What is a diverse and inclusive environment in the workplace?

A diverse and inclusive environment is one where you are confident that you can bring all your whole self to work and be treated equally with your peers. An environment where you will feel included and respected regardless of any “differences” you may have to those around you. These “differences” could be visible demographics like gender, race, age, a visible disability, but also, and less visible traits such as sexual orientation, personality type, background and education.

What are the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace and why you should be looking to work for an employer that champions and upholds strong practices in this area?

1- You’re more likely to be working for an innovative and future-proofed business

As Katherine Phillips, Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Columbia Business School, quite rightly states in her article: How diversity makes us smarter – “Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving. Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations.” Also, research published in the Harvard Business Review also found that diverse teams solve problems faster than those teams with more cognitively similar members. Whilst another study found that diverse teams also make decisions 60% more quickly than non-diverse teams.

The reason for this is that diverse teams and inclusive workplaces encourage and allow for perspectives and ideas to be heard and adopted from a wider range of people and experience. And a wider range of people with a wider range of perspectives are far more likely to be reflective of the company’s customer base and their changing needs and 70% more likely to report that they’ve captured a new market. Therefore, an employer who is committed to diversity and inclusion is far more likely to drive innovation and thus stronger results.

2- You will strengthen your soft skills – which will always be important

In a fast changing world of work, soft skills are becoming increasingly important to employers. You might not realise it, but working for an employer which values diversity and inclusion will help you develop your soft skills, particularly your curiosity, adaptability and interpersonal skills. Why? Because if you are working in a diverse and inclusive environment, you will automatically be exposed to a wider range of different opinions, ideas and skills far more regularly, and you will also be actively encouraged to share your own. This, in turn, will allow you to open your mind and become more curious about different ways of thinking, whilst allowing you to refine your interpersonal and skills. You will also be more likely to learn new skills from your colleagues.

3- You won’t feel like an outsider at work

An employer who values diversity and inclusion will actively create a culture that is open and welcoming to all. As a result, employees don’t feel they have to “fake it” to fit in or hide material aspects of who they are or what is important to them to feel included, allowing them to flourish as their authentic selves.

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