The Why for Diversity & Inclusion

In order for your organization to thrive, there needs to be more inclusive representation at work.
The Why for Diversity & Inclusion
Heidi Dulebohn

What if you had a key 🗝️ that could turn and make your organization considerably more profitable, more innovative, attractive to top-tier talent — to retain employees, improve your brand, and make everybody happy?

Would you use it? Oh, yes, no strings, and it’s free.

Well, certainly you’d use the key! But, what it unlocks is something you may already know; you just need to do it (apologies to Nike).

So, what is the key? Well, it’s diversity, inclusion, and creating a culture of dignity, of course, and it’s never been more critical — especially in the new, global, hybrid workplace.

Covid taught us that we are resilient and innovative — we went from 0 to 60 in a matter of months. Dynamic technology allowed us to figure it out in real-time, and it has offered us a worldwide employment pool. But, it’s competitive.

If you don’t get on board with D&I now, you’ll be left behind.

We knew that. We all know that creating a culture of dignity is essential for our organizations if we want to be successful. Research at Willis Towers Watson reveals that a whopping 95% of organizations believe that a culture of dignity is critical for wellbeing.

So, we all know that if we treat our employees with dignity and make them feel valued, trusted, and safe, the entire organization will benefit, but are we doing it?

We can do better. While we have good intentions, Willis Towers Watson’s “Workplace Dignity Survey” found gaps between senior leadership’s and employees’ perceptions of how well an organization is doing to create a culture of dignity. There is a significant gap regarding the perception of a genuine interest in employee wellbeing; 86% of employers versus 50% of employees.

79% of employers feel they offer a safe work environment for opinions to be voiced and heard, versus 51% of employees who agree.

As leaders of organizations, we have to do better if we want to attract top talent and keep them. We need to embrace diversity and make an effort to develop our organizational cultures of dignity. Everyone should feel included, valued, and heard to be successful — including success in the bottom line.

Make more money. McKinsey has done exhaustive research in their latest “Diversity Wins.” The more ethnic and culturally diverse a company and its leadership are, the better they do; 36% more profitable than less diverse companies. Gender diversity is also essential.

Firms with the most gender diversity outperform their least diverse counterparts by a staggering 48%.

It just makes sense. If everyone on your team is the same, how can you expect a wide range of creativity, innovation, and leadership? A diverse group offers you a new lens through which to view your markets, guide your organization, and make your brand more attractive.

Inclusion = Retention.

You’ve hired some exceptional people; now you want to keep them. To do that, you need to be inclusive, not just talk the talk. As a leader, you must embody diversity throughout the organization, starting at the top. Lead with empathy and go out of your way to make everyone feel included — this flows from the top, too.

Culture vs. Programs

While D&I training and programs are helpful, these initiatives should evolve and become your company culture. Diversity and inclusion should be the soul of your organization, not merely a one-off program. But, be prepared for the long haul.

Culture change takes time, genuine buy-in, and commitment. It’s not easy, but necessary, and it’s the right thing to do.

How are you doing? One way to find out how you’re doing is to ask — listen, and react. Talk to your employees and find out if any gaps exist between perceptions from leadership and employees. Listen to what they have to say and act accordingly.

What are you doing that’s good? What can you do better? If you’re created a safe environment for your employees to speak their minds without fear, you will learn volumes.

Your most valuable resource is right in front of you.

As you create your culture of dignity, you will build trust. From there, you will reap the benefits of happier employees who are more engaged and productive and organically become brand ambassadors to help you recruit other top talents.

Don’t get left behind. Are you a leader or laggard? Firms that have authentically adopted D&I are more profitable than the laggards. McKinsey found that “laggards,” the least diverse firms, were 40% more likely to underperform versus their industry median profitability.

Give your diverse team the right tools, a respectful and safe way to communicate, and watch the magic happen.

About the author

Heidi Dulebohn is a graduate of Stephens College, Columbia, Missouri, and holds an MA Degree with Distinction from the International School of Protocol and Diplomacy in Brussels, Belgium, with a concentration in Cultural Competence. She has an Executive Certificate in Non-Profit Management from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, and is currently enrolled in a similar program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Heidi’s infectious interest and passion to learn, participate, and appreciate the social world around us never ends. As she likes to say, “I’m not done yet.”