Inclusion; the key to gaining the benefits of Diversity

31 July, 2020


A 2018 study by the Boston Consulting Group found that companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue due to innovation. We know that businesses with more diverse staff have better financial, social and creative outcomes and as a result many businesses are investing time and money into getting their diversity strategy right. However, when companies bring in diverse talent, what happens when those people feel different or excluded in some way? My colleagues Hope Thorley and Tasmin Chamberlain have written excellent articles about the importance of being able to be yourself at work as part of Pride Month in June (see here and here). However, how do we create the right environment for everyone to be themselves and flourish?

The answer I believe is the concept of inclusion. Often the forgotten cousin of the more easily understood diversity, inclusion has been demonstrated to matter greatly when considering the success of diversity initiatives across businesses.  But what do we mean when we talk about inclusion and how can we measure it and improve it?

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is simply how comfortable do employees feel being themselves at work. Can employees bring their whole self to work or are they hiding bits of their personality and who they really are to gain acceptance?

We know that when people feel included that their productivity, job satisfaction and engagement with the company that they work for goes up. Therefore, to get the benefit of an engaged, motivated and productive workforce, we need to make sure that our people, whether from diverse backgrounds or not, have the opportunity to be themselves at work.

How to Measure Inclusion

Inclusion is a tricky concept to measure; in my opinion there has been more focus on diversity as it is relatively easy to measure and much more easily implemented.

However, there have been companies which have generated some novel ways to measure the concept of inclusion. Alongside traditional methods such as engagement surveys, management consultants McKinsey in their Diversity Wins, How Inclusion Matters (2020) report suggest using an Outside In approach, where analysis looked at employee reviews about the firms people worked for on online recruitment websites such as Glassdoor. The advantage of using this technique is that it’s not the company asking the questions; when people feel that they have a distance between them and the company, they are likely to be more open, more candid and more honest about their experiences.

From this analysis McKinsey were able to identify 3 markers of inclusion. These included:

  • Equality (everyone treated as equals)
  • Openness (transparency and the ability to be honest)
  • Belonging (feeling accepted)

Therefore, a good way to understand the level of inclusion within the business, is to ask internal (anonymous) questions which ask about the 3 concepts above. Examples might include:

  • I feel that I am treated as an equal at work
  • Our workplace is fair
  • I am trusted to deliver what I need to deliver
  • My opinion is listened to
  • I can be honest at work
  • I feel accepted for who I am at work
  • I am proud to work here

Asking these types of questions will allow you to understand how equal, open and accepting your organisation is of difference.

Combining Diversity and Inclusion

Making sure that your organisation is inclusive is an important step to ensuring that you harness the benefits of a diverse organisation. Without inclusion, then your diversity efforts could be wasted. As part of our 2025 Business Plan, Pick Everard is focussing on how inclusion can cement our diversity strategy as we look to ensure that everyone can be themselves at work. Working across the protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act (2010), we are developing diversity and inclusion initiatives that will help us shape the make up of the construction consultancy industry in the future.

We recognise people may feel that they have diverse characteristics which sit outside of the protected characteristics and therefore we are looking at other areas of diversity such as social mobility and diversity of thought. However, in order to make sure we can attract, retain and harness the benefit of a diverse workforce, we will be looking very carefully at our inclusion strategy and asking some difficult questions of ourselves about how inclusive we are and how we can improve on our level of inclusion across our business.

Getting the inclusion piece right is not easy, in fact it is quite a complex area as it can be hard to measure and implement. It involves people being able to understand and challenge their own biases which isn’t an easy process. To fully implement an inclusive workforce, there are lots of pieces that must come together such as unconscious bias training, the ability to have difficult conversations and the ability to give and receive effective feedback amongst others. It is a time consuming and complex process and one which demands challenges to organisational culture. However, it is an important and crucial piece of work that must be completed if staff are to feel happy, secure and authentic at work. At Pick Everard we’re looking forward to taking on that challenge and we hope that many companies join us in harnessing the multiple benefits of effective inclusion.




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