Human beings are diverse in character, ethnicity, and behaviour. Because of this fact, inclusion is imperative if you’re to have a diverse society that is thriving and ethnically homogenous.

Homogenous societies experience less internal friction, foster unity, and are an excellent breeding ground for innovation. The same beliefs and principles can be applied to any productive workplace. 

While diversity and inclusion are often linked together, they are quite different concepts.

What is diversity?

Diversity is essentially a fair representation of many different types of people in terms of gender, race, ability, religion, etc. Fundamentally, diversity at a workplace often focuses on leveraging cultural and racial differences to get the most out of a workforce. 

What is inclusion at the workplace?

Inclusion is defined as the deliberate act of welcoming cultural and racial diversity to create a safe environment where all different kinds of people can thrive and succeed.

In the workplace context, inclusion is the act of “ensuring a mix of people work together.”

How are diversity and inclusion similar?

Diversity and inclusion are typically interchanged since they relate to the same values and principles. The relation stems from the fact that inclusion is a means of operationalising diversity. 

Since diversity is a ‘mix of differences’, inclusion focuses on ‘making the mix work’. A with racial, ethnic, gender, age, and socioeconomic differences may sometimes be hard to manage unless one includes organisational strategies that are inclusive of differences.

Differences between diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Despite being closely related, diversity and inclusion are quite different in the context of the workplace. Diversity focuses on hiring diverse multicultural and demographically candidates. On the other hand, inclusion revolves around ensuring that the needs and values of the diverse employees are equally respected and acknowledged. 

Furthermore, inclusion ensures that employees have equal access to opportunities and resources to contribute fully to an organisation’s success.

For instance, imagine a workforce with 20% white, 20% black, 20% Latin, 20% Asian, and 20% native workers. However, if the only employees making decisions are Latino Executives or if the Asian workers are discriminatively always considered for low-paying work, it is a clear example of diversity, but not inclusion.

While many companies practice diversity, they might not be practicing fair inclusion. Remember, the inclusion concept focuses on ensuring employees feel valued with concerted efforts to fairly include workers in most work activities.

Diversity recognises that people are different, inclusion means doing something to include different people in a unit, organisation, or community.

For example, when hiring for diversity, employers should ensure that they are fairly considering candidates of diverse backgrounds, gender, age, race, and culture, etc. 

Additionally, in terms of dress code, a healthy workplace should be inclusive and fairly respect the cultural and religious attire of employees. 

Difference between diversity, equity, and inclusion

To illustrate the differences between diversity, equity, and inclusion, let’s use a contextual example:

  • Diversity is basically getting invited to the party.
  • Equity is everyone having access to the dancefloor.
  • Inclusion is essentially being invited and encouraged to dance.
access to the dancefloor
Photo by Husna Miskandar on Unsplash

How do diversity and inclusion lead to organisational success? 

According to a study by McKinsey & Company, organisations in the top 25% for racial, gender, and ethnic diversity outperform industry medians with regards to financial returns. 

The study further unearthed that employees who feel welcomed at work demonstrate higher productivity and a greater readiness to innovate. 

This is because of the relationship between diversity and innovation as different experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds are vital for innovation and the development of new ideas. 

To put this in context, a Harvard Business Review study found that organisations with an above-average total diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues.

Diversity and inclusion also help in attracting and retaining talent. Generally speaking, companies that embrace diversity hiring have access to a larger talent pool than those that do not. 

What comes first – Inclusion or Diversity?

As has been the recurring theme throughout this article, diversity ensures that multiple viewpoints and backgrounds are represented while inclusion creates a culture of acceptance and engagement, despite employees’ backgrounds. That being said, inclusion comes first, then diversity follows.

Why do you need both diversity and inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion aren’t just corporate buzzwords, but critical pillars of an excellent organisational culture. 

As we noted, an inclusive workplace considers individual differences of employees and strives to ensure that everyone feels welcome and accepted. In such environments, everyone is treated fairly and has access to equal opportunities and resources.

As we also established, diversity focuses on balancing demographics in the workplace, like race, ethnicity, gender, age. However, diversity is futile without inclusion, as inclusion is the measure of culture that enables diversity to thrive.

In summary, fostering an inclusive culture in an organisation is beneficial for employee productivity, mental health, and engagement. This, in turn, provides a collaborative environment where each and every individual in the team has equal chances to participate, contribute and excel.

The article is a part of our comprehensive series on “Diversity and Inclusion