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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