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Why organisations should focus on inclusivity, not just diversity

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Companies’ diversity and inclusion programmes have – until very recently – been a numbers game. Tick the boxes, meet the quotas, and all is right. Except it isn’t.

In a recent interview, Alisha Fernando, APAC D&I head at Bloomberg, told Human Resources that trying to “manage diversity” is a sure-fire recipe for failure.

“Because when you try to manage diversity, you automatically put people in boxes or categories. And when we’re talking about inclusion and inclusive work cultures and diversity, what we’re talking about is: How do we integrate?” she said.

Recent research demonstrates that genuine D&I in an organisation results in business success.

2018 study by Diversity Council Australia revealed only 22% of businesses actively measured the impact of D&I strategies, but drilling down to the council’s Inclusion@Work Index, inclusive teams were, in fact, 10 times more productive than those that were non inclusive.

Employees in inclusive teams were less likely to be harassed at work, reported higher job satisfaction, and were significantly more likely to be innovative.

According to Sharon Carroll, diversity and inclusion partner at Australia Post, the first big change in diversity in the workplace is a shift in language – from diversifying to including.

“Diversity I think of as measuring. Whereas there’s been so much research done in recent years that says you’re not really tapping into the value of that diversity unless those people feel included,” Carroll was quoted as saying in The Guardian.

Companies that talk about inclusion rather than just diversity are developing a better understanding of how to support and nurture a genuinely inclusive environment. Simply put, adopting this approach is good for business.

The council’s figures reveal that companies with gender diversity are 21% more likely to outperform their competitors. Businesses with cultural and ethnic diversity are 33% more likely to outperform their rivals.

D&I in the workplace continues to evolve. While organisations in the past may have partnered with a charity for goodwill and a little savvy branding, they now look for ways to put people first and make lasting change.

“If you want to be competitive, if you want to stay in business, you really have to be very clear about what you’re doing. Customers and consumers these days are smart, and they want to partner with businesses that stand for something and are about more than just making money,” Carroll observed.

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