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Why inclusion is now more important than diversity


Australia, like most other developed nations around the world, is experiencing a very tight labour market. Countries are now competing globally for talent and retaining and attracting top-tier employees has become the number-one issue for businesses.

In today’s dynamic global landscape, workforces have never been so diverse or talent more mobile. Shifts in age profiles, education, and migration flow, along with expectations of equality of opportunity and work/life balance, are all impacting employee populations.

And it’s the companies with the most diverse workforces — racially, ethnically, and gender-wise — that are likely to achieve the greatest financial returns, around 35% above their respective national industry medians according to McKinsey research.

While companies are the beneficiaries of the proliferation of global talent, the diversity of markets, customers, and talent, is driving the need for ‘INCLUSION’ to be a new leadership capability.

Organizational inclusiveness is the fundamental factor that helps retain diversity in the workplace and therefore, in order to attract and maintain a diverse workforce, employers must ensure that they are providing employees with an inclusive culture.

What is inclusion and how does it differ from diversity?

Research shows that employees perceive diversity and inclusion (D&I) as two conceptually distinct organisational practices.

Diversity programs in the workplace focus on the ‘organisational demographic blend’ whilst inclusion programs are designed to remove obstacles so that different groups of workers can effectively collaborate and achieve desirable business outcomes.

Inclusion is about ensuring everyone feels a part of the team, which means they’re treated fairly, have equal opportunities and resources and are able to bring their whole selves to work regardless of race, age, gender or background.

A classic example is the participation of women in the workforce.

It is now widely accepted that having female representation at a leadership level brings great social and productivity benefits; in fact, Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) found that companies with more gender-diverse boards experienced higher average employee productivity growth than those that had a single or no female directors.

And yet recent revelations through the #metoo movement show that simply having female participation is not enough.

Rather, the key to keeping women engaged in the workplace is to build working environments where they have equal opportunity to promotions and pay, where they are treated professionally and respectfully, and importantly, where they’re not made to feel tokenistic.

Where there’s inclusion, there’s higher employee engagement and therefore a better likelihood that an organisation will retain staff.

A whitepaper by Deloitte Australia and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission shows that employee engagement doubles in workplaces that emphasise both diversity and inclusion.

And the benefit of an inclusive culture has a bottom-line impact as well.

The Deloitte & VEOHRC whitepaper goes on to point out that “when employees think their organisation is committed to and supportive of diversity and they feel included, employees report better business performance in terms of ability to innovate, (83% uplift) responsiveness to changing customer needs (31% uplift) and team collaboration (42% uplift).”

Further to this, in 2016, another report from the Australian Institute of Company Directors found that organisations with inclusive cultures are:

  • 2x as likely to meet or exceed financial goals;
  • 3x as likely to be high-performing;
  • 6x more likely to be innovative and agile; and
  • 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

So how do you implement inclusion in the workplace?

For inclusion to be integrated well, businesses need to adopt SMART goals which means setting metrics that are aligned with the business’ D&I objectives.

First, look at your quantitative data. Track and examine your workforce and understand the demographics across all departments and/or locations. Examine this demographic data against promotions, attrition, or retention.

It’s also important that businesses understand their qualitative data, which speaks to the lived experience of their employees. This includes having inclusion questions in employee engagement surveys or conducting focus groups.

By looking at this data, businesses are well-placed to understand the areas where they need to introduce inclusion programs to bolster diversity in the workplace.

It’s critical that inclusion is championed by leaders in the business. Empowered by leadership, but driven by the entire organisation, initiatives such as global inclusion groups can help diverse talent thrive within a company.

If you’re underrepresented in a company, you want to be able to see and meet someone like yourself; you want to be able to talk to a person that has experienced similar things to you.

This is why at Indeed we have a number of inclusion groups such as Women@Indeed, iPride, Latinos in Tech, and the Black Inclusion Group. But these are just the start.

It’s important that we build organisations where employees are encouraged and supported to bring their authentic selves to work each day. Inclusive leadership is the key to attracting and retaining diverse talent in a dynamic global landscape.

Paul Wolfe is SVP of Human Resources at Indeed. He oversees all global human resource functions, including talent acquisition, employee retention, compensation, benefits, and employee development.

Mr. Wolfe has over 15 years of experience as a human resources executive having served as a VP and SVP at a number of well-known companies, including Match.com, Orbitz, Conde Nast and Ticketmaster. His specialties include talent acquisition and management, succession planning, performance management, and leadership development.

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