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Diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

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1.2 The importance of an inclusive workplace

It is important to note that to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, everyone must play their part. This is not something a single individual can take responsibility for on behalf of their organisation.

Photograph of multiple hands in the air.

Put simply, a diverse workplace is one that employs a diverse range of individuals. In the past, that alone might have been seen as sufficient to meet the diversity agenda, but our understanding of diversity issues has progressed to include the important theme of inclusion.

Atcheson (2021, p. 16) defines inclusion as ‘being included – being embedded in and actively involved in what is going on.’

To be truly inclusive, organisations must ensure that every diverse individual feels valued and able to participate equally in every aspect of the organisation’s life. They must feel that they have opportunities to fulfil their potential and that they can be their authentic selves rather than having to conform to the prevalent cultural norms – knowing their difference is appreciated and not just tolerated.

If that isn’t the case, your organisation may lose its diversity, through loss of talent, staff disengagement, reputational damage, etc. Without inclusion, diversity cannot thrive.

Diversity and inclusion are words that are often used together, but they describe two different concepts. A recent BetterTeam (2021) blog post, describes the differences as follows:

Table 1
Diversity Inclusion
Refers to the characteristics and elements that make an individual unique. Refers to the behaviours and social norms that ensure an individual feels welcomed and safe.
A concept that brings different people together in the same place. Methods and strategies implemented to make diversity work.
Achieved when hiring managers and recruiters strive for heterogeneity and combatting bias in the hiring process. Achieved when team members feel psychologically safe and included in the workplace.
Relies on inclusion in order to work. Is crucial for diversity in the workplace to be successful.

The value of respect

‘We should all consider each other as human beings, and we should respect each other.’

Malala Yousafzai

Respect plays an important role in inclusion, both receiving respect yourself and being respectful towards others. In a global study of nearly 20,000 employees, Porath (2015) found that being treated with respect is more important to individuals than recognition and appreciation or opportunities for development.

Activity 2 Exploring respect

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes for this activity.

For the first part of this activity, spend a few minutes thinking about a time when you were shown respect at work. Who showed it? How did they show it? How did that make you feel?

Make some notes in the box below.

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Now spend the rest of your time reflecting on how you show respect to others in the workplace and make notes below.

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Perhaps you could think of lots of occasions when you’ve demonstrated your respect for others, but perhaps you’ve had to acknowledge that you aren’t always respectful enough. Part of the purpose of this course is to stimulate a personal journey, where you may feel uncomfortable at times. This is not a bad thing; this is a positive step towards developing your self-awareness, understanding how others feel and becoming more open to the concepts of diversity and inclusion.

In Week 5 of this course, you’ll look in more detail at the personal skills and behaviours that can support a more inclusive workplace.

Although there are many reasons why a diverse and inclusive workplace can be beneficial to all those involved, there is also a legal framework that all organisations are required to adhere to. You’ll learn more about that in the next section.