The Importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Your Business
on January 20, 2021
By: Jen Gilbert, Senior Copywriter, Moxie
If there’s anything 2020 taught us as an industry, it’s that adapting to a changing marketplace is no longer optional. Keeping up can mean the difference between growing your business and simply staying afloat. If you have not begun prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in your business, now is the time to start.
What it means
Let’s start with the basics. What does DEI even mean?
Diversity is about the full range of human differences and similarities—starting with gender, and including everything such as race, religion, physical ability, and sexual orientation.
Equity is about ensuring everyone has the opportunities and tools they need to be successful. It is different from equality in that different people may need different tools for success. Most businesses refer to equity instead of equality when talking about workplace initiatives.
Inclusion is about welcoming all individuals to feel value, thrive, and bring their whole selves to work.
Why it matters
The demographics of the U.S. population are shifting. According to The Brookings Institution, the 2020 U.S. census will show nearly four in 10 Americans identify with a race or ethnic group other than white. If you have not already noticed this shift reflected in the demographics of your customers or patients, you probably will soon. This increases the chances of your labor pool changing as well, so your new hires may begin to reflect the diversity of your location without any effort at all.
This may provide a beginning for your efforts, but natural shifts are not enough. Contrary to what some may think, a focus on DEI is not simply about making people feel good. It is not even about being “politically correct.” In addition to addressing social justice, research from credible sources such as McKinsey & Company and Harvard Business Review demonstrates again and again that diversity improves a company’s financial performance.
Here are a few ways this works:
- Innovation and growth: Diversity of experiences and backgrounds among your staff leads to different perspectives and new ideas. These are the foundations for innovation in business.
- Better, faster decisions: One way diversity may impact business growth is through more effective decision-making. This study shows diversity can help decisions at all levels in a business.
- Customer experience: A diverse workforce can empathize better with diverse customers. Customer service staff with similar life experiences to customers may offer insight and understanding into their needs. Connecting with customers is key to improving the customer experience.
- Employee engagement: Emphasizing diversity and inclusion has been shown to create a culture of engagement, and engaged employees are more productive and contribute to business growth. Millennials especially value engagement and are more likely to stay in jobs where they feel engaged.
- Recruitment and retention: A concerted effort to diversify your workforce will probably include recruitment tactics, but inclusion is what contributes to retention (see employee engagement).
Walk the walk
Beware of inauthenticity. The only thing worse than no commitment is a hollow one. If you’re going to talk the talk, make sure you walk the walk.
Resources to help you on your DEI journey are readily available online. You may want to begin by learning about bias through the Implicit Associations Test. Or explore the wide array of courses in DEI, cultural competency, and more, offered by VGM Education.
You can start small when it comes to DEI. While the desired results are policies and practices that drive change, it starts with raising awareness and opening communication. Even simple steps like talking about why diversity and inclusion matter can make a difference—a difference that ultimately impacts your bottom line.
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