Diverse paper cutouts holding hands
Talent Published Date, 2022

Diversity vs. Inclusion: Know The Difference

Created By: Jessica Shatzel
June 14, 2022

In the past few years, organizations across the country have adopted the tenets of diversity, equity, and inclusion as core principles in their work. Is diversity a core value at your organization? Are your hiring practices consistently taking into account the full spectrum of human differences and identities? Is your culture inclusive and optimized for all employees to thrive once onboarded?

As employers increasingly embrace diversity—and consider race, religion, sexual orientation, age, and other factors when making hiring decisions—they are finding that diverse talent is essential to building a dynamic workforce. But it is not enough to simply increase the assortment of faces and backgrounds on your team. Inclusion and equity should be the ultimate goal. Often used interchangeably, diversity and inclusion are not the same, and understanding the difference is critical to enabling the success of employees and teams. 

While diversity focuses on the makeup of your workforce, inclusion is a measure of culture that enables diversity to thrive. Inclusion requires an institutional commitment to ensuring that diverse voices and opinions are given serious—and not just token—consideration when making decisions that shape policies and practices. A culture of inclusiveness is rooted in respect, an environment where all employees know they are valued for what they’re capable of contributing, even though it might look, sound, and feel very different than the status quo.

Implemented correctly, a diverse workforce operating in an inclusive workplace is certain to lead to a fairer, more equitable, and more productive culture, with increased levels of innovation and adaptability ultimately impacting the bottom line in a big way. An inclusive workplace is one in which all employees are encouraged to fully participate in the organization, and where all employees, especially those who have been historically underrepresented, are given the tools and opportunities needed to succeed and make a difference.

What are some key characteristics of an inclusive workplace?

  • Psychological Safety
    • Employees feel safe contributing to discussion, speaking up, sharing new ideas, and voicing concerns.
  • Authenticity
    • Employees bring their whole selves to work and know their uniqueness is appreciated and valued; they experience a sense of belonging.
  • High Levels of Trust
    • Employees trust their leaders to make fair and equitable decisions, and to be transparent, honest, and open.
  • Collaboration
    • Employees who are more connected to each other are able to leverage each other’s strengths and knowledge.
  • Engaged Employees
    • Employees have an emotional commitment to the organization and its goals.

How can you foster inclusion on your team and within your organization?

  • Create space for conversation
    • Get to know your teammates to establish trust and encourage vulnerability.
  • Model inclusive behaviors and actions
    • Recognize and reward others demonstrating such behaviors.
  • Set expectations for inclusive communication within teams and workgroups
    • Example: no interrupting, belittling others’ ideas.
  • Elevate voices
    • Seek to hear from all voices; specifically request input from individuals who have not yet spoken.
  • Call out bias
    • Recognize and address biases being demonstrated and support the team in understanding and overcoming them.
  • Formally evaluate culture, analyze and adjust.
    • Example: Culture surveys, unconscious bias training.

While increasing diversity in the workplace has been top of mind for many organizations, ensuring that an inclusive culture exists to allow the success of each team member must be the first step. Diversity does not equate to inclusion; but with inclusion, diversity will flourish.

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