in the long run. While D&I has been the buzzword and focus for the Human Resources industry for a few decades now, over the years it has become a part of the overall organization’s core values and culture. In this article, we will share some strategies for managers, leaders, and the organization which will help you promote a culture of diversity, inclusion, equality, and equity throughout the organization. But before we look into the strategies, let us look at some benefits of diversity and inclusion, and also understand the terms better.

Also Read: 6 Step Guide To Conduct Effective Stay Interviews

Benefits of Diversity And Inclusion

Here are the top six benefits of diversity and inclusion at the workplace:

  • Wider Talent Pool
  • Greater Creativity and Innovation
  • Higher Retention & Lower Turnover Rate
  • Better Performance
  • Increased Employee Engagement
  • Positive Company Culture
Also Read: Diversity And Inclusion In The Workplace : Benefits

But Diversity and Inclusion Are Not The Same

Diversity in the workplace simply refers to a workforce with diverse individuals. It includes individuals from different backgrounds, gender, political beliefs, race, age, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, etc.

But diversity alone can’t bring about the change organizations are looking for. Inclusion plays an integral part. While organizations often use the words diversity and inclusion interchangeably, they are different. Inclusion refers to establishing a work environment where everyone feels welcomed. They get a true sense of belonging and feel respected, valued, and heard.

Here are some strategies which will help you build a diversified and inclusive workforce.

Empathetic Leadership and Support

In most organizations, diversity and inclusion are often considered as HR-owned initiatives only. But it shouldn’t be so. It is the responsibility of everyone to promote it, especially the leadership. Just like any other process or policy, leadership support and involvement is necessary for D&I initiatives to be successful. Leaders are responsible for creating a workspace where everyone feels safe and heard. As a leader, share your own stories about feeling excluded or being subjected to biases. Encourage your employees to share their own stories. As a result, they will feel more welcomed and included. Leadership support helps prioritize D&I initiatives and implement it easily organization wide.

It is advisable to train and educate your company leadership on the benefits and importance of D&I initiatives before implementing them company wide. 

Also Read: 7 Proven Ways To Become A Better Leader In The Workplace

Rethink Work Policies & Values

While promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion, leaders, managers, and HRs must consciously strategize on creating more employee-friendly policies that support D&I. They must proactively evaluate existing ones, revamp them, and add new ones. 

Here’s how you can rethink your work policies and values:

  • Launch hiring initiatives to hire a wide range of talent from job fairs, hiring consultancies, and community outreach programs
  • Ensure a fair compensation policy that focuses on skills and experience and should not discriminate against anyone based on sex, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc.
  • Offer gender-neutral washrooms at workplaces
  • Add holidays in the company calendar, keeping in mind employees from different religion and culture
  • Publish company policies and rules in more than one language
  • Day-care facilities for mothers
  • Wheelchair accessible office

Celebrate Differences

Making your employees feel comfortable at work because of their beliefs, culture, and tradition is one of the best ways to promote diversity and inclusion. Here are some ways by which you can celebrate the differences at your organization:

  • Organize a potluck where each employee brings in food that showcases their culture and home country
  • If your workforce is still remote or hybrid, organize a video meeting and ask everyone to share a unique fact about themselves and their countries
  • Create a separate space or room for your Muslim employees to pray every Friday
  • Organize events and celebrate important days and months which promote diversity and inclusion such as June for Pride Month, May for the Asia Pacific Heritage Month, February for Black History Month. Highlight its importance for the respective communities
  • Involve individual of different sex, culture, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation in the decision-making process or amongst one of the board members
Also Read: 360 Degree Feedback:7 Tips To Get Started

Develop Training Programs

Building an inclusive and diversified work culture is not a one-day activity for an organization. It needs time and effort. Besides that, employees themselves might have different interpretations of the phrase ‘Diversity & Inclusion.’ It is crucial to train your employees so that their thoughts align with the organization’s idea of D&I, which in turn, should align with the broader concept of diversity, inclusion, and its challenges. Such training helps employees to understand the differences better and collaborate better as a team. It also helps them to get rid of unconscious biases. Leaders should let employees know the goal of D&I training, why it is important, and what issue it will help to solve. Someone from the organization or external can help structure and design the training programs.

Take Feedback To Understand Your Employees Better

It is important to listen to what your employees have to say. Lend them your ear and open easy channels of communication for them. Connect with your employees regularly, conduct anonymous surveys, pulse surveys, feedback, check-ins, etc., to understand your employees better. Encourage your employees to take part and openly communicate their experiences about how they feel about working in the organization. Employees will feel that their concerns and opinions are heard and valued. Additionally, it will help organizations and leaders to decide about the instances of discrimination and biases.


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