The Benefits of an Inclusive Workforce

Posted: Feb 13  |  By: Janet Berry-Johnson

Deloitte recently surveyed 10,000 leaders for their Global Human Capital Trends report and found two-thirds of respondents cited diversity and inclusion as “important” or “very important” to business. This wasn’t just about social responsibility or good PR. These leaders realize that building a diverse and inclusive workforce is a major factor of success in the modern business landscape.

Organizations that seek out and embrace diversity have several advantages over their competitors. Following are a few benefits that ultimately affect the bottom line:

Enhance innovation

Our brains are constantly seeking for ways to understand the world. Part of that process involves drawing conclusions based on our own experiences. The problem is, if your workforce includes predominantly people with similar backgrounds and life experiences, you could miss out on some great ideas.

That’s why organizations that value diversity and inclusion focus not just on gender and ethnic diversity, but on diversity of thought. And that focus pays off.

According to a 2017 study by researchers at North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management Gender looked at the hiring policies of the 3,000 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. to see if companies who pushed for diversity in the workplace were better at developing innovative products and services. They found that companies with policies that encourage the retention and promotion of workers across racial, sexual orientation, and gender spectrums were more innovative and released more products – averaging an extra two products in any given year, about doubling the average for a major company.

Better serve clients

The world today is diverse and getting more so each year. According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, minorities (people who identify as something other than non-Hispanic white) currently make up 37% of the U.S. population. By 2060, that number is expected to grow to 57%.

With the demographic shifts taking place, organizations need to become more knowledgeable about diverse customer segments. If companies continue to base their plans and decisions on unexamined assumptions about their customer demographic that may no longer be accurate, chances are high that their products and services will become less relevant and profitable.

Attract top talent

Demographic trends also indicate companies see a more diverse talent pool than ever before. Organizations that emphasize creating diverse and inclusive teams are able to attract and retain higher caliber talent.

A 2015 study from the Social Market Foundation found that workers’ brains actually function better when they are happy and positive. Employees from differing backgrounds feel more comfortable and happy when they are hired into a diverse environment. That comfort enables people to communicate more effectively, work better with colleagues, and reinforce a supportive, collaborative and productive culture. All of this resulting in higher employee morale, improved job satisfaction, and better recruitment and retention.

So how does a company get started?

As with any cultural shift in an organization, it starts with leadership. Creating an inclusive workforce must be a top priority for leaders. Build alignment through open conversation, stressing the benefits of inclusion, and connecting diversity with business strategy. Once top leadership reaches a consensus, tangible goals and diversity training can help spread the adoption of inclusion initiatives.

Creating an inclusive workforce isn’t just the right thing to do – it helps companies improve their bottom lines. But claiming to be diverse isn’t enough. Leaders and talent professionals need to be aware of how unconscious and personal biases affect interactions and decision-making at work. Then they can invest in methods that reinforce policies and practices that lead to a more diverse, inclusive and engaged workforce.