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.
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.