All organisations benefit from recruiting a diverse team of employees. A broad range of skills, experience and perspectives fuels insight and innovation. When the work environment is inclusive, it opens up opportunities, informs business development and enhances customer service.

According to research published on the CBI website, companies with gender diversity outperform competitors by 25% and cultural diversity boosts profits by 36%. In workplaces where all employees feel they belong, performance increases and absenteeism decreases.

Despite the clear benefits of championing inclusivity, certain groups are significantly under-represented in UK businesses. Too many leaders appoint staff who look and act as they do. Familiarity incites confidence, but it doesn’t mean that businesses are attracting the right talent for the role; that individual may come from a very different background.

Under-represented Groups in the UK Workforce

Diversity UK stats on Race in the Workplace show that the employment rate of white workers is higher than Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) workers. BAME workers are more likely to be overqualified for a role and yet less likely to be promoted.

The Paralympics provides clear evidence that disability is not a barrier to achievement, yet people with a disability find it more challenging to find employment. When recruited, there is a pay gap between disabled and able-bodied workers and limited opportunities for career progression.

Whilst there has been progress in the number of women on FTSE 100 boards, many companies fall short of a gender balance in senior positions. In 2016, there were only 9.7% female Executive Directors in FTSE 100 companies. According to Cranfield University’s Female FTSE Report 2020, this has increased to 13.2% last year, but there is still room for progress.

“The path to diversity begins with supporting, mentoring and sponsoring diverse women and men to become leaders and entrepreneurs.”

– Denise Morrison

What Defines an Inclusive Workplace?

An inclusive workplace is one where a representative mix of employees feel valued for their contribution. The workplace recognises each individual’s skills, strengths and experience. Differences are acknowledged and reasonable adjustments are made to encourage diversity.

In inclusive companies, employees feel safe to speak up about issues of harassment, bullying and other non-inclusive behaviours. They are confident that they will be listened to, supported and issues of prejudice will be addressed.

With an inclusivity agenda, remuneration is based on the role and responsibilities, not on race, gender, age or disability. Career progression opportunities are open to any employee with the desire to upskill.

Collaboration, support and empowerment are standard practices in inclusive workplaces. People feel proud to be part of the organisation and this drives motivation, job satisfaction and loyalty. A diverse workforce is likely to attract wider diversity in customers, as the company is more aware of the specific needs in their community.

Unite for National Inclusion Week 2021

National Inclusion Week (27 September – 3 October) provides the ideal opportunity to set or review organisational targets for inclusion and diversity. This year’s theme is Unity. Together, we can challenge unconscious bias, see things from a fresh perspective and learn from good practice.

With inclusion in the spotlight, unite for open conversations to build awareness and challenge preconceptions. By approaching conversations with a willingness to learn and adapt, rather than defend, it is possible to progress.

Where to Start on a Workplace Inclusivity Journey

The CIPD had produced an Inclusion Health Checker Tool. This simple questionnaire is designed to provoke thoughts and discussion within the workplace.

Inclusive Employers, the lead organisation for National Inclusion Week. Sign up on their website to access a toolkit to support  inclusion and diversity. Through the week they will also host a series of webinars, concluding with the Inclusion Best Practice Showcase which starts at midday on Friday 1 October.

Building for Success provides information on disability in the workplace, with actions that employers can undertake to be more inclusive.

Connect with a local organisation that provides training to support staff awareness and embed inclusivity values.

Take personal responsibility for being an inclusive co-worker with tips from Inclusive Employers.

Take Action to Promote Inclusivity

In National Inclusion Week, I encourage you to share experiences with someone from a different culture or background. We can all benefit from seeing the world through another’s eyes.