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Are Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Important?

In today’s modern workplace, diversity and inclusion in a safe workplace are more important than ever.  In fact, according to the Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trends Report, 32 % more executives cited inclusion as a top priority than they did in the 2014 survey.  Moreover, the number of companies that self-reported themselves to be excellent at gender diversity increased by 72 %.  Additionally, in the 2017 survey, 69 % of the organizations believed that they are either adequate or excellent at supporting different types of family models within workplace environments while 48 % of these organizations believe they are adequate with global cultural diversity issues.

Many Organizations Can Do Better 

While many companies are aware of diversity and inclusion issues, the fact remains that many organizations are in denial when it comes to the actual situation at their place of business.  The same 2017 report discovered that while an impressive 71 % of organizations want to have inclusivity at their company in future years, in reality, they are not close to these goals.  In fact, in the survey, only a small 12 % of the companies surveyed ranked highly in the Deloitte model. That said, in some other countries, these numbers are more troubling. For example, in Japan, 53 % of women aged 24 to 44 would like to work, but they are unable to find employment.

What is Diversity Anyways?

Diversity refers to the unique differences in individuals and what these differences in skill sets, perspectives and knowledge can bring to a particular workplace. It also acknowledges the unique blend of knowledge, skills and perspectives people bring to the workplace. Diversity can include a person’s cultural background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, age, gender identity, physical challenges, language and education. Diversity can also refer to a person’s professional skills, location, work style, and life experiences. 

What is Inclusion?

Inclusion refers to a workplace culture where all employees feel respected and valued.  In an inclusive workplace, barriers are removed to ensure that all employees have equal opportunities and can fully contribute to the workplace to the best of their abilities.  In other words, then, inclusion empowers employees by allowing them to work in an environment that permits them to share their unique skills for the good of the organization.

Why Does Diversity and Inclusion Matter?

Diversity is extremely important to organizations as to where there is diversity, there is a great innovation.  As people come from different backgrounds and have unique perspectives, diverse viewpoints allow companies to improve efficiencies, create better ways of performing tasks, and improve upon existing technology.  That said, inclusion is also vital as the potential to unlock these innovative ideas is unleashed when people work in an inclusive workplace. In fact, when inclusion is valued at a place of business, there is improved employee performance, greater talent retention, more innovation, greater employee well-being, and less conflicts.

How does an Organization Create a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce?

Creating a diverse and inclusive work environment will obviously not happen overnight.  However, businesses can implement changes that can create a diverse, inclusive environment over time.  Some of the changes that a business can implement can include:

  • Creating  Gender-friendly Restrooms: While there are numerous ways to create these types of restrooms, one popular way is to build ceiling to floor partitions in bathrooms stalls.
  • Pumping or Nursing Room for Mothers: As breastmilk is important for the health of babies, organizations should create designated rooms for mothers. These rooms should include locking mechanisms, a fridge to store breastmilk, and should provide proper ventilation.  Moreover, pumping or nursing should be the only activity permitted in these rooms.
  • Utilise Gender-Neutral Language: Instead of using the pronoun “he” as the norm in company literature, the pronoun, “they” should be used.  “They” is a more inclusive term.
  • Offer Non-alcoholic Beverages at Events: Whether it be for health, religious, or other reasons, it is important to keep in mind that not all your employees drink alcohol.  Thus, non-alcoholic beverages should be regularly offered at company events.
  • Offer a Vegetarian/Vegan Alternative: Like the situation with alcohol, not all people eat meat, certain types of meat, or dairy products.  By offering an alternative, you are being inclusive of your employees preferences
  • Top Management Should be Diverse: If the executives at your companies come from a diverse background, a culture of diversity and inclusivity will be that much easier to achieve.  Further, it is important for people to have role models that look similar to them when it comes to thinking about personal career advancement.
  • Make Feminine Hygiene Products Available: Another good way to help create an inclusive work environment is to have feminine hygiene products readily available in the restrooms.
  • Create a Quiet Room or Area: As introverted people often need to recharge themselves in order to operate at peak energy levels, this type of space would be welcome to them.  Of course, this area should be free from technology and talking.
  • Acknowledge Employee Cultural and Religious Holidays: At the very least, mention these types of holidays in the company newsletter.  More progressive organizations permit employees to “choose their own holidays”.
  • Create a Company Policy that Covers Diversity and Inclusivity: In order for everyone to be on the same page, it is important to write down company beliefs in ink.  After all, policies will dictate the company culture and are also important for legal reasons.

Overall then, a culture of diversity and inclusivity is extremely important if companies wish to reach a level of excellence in the near future.  By implementing certain policies, with time, organizations can create this type of environment and reap its rewards.

To learn more about The Aicila Group and what we can do for your business, please click here www.aicila.com

Alicia Keenan is the Managing Director at The Aicila Group – a globally active and highly specialised animal health/nutrition and animal production recruitment and consulting company with HQ in Australia.

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