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What are diversity and inclusion?

Managing inclusiveness in the workplace

If you want to really drive culture change, a strong focus on diversity and workplace inclusion can help your organisation to attract top talent and achieve innovative results.

This isn't just a policy to satisfy evolving recruitment or employer laws; rather, ensuring an inclusive workplace can bring about a number of benefits for your company and workforce. With a focus on these principles, a company can even boost the confidence, morale and productivity of its workforce.

So, what exactly is the meaning of workplace inclusion and diversity? We'll look at this below, and we'll also talk about the advantages that these approaches can bring to your business.


What are diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Most people will have some understanding of workplace diversity and inclusion at work. Simply put, focusing on diversity means hiring a broad pool of diverse employees and making sure that the workforce represents all individuals from all walks of life. Diversity is a broad term that encompasses not just race and ethnicity but also sexual orientation, age, academic achievement, socioeconomic status and gender diversity in the workplace.

But it's not enough to simply broaden your recruitment process to create a more diverse workforce. You also need to be managing diversity in the workplace. That means enforcing workplace inclusion for every employee, with every new and existing worker treated as an equal. It is not a box-checking exercise, but a way to guarantee that everybody has the same opportunities made available to them and that everybody can feel a sense of belonging within the wider company.


Why is diversity in the workplace important?

Aside from being key to employee happiness and wellbeing, diversity can afford numerous advantages to your company's culture and success.


Enhancing employee confidence

When diversity isn't given enough consideration, employees can be hesitant to put their ideas forward and work with confidence. By encouraging diversity and embracing individual differences, you'll help your employees to gain more confidence, while gradually nurturing high-performing teams that work fluidly together.


Reducing conflict in the workforce

Diversifying your workforce means that your employees have the chance to learn from one another and understand each other's differences. They’ll gain a better perspective of the unique skills, talents and knowledge that come from the differing experience of people from varying backgrounds.

As a result, your employees will gain a broader worldview, which can reduce conflict in the workplace and mean that everybody is working towards the same common goals.


Improving employee engagement

An engaged workforce is a productive workforce, and employees are much more likely to give their best efforts when diversity and inclusion in the workplace are a priority. By championing equal opportunities for all, you're showing confidence in your employees' abilities, while ensuring that everybody believes that they can succeed through hard work. This can help to boost both morale and engagement in your workforce.


A sense of belonging is key

Of course, it isn’t simply enough to hire a broad range of individuals from different backgrounds. Once inducted into your workforce, every employee needs to feel that they are a valued member of the team much the same as the rest of your workers.

In order for each individual to bring their best self forward, each team member should feel a connection to the organisation or group of colleagues to which they belong. Encouraging this sense of belonging means that each team member can feel like themselves at work. This not only lends itself to greater engagement and more creativity, but psychologically, it’s something people long for in order to succeed.

While these changes aren’t always linear, and taking a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t always the preferred route, sharing best practices can help open your organisation up to trying new things. By putting in the effort to prioritise diversity and inclusion in the workplace, you can create a culture where every team member feels like they belong, no matter how big or small their role is.


Be an empathetic leader

Inclusion and diversity often start with leadership, and every leader, from C-suite leaders to head coaches, needs to be committed to the value of belonging. Even a single leader with the wrong outlook can weaken the foundations that you’re trying to build. But when each leader steps up to own diversity and inclusion themselves, that’s when an organisation really starts to thrive.

In order to do this, leaders must develop their own unique stories. They will be forced to take a look at themselves and remember times when they felt excluded, shamed or alone, then apply these lessons outward. Leaders shouldn’t be afraid to show a period of weakness to their employees; this can help to boost morale and familiarity between managerial staff and the teams that they lead.

Ana Marinkovic shares her story of coming to Australia as a refugee from war-torn Balkans at the age of 12. This experience shaped her perspective on diversity and inclusion and has propelled her to help people in similar situations find refuge in Australia. Leaders with such personal experience in overcoming the odds to succeed can often be the strongest people to champion those values within a company, and this further strengthens the reasons why you should be looking to diversify your workforce and offer equal advancement opportunities to all.


Quotas don’t determine inclusion

Diversity isn’t just hitting a certain quota or boosting numbers; an employee’s experience extends far beyond receiving an offer. Attracting and retaining top talent requires taking a hard and honest look at the end-to-end employee experience. By creating conditions that promote inclusion, measuring their impact and adapting processes accordingly, organisations can scale these behaviours until they are inherent throughout the company’s culture. It’s about understanding how your team works best, when tension can be beneficial, and how you can recognise a stimulating exchange versus a personal attack.


It requires an ongoing commitment

Diversity and inclusion don’t just happen overnight, and achieving these cultural shifts in the workplace requires ongoing effort from every team member. It’s not enough to teach employees how to be inclusive; you must delve deeper and help each person to build new habits and inclusive workplace practices that support honest conversations and healthy disagreements.

If you fully commit to these principles and succeed in instilling them within your workforce, every team member will become a champion of diversity. The efforts will make themselves obvious while requiring less time and focus to drive them forward as the culture manages itself.


Workplace resilience — how does it relate?

So how do inclusion and diversity relate to workplace resilience? Resilience is the ability to cope with the challenges that come with hard work and can be applied to managing stress, a heavy workload, or tensions with other team members.

Diversity and inclusion can play a huge role in workplace resilience and can encourage team members to be more reflective, adaptive, responsible and open to other perspectives. When diversity is achieved, you are able to build a high-performance team, where despite challenges, team members can bounce back and encourage colleagues and leaders to do the same along the way.