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From numbers to essence, from nice to have to strategic vision: building real, authentic diversity programs and cultures.

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Going beyond diversity quotas

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have ascended to the forefront of corporate agendas, capturing the focused attention of CEOs and HR Managers globally. In an era marked by social movements and a growing demand for workplace equality, DEI has emerged as a critical factor not just for fostering a positive organisational culture, but also for enhancing innovation and competitive edge. But are leaders really recognising that a truly diverse workforce—one that reflects a blend of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives—is essential for understanding and serving a diverse customer base? 

Going beyond mere quotas to celebrate diversity within the ranks of a company is monumentally important. This evolution from a focus on hitting diversity targets to fostering an environment where individuals feel valued and empowered could mark a significant shift.

Inclusion and belonging

Inclusion is about creating a workplace where all employees have equal access to opportunities and resources, ensuring they feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated. Belonging takes this a step further, looking at the emotional outcome of an inclusive workplace that boosts engagement, productivity, and loyalty.

Going beyond diversity targets

While diversity targets can help achieve a varied workforce, they fall short in addressing the systemic barriers that prevent true equality. Without nurturing an inclusive environment, the full potential of a diverse workforce remains untapped, much like a garden that's been planted but not tended to. The success of diversity efforts is not in the mix of people but in making the mix work effectively together.

Research underscores the benefits of inclusion and belonging, with studies showing that highly inclusive workplaces see significant improvements in job performance, employee engagement, and innovation. According to a study by BetterUp, employees with a heightened sense of belonging took 75% fewer sick days than employees who felt excluded. Furthermore, they experienced a 56% increase in job performance and were 50% less likely to leave their job. The Deloitte Insights report highlights that inclusive organizations are 6 times more likely to be innovative and agile, and 8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. When employees feel a sense of belonging, they are more willing to contribute ideas and go the extra mile for their team and organisation. 

Systemic implementation of inclusion and belonging. Creating inclusive workplaces involves several key strategies:

  • Leadership commitment. Leaders must embody and champion the values of inclusion and belonging, integrating these principles into the organisational culture and daily practices. It’s the top down effect that’s most effective. 

  • Training and development. Educating employees on the importance of inclusion and how to achieve it is critical, with training programs designed to address unconscious biases and promote inclusive behaviours.

  • Cultivate cultural competence. It involves understanding, appreciating, and respecting the values, beliefs, and customs of individuals from different backgrounds. Organisations can invest in cultural sensitivity training programs that educate employees about diverse cultures, biases, and the impact of unconscious bias on decision-making processes.

  • Policies and practices. Organisations should review and revise their policies to ensure they support inclusion, covering everything from recruitment to performance evaluations.

  • Open communication. Fostering an environment where employees can openly discuss inclusion and belonging is vital, creating safe spaces for sharing experiences and feedback.

  • Measure and evaluate. Moving beyond diversity metrics to include measures of inclusion and belonging can provide a more comprehensive understanding of an organisation's D&I efforts.

Diversity beyond numbers is a journey that requires an honest look at what organisations are in terms of people policies and where they want to go. Organizations that prioritize sustainable shifts in culture and not only reaching DEI numeric goals are positioning themselves for greater success.



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