The pressure to increase diversity in the workplace is rising across sectors. Earlier this year, Google made headlines when its shareholders and employees publicly called on the tech giant to fix its “diversity crisis”, asking the board for reforms to racial and gender diversity, and proposing these metrics be tied to executive bonuses. Other large companies – including e-commerce giant Amazon and Tim Hortons’ parent company, Restaurant Brands – have come under fire in recent years for lack of diversity on their boards.
While diversity continues to be in the media spotlight, it has also become a prime focus for business leaders around the globe. In Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, 69% of the 10,000 executives surveyed cited diversity and inclusion as important to a business. In addition, the proportion of executives who cited inclusion as a top priority rose by 32%, compared to a similar survey conducted in 2014.
What is the difference between diversity and inclusion? Diversity in the workplace encompasses many dimensions, including race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, disability and sexual orientation; it can also include differing personality characteristics, thinking styles, experiences and education levels. Inclusion means that the organizational culture and practices make employees of diverse backgrounds feel welcome, accepted and treated equally.
Numerous studies have shown that cultivating diversity and inclusivity in the workplace makes good business sense. For example, McKinsey’s latest workplace diversity study, Delivering through Diversity, found that companies whose executive teams rank in the top 25% of racial and ethnic diversity are 33% more likely to reap financial returns above the national median for their industry. Diversity has also been shown to be a key driver of innovation, creativity and productivity.
Most importantly for HR professionals and recruiters, a diverse and inclusive workplace is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent. Candidates are drawn to diverse organizations because it signals the employer values people’s differences and treats their staff equally. When it comes to retention, a culture of inclusion will make top talent feel valued, heard and understood.
Diversity is particularly important to younger employees. A 2019 survey by U.S. consultancy John Zogby Strategies found that 51% of Millennials and Generation Z agree that a “fair representation of race, ethnicity and religion is paramount to creating the ideal workplace”. Forty-eight percent of Generation X (40-54) and 42% of Baby Boomers agree with that statement.
Companies that have invested in diversity and inclusion over the years are reaping the rewards. This year, Accenture was selected as one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers, and in September 2018, it was named the top company on the Thomson Reuters Diversity & Inclusion Index. Ellyn Shook, Accenture’s Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer, said: “We believe that diversity is a source of innovation, creativity and competitive advantage and creates a workplace where everyone feels equally accepted with a real sense of belonging.”
The path to diversity and inclusion starts with moving it from an HR initiative to a business strategy. While this strategy may look different at every company, the key elements are C-suite support, employee commitment and collaboration, improving diversity in recruitment, and fostering inclusiveness in the workplace. Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is no easy feat but it’s clear that this is the way forward. How you screen and source talent, conduct interviews, and onboard new employees are all opportunities to easily integrate diversity into your processes. Put simply, the companies that do this well will outperform others as recognized workplaces of choice among top talent.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn