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15 September 2023

Inclusion and diversity, key to a company's success

Although social justice is usually the initial impetus for inclusion and diversity policies, companies have increasingly started to view these factors as providing a competitive edge, and specifically as a key factor for growth.

Not surprisingly, we can find several examples of studies in the scientific literature that reinforce and demonstrate the close relationship between a company's diversity and its financial performance. In other words, organisations have to come up with better inclusion strategies if they want to gain a competitive advantage.

However, progress in diversification initiatives has been slow. And companies still don't know how they can use diversity and inclusion more effectively to support their growth and value creation targets.

In fact, one in four people say that they don't feel appreciated at work, and those who do are in positions of greater responsibility, according to a report on diversity and inclusion prepared by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

This report reveals that only half of respondents say that diversity and inclusion are sufficiently identified and assigned resources in the culture and strategy of their work centres. In fact, only a third of companies currently measure inclusion, even though doing so is essential to progress.

So, maybe we should start with the basics.

Diversity and inclusion: what are they?

When we talk about diversity, we mean that companies should be a better reflection of society in general, so they must fight (and achieve) to have a greater proportion of women (also in mid-level and senior positions of responsibility), as well as a more diverse ethnic and cultural composition.

Meanwhile, an inclusive workplace is one where all employees feel appreciated, while recognising their differences and how they contribute to the culture of the organisation and the company's bottom line. An inclusive workplace is characterised by affirmative action, where any impact of bias/discrimination/inequality of opportunities due to any type of situation or condition is cancelled out. To achieve this, companies must have practices and processes that break down the barriers to inclusion and, more importantly, they have to appreciate differences.

The positive side of the pandemic

One of the effects that could not have been expected from the Covid-19 pandemic is that it has made existing inequalities even more evident, both internationally and in our own economies and societies. Differences in access to education or work and the conditions for engaging in them were even more evident during lockdowns.

This situation also revealed that the most egalitarian, diverse and inclusive workplaces were the ones that exhibited the best resilience and recovery rates.

It's no surprise, then, that two thirds of those surveyed by the ILO state that since the start of the pandemic, the level of attention given to and action taken on diversity and inclusion in their workplaces had increased.

How to be more diverse and inclusive

The study conducted by the International Labour Organization provides some insights into achieving a transformational and sustainable change that are applicable worldwide and to all the groups and levels of the workforce:

  • Diversity and inclusion must be a priority and a part of the strategy and culture.
  • There must be diversity in senior management.
  • Senior management, executives and staff must be responsible and lead by example.
  • Actions must be applied throughout the process, including hiring, retention and development.

The benefits of having more diverse and inclusive workplaces are not only ethical; they have a great economic impact on companies:

  • Higher income growth
  • Greater willingness to innovate
  • Better able to recruit a diverse talent pool
  • 5.4x higher employee retention
    According to several reports from the "Best Places to Work" organisation, when employees feel that they and their co-workers are trusted, and that they will all be treated fairly regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or age, they are 9.8 times more likely to want to go to work, 6.3 times more likely to be proud of their work and 5.4 times more likely to want to stay in their company for a long time.

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