Diversity and inclusion is part of the management agenda for most businesses now. It’s one of the things that we know ought to be tackled but often misses the mark when executed. There is a tendency to focus on the diversity part and completely miss inclusion, because diversity as a concept is easier to grasp and far easier to measure. But what does inclusion really mean? Can a business operate a strong commitment to diversity without proper inclusion?

What Is Inclusion?

Inclusion is often discussed in the context of diversity – the two are usually lumped together – but while diversity is fairly easy to define and quantify, inclusion can be more tricky. Diversity simply put, is about differences – whether its age, gender, physical ability, racial or ethnic background, religion or any other differentiating feature. UK legislation supports diversity in the workplace though means such as The Equality Act 2010, making it illegal to discriminate against someone because of any of the aforementioned differences. Diversity is fairly easy to measure in terms of key metrics and demographics (which has led to criticism of diversity as a quota or tick box exercise, which we will come on to later).

So, what is inclusion? Once a well-represented, diverse workforce is present, inclusion is what gets people on-board and engaging with the business and its priorities. According to the UK’s HR professional body, the CIPD, inclusion is defined as, “creating a workplace environment where everyone feels able to participate fully and reach their potential.” It’s not just having people there but involving them actively in the operations and development of the business. There is a now well-known saying that ‘diversity is inviting people to the party, inclusion is asking them to dance.’ It’s not enough to just recruit a diverse mix of people if it’s then not followed up properly. And this is where inclusion comes in.

Active Versus Passive Inclusion

Let’s imagine there are two main poles on the inclusion index: active inclusion and passive inclusion. Many businesses and individuals may operate somewhere in the middle ground of these poles, but they provide a useful benchmark of more extreme behaviour.

If we first take passive inclusion, what would this look like? A whole lot of box ticking and lip service is the answer. As we’ve already mentioned, diversity is sometimes implemented as an exercise in fulfilling quotas or just another HR hoop to jump through without any attempt to follow up with truly inclusive policies and practices. In this scenario, we see managers saying all the right things but without any intention of seeing things through, because fundamentally they don’t see the value of diversity and inclusion. Passive inclusion turns up on the day as required, but misses the point that inclusion helps businesses to grow, bringing different ideas to the table by encouraging a wide pool of people to contribute. Passive inclusion likes to maintain control and dislikes change, particularly if it requires new ways of working or relinquishing power. Passive inclusion does not lead but governs, it speaks rather than listens, and it does nothing to challenge assumptions or take the business forward.

By contrast, active inclusion champions participation, requires democratic input and involves everyone in the team to make best use the skills and experience available. Active inclusion is about belief and interaction, it galvanises action, rather than just talking about it. Active inclusion involves risk taking, having the gumption to make bold choices whether it be giving an opportunity to someone new or trying a new way of working. And it’s these risks and capacity for change that take the business forward. Active inclusion is accepting accountability for the role that we all have to play in building a better work environment, taking ownership for our part in improving diversity and inclusion.  It’s not about delegating responsibility to HR or running another training programme. Active inclusion recognises that it’s not someone else’s job, it’s our job. Active inclusion is authentic in its aim to value people and maximise the potential of everyone in the team. Active inclusion therefore makes a difference, it adds value, bringing out the best from a diverse group of individuals. It’s not about clipboards or quotas, compulsory training or policies, but recognises the benefits of drawing on a wide skills and talent pool. Active inclusion is forward thinking, addressing a broader business context, essentially seeing the bigger picture.

Be Great With Diversity

Here at great{with}diversity, we understand that offering equal opportunities in the workplace social imperative but gives competitive advantage. We’ve done the research, read the stats and we know for sure that businesses with greater diversity and inclusion perform better financially as well as developing superior employer branding. We believe proper diversity – that which embraces inclusion – requires some very pro-active and conscious commitments and decisions about how you run and build your business so that you create a workplace environment where everyone feels able to participate fully and reach their potential.

We also know that it’s not always easy to get diversity and inclusion right and that’s where we can help. We provide the analytics to make the case for diversity and inclusion in the context of your individual business, making it easier to on-board sceptics and ensure that your resources are directed toward the most impactful and meaningful change. If you want fast results with company specific analysis and recommendations on a user-friendly, secure online system then we’re the company for you.

Take a proactive approach to diversity and inclusion in your business.  Visit www.greatwithdiversity.com for more information on how to get ahead.