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Diversity & Inclusion: A Few Basics You Need to Know

Faced with major demographic shifts and globalization, successful organizations embrace diversity and inclusion (D&I), actively harnessing these trends in their workplaces, marketplaces, and the communities in which they operate as a source of competitive advantage. 

With the advent of social media, the words and actions of organizations are more transparent than ever and a reputation as a D&I leader enhances the employer brand. For training professionals, understanding D&I demonstrates a knowledge of changing business and organizational dynamics, enhances expertise, and ensures services are more relevant and inspiring to a broad audience.

A Definition

Diversity and inclusion is based on understanding and respecting differences and similarities between people and cultures to create a positive climate in which all employees bring their best efforts to the workplace, enhancing the development of relevant products and services in a changing marketplace. 

Diversity refers to differences of all kinds, including, but not limited to, gender, age, personal values, educational opportunities, personal history, and physical ability. 

Inclusion refers to creating a climate where differences and similarities are respected and people are welcomed into the workplace, have their voices heard, and contributions recognized. 

Organizations can be diverse, but not inclusive, which often results in lower engagement of underrepresented groups, higher turnover, and increased opportunity costs from failing to leverage all employees’ contributions. Conversely, organizations can be inclusive, but not diverse.


Leveraging D&I is a business necessity that provides many benefits to promote employee engagement, enhance business solutions, and build closer connections to customers. Some of these benefits are discussed below.

Build Employee Engagement

D&I, with its emphasis on including differing employee viewpoints, respecting others, and valuing contributions encourages employee input, which helps lead to engagement. There is extensive research documenting the impact that employee engagement and positive morale have on employee discretionary effort, or “willingness to go the extra mile.”


Solve Important Business Challenges

With fierce competition over new markets and products, the organizations that thrive will be the ones that foster and harness innovation, an advantage that D&I enhances by leveraging diverse viewpoints, which is a prerequisite to overcome status quo thinking. Having diverse perspectives can promote greater understanding and better responses to customer requirements.

However, simply having diversity on a team does not produce innovation and may, in fact, serve as an impediment if not properly managed. As Nancy J. Adler points out in International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior, diversity promotes a wide range of perspectives (divergence), but it makes bringing such different ideas to a solution (convergence) highly challenging.

Reflecting and Responding to a Changing Customer Base

Leveraging D&I enables organizations to better understand the context, history, and geography where business is conducted so that market share may be increased, based on a deeper insight of local trends and preferences—including product attributes, channels of distribution, positioning, pricing, and other factors.

Enhance Virtual Teams

Teams that must work together effectively despite not being co-located are increasingly the reality in today’s organizations. Building personal connections, matching communication methods with purpose, and using technology appropriately are vital.

Building Positive Ties in Communities

Organizations gain a competitive advantage by deepening ties to the communities where they operate. Doing so can enhance the ability to serve as a “talent magnet,” raise the public image of the enterprise, and enhance customer insights. 

Want to learn more? Check out “ Leveraging Diversity and Inclusion for a Global Economy.” This issue of ATD Infoline will help you learn how to:

  • increase awareness of diversity and inclusion
  • develop understanding of key demographic changes that affect the organization you support
  • serve as a guide to incorporate and sustain D&I practices in your company
  • help employees realize their full potential and develop their skills
  • provide guidelines for integrating D&I into your curriculum design. 


About the Author
Marjorie Derven is currently working with Resources Global Professionals on a business transformation project for this publicly-held consulting firm. She is founder of HUDSON Research & Consulting and formerly served as chair for TD Editorial Board and as a Senior Fellow at The Conference Board in the human capital practice. With 20+ years of consulting experience with top-tier companies across multiple industries, her areas of expertise include emotional intelligence, diversity and inclusion, global leadership development, talent management, and organizational research. Marjorie has published dozens of articles and is a frequent presenter at global conferences. For more information, contact
About the Author
Ernest Gundling, Ph.D., is president and co-founder of Aperian Global. He assists clients in developing strategic approaches to global leadership development, organizational change, and relationships with key business partners. He also coaches executives with global responsibilities and works with multicultural management teams to help them formulate business plans based on strong mutual understanding and a joint commitment to execution. Ernest is the author of numerous publications, including several books: The 3M Way to Innovation: Balancing People and Profits, Working GlobeSmart: 12 People Skills for Doing Business Across Borders, G lobal Diversity: Winning Customers and Engaging Employees within World Markets, and What's Different About Global Leadership? Ten Key Behaviors that Define Great Global Leaders.
About the Author
Pamela Leri is the Practice Group Leader of Global Diversity and Inclusion at Aperian Global. She develops strategic global approaches to collaboration, diversity and inclusion, and inclusive leadership with an emphasis on delivering these solutions for executives and teams working across multiple geographies. Prior to joining Aperian Global, Pamela was Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Manager of Organization Development, Diversity and Intercultural Strategy for Mellon Financial Corporation. Pamela originally joined Mellon as part of its acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC) Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness consulting practice. At PwC, she was Director of the Global Diversity and Inclusion practice and provided strategic diversity and globalization consulting, and organizational change and facilitation services for both internal PwC clients and external clients.
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