We’re seeing a lot more focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives within the workplace and rightly so, a group of people hired for a specific skill or competency is the perfect environment for watching the value derived from diversity and inclusiveness in action.

We often talk about diversity and inclusion in terms of what an organisation is doing to attract and retain talent, for example does a business have an employer value proposition that promotes an inclusive culture, is it offering fair and equitable remuneration and opportunity for employee development? While these are core components of a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programme, it is important to understand the broader relationship between these concepts.

#1 Diversity

Workplace diversity can mean many different things to different people. One way to quantify diversity is by what makes people different and that can include gender, ethnicity, and age through to thought diversity based on an individual’s experiences, perspectives and thought preferences. The “benefits” of diversity in the workplace are around understanding, accepting, and valuing those differences and the contribution they can have on innovation and productivity. As well as the fact that you are widening your talent pool rather than looking to hire based on a very narrow view of certain traits that don’t really contribute to what a person can bring to a role.

#2 Inclusion

You can only realise the value of having a group of diverse perspectives if your work environment is inclusive, where your people feel a sense of belonging and are comfortable sharing their perspectives. This is a really important step in the DEI continuum – you can have a diverse team but that doesn’t automatically mean there is a feeling of inclusion. For example, your organisation could have a balanced representation of females on its senior leadership team, but if they are not comfortable sharing their opinions equally due to established gender norms or not being paid equitably, then it is unlikely that the environment is inclusive.

#3 Equality

When all employees know that they are being valued equally (i.e., they feel empowered to bring their perspectives to the table) you naturally achieve equality in the workplace. This has a positive effect on attracting and retaining talent, you’ll also be building cohesive teams that increases collaboration, you’ll enhance your brand/reputation, have happier employers, and ultimately increased performance.

#4 Equity

Equity is what you reach when you embrace diversity, inclusion, and equality in the workplace. It’s a state that’s achieved when all people have equal opportunities and the required level of support to succeed and grow. Equity needs to absolutely be part of the fabric of your organisation. Your organisation might “accidently” be defined as diverse, but you need to be purposeful in your pursuit of equity.

Equality and equity are sometimes used interchangeably. An easy way to distinguish the two is by thinking of equality as giving all individuals fair treatment and equal rights to opportunities, whereas equity refers to fairness and equality in outcomes and not just support and resources.

Where to next?

If you are unsure how to embrace a DEI programme within your business or even which steps to take first, try working backwards starting at equity and asking yourself what’s important to your people and what would equity in the workplace look like to them. It can be easy to focus on more tangible forms of equity like for example gender quotas or pay parity but remember there is also a broader context to consider in terms of the workplace environment and how conducive it is to fairness. You can apply this same approach to reviewing your existing HR processes and policies which are the building blocks of your DEI programme.

Diversity Works NZ has a useful online tool to help organisations identify the maturity of their diversity, equity, and inclusion practices. You can access the tool here.

The Decipher Team

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