Why we must walk the road together for successful DEI

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is not only the job of HR, but of everyone in the company, says Desiree Silverstone

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My coaching client recently told me: "I'm a black woman in engineering, in an all-male team, and I don't feel like I fit in." These stories almost always come from women and people of colour. The stories I hear in my coaching sessions often describe feeling invisible, being spoken over, not feeling heard or being passed over.

Increasing diversity in companies, both in terms of gender and ethnicity and culture, has both a strong human and business case. The majority of companies strive to incorporate DEI into their DNA. Some are paying lip service, while others are partially succeeding. But there is still a long way to go.

There are a few people at the forefront of making change happen. Serena Williams is one of them. Having retired from tennis, she has just announced that she will be investing in venture capital supporting women and people with diverse backgrounds.  

So, why does this matter? DEI promotes a culture of innovation and productivity that has benefits for employees as well as the bottom line. 

Diversity doesn’t work without inclusion and it is important to recognise the relationship between the two. Diversity refers to the composition of the workplace. Having an inclusive workplace means valuing and integrating the perspectives and contributions of different groups of employees. There is no point in hiring a token number of employees who tick the ‘diversity’ box without making them feel like they belong.

It is not only the job of HR, but of everyone in the company, to behave in a way that promotes inclusivity. It should be part of the DNA of the company and the people in it.

The benefits of team diversity 

The workplace benefits from the frames of reference and experiences of team members with various backgrounds and ages. The idea of inclusion and creating psychological safety means that everyone has the opportunity to contribute, bringing their own unique perspective.

Multiple points of view allow teams to problem solve and build on each other's ideas in a more creative way and also make better decisions. A healthy conglomeration of ideas helps people approach problems or ideas from different perspectives, sparking innovation.

McKinsey research shows that racially diverse teams outperformed their non-diverse counterparts by 35 per cent, and women and men in equal teams increased their revenue by 41 per cent.

Companies are invested in their employee’s development. A great way of achieving this is through exposure to different genders and cultures, which offers opportunities for personal growth.  

Recruiting the best talent

Companies that want to attract the best candidates are those that have an environment that is both diverse and inclusive. Diversity is often seen as an important part of a company's culture by professionals, who often prefer companies that foster it. Millennials and Gen Z are especially concerned about this when considering jobs. The fact that 48 per cent of Gen Z are minorities should be taken into account.

Brand reputation matters

Showing off your diverse workforce and inclusion initiatives benefits your business, ensuring your reputation remains positive.

It can expand your customer base. With a diverse workforce, you will be able to better understand the concerns and preferences of different groups. The ability to connect with the outside world is enhanced by diversity, which leads to more opportunities for an organisation.

Reduced attrition

Businesses with a good reputation when it comes to diversity and inclusion help recruit talented employees who are often worried about fitting in. Employees are therefore less likely to look for another job with a different culture since they feel more included.

Hiring new employees is costly for organisations. Glassdoor estimates that the average employer pays about £3,000 per hire for the hiring process alone. 

In addition to reducing turnover, diversity promotes stability. 

Psychological advantages

Working in an environment where people are collaborating and working jointly towards a vision improves morale. When we interact with one another, our brains synchronise.  If the collaboration is positive, we can produce feel good neurotransmitters like oxytocin and dopamine, which open up creativity and increase bonding and motivation.

Diverse leaders increase productivity

Because diversity equates to different ways of thinking and access to a different set of cultural and personal experiences, leaders are more likely to be able to think outside the box. Diverse management teams and employees prevent a company from becoming pigeonholed into one way of thinking. 

It is also beneficial to foster better relationships with employees through diversity in leadership. When employees see themselves represented in leadership, they feel more connected to their company. In addition to showing acceptance of other cultures and backgrounds, it also suggests an opportunity for advancement.

Desiree Silverstone is a psychotherapist turned coach and mentor, and founder of Head Honchos