Diversity and inclusion, or ‘D&I’ in corporate jargon, is an integral aspect of all workplaces. Both D&I are proven to improve bottom lines, workplace culture, employee retention and satisfaction.
However, many organisations still practice diversity and inclusion as mutually exclusive. The benefits of both can only be reaped when they are implemented simultaneously.
The logic behind D&I is simple – when we bring employees from diverse backgrounds together and they feel safe, valued and respected for what they uniquely bring to the table, their loyalty, efficiency and creativity peaks.
Liz specialises in helping leaders transform cultures that no longer serve an organisation, instead fostering contemporary workplace cultures that increase employee retention, improve public perception and strengthen bottom lines.
She says that poor workplace culture often stems from a lack of inclusivity, which ripples through every facet of an organisation.
“There’s good evidence to show that even well-intentioned diversity and inclusion initiatives can miss the mark,” she says.
“A business with all the right policies and procedures in place, even award-winning ones, can still feel exclusive if you are working in a team with a leader and co-workers who don’t embrace inclusive practices.”
The Diversity Council Australia, defines diversity as “the mix of people in an organisation” and goes on to say diversity is “the differences between how people identify in relation to their social and professional identity”.
The council says social identity refers to a person’s race and ethnicity, age, background, religious affiliation, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status and socio-economic background. While professional identity represents a person’s education, profession, location, work and organisational level.
Furthermore, the council highlights the difference between D&I, by defining inclusion as:
“Getting the mix of people in an organisation to work together to improve performance and wellbeing. Inclusion in a workplace is achieved when a diversity of people feel they are respected, connected, contributing and progressing”.
Liz says diversity without inclusion is not enough and leaders must go beyond ticking the ‘diversity’ box.
“Bringing people with different experiences and beliefs into your business is just the start. Leaders and employees alike should work to foster a culture where inclusion is embedded in all workplace interactions,” Liz says.
The study was conducted across 50 conglomerate organisations, representing more than 1 million employees globally. From the information gathered, the study developed Deloitte’s Inclusion Model. The model identified four key principles that create inclusion:
● Twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets.
● Three times as likely to be high performing.
● Six times more likely to be innovative and agile.
● Eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.
A key example of this is Qantas Airlines. In 2013, the ‘Spirit of Australia’ posted a record $3 billion loss that saw the suspension of aircraft fleets, mechanical issues, and bitter union feuds. Seven years later, the company achieved a record profit of $850 million and was voted the world’s safest airline, one of Australia’s most attractive employees and trusted businesses.
Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce attributed the Australian brand’s turn around to its company culture. The executive told Deloitte in 2017 that “we have a very diverse environment and a very inclusive culture that got us through tough times… diversity generated a better strategy, better risk management, better debates and better outcomes”.
Liz works closely with leaders to help them implement inclusive company practices to improve workplace culture that ultimately strengthen the bottom line. Many leaders however struggle to conceptualise inclusivity. Liz believes it can be difficult to measure inclusivity because it is a personal experience and can be easy to oversee or ignore.
“It’s those everyday interactions, from the time we apply for a role, that determine whether we feel included,” Liz says.
“What is our relationship with our immediate leader and team? What are the cultural norms in the team? These are the things that give us our sense of belonging.
“Role modelling of inclusive behaviours by leaders is critical and if we’re going to get serious about it, inclusive behaviours should form part of our performance measurement system because D&I is not a nice to have, it’s central to good leadership.”