Workplace diversity isn’t just good business; it’s good for business, boosting everything from innovation to resilience to organizations’ bottom lines. The challenge, however? For many companies, it’s moving past technical changes impacting diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DI&B) and into adaptive changes that do more than move the numbers. Meaningful, adaptive and mindset changes along with forward-moving technical shifts, together, are essential to driving — and benefitting from — authentic, inclusive workplaces. 

Understanding inclusion and belonging 

Often, technical changes — shifting policies, identifying diversity-hiring benchmarks, and other quantifiable fixes — may boost initial diversity indicators such as percentages of minority hires or leadership-level shifts in gender or ethnicity. True DI&B strategy though, goes deeper. The key to creating a meaningful DI&B push is understanding inclusion and belonging. 

Inclusive environments promote a sense of value and empowerment among employees — here, people feel heard, respected, and appreciated. Broad-ranging opinions, unique experiences, diverse backgrounds, and other differences are celebrated because leadership recognizes the need for this critical tension to promote diversity of thought and, ultimately, greater innovation, acceleration, and productivity. Inclusive cultures are also tied to better job satisfaction, retention, and positive employer branding.

These environments are also more likely to foster a sense of belonging among all employees, and it’s one of the top drivers of happiness and wellbeing in the workplace

“Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is a behaviour,” said Christianne Garofalo, a partner at Heidrick Consulting and a diversity consultant. “But belonging is the emotional outcome that people want in their organization.” 

Creating a culture that empowers all employees 

These initiatives are especially important now. Nearly one in four Canadians are foreign-born with 250 ethnic origins or ancestries reported, making Canada the most diverse country in the G8. 

Despite the tremendous diversity, just 11% of Canadian organizations report truly “inclusive” cultures where “employees feel involved, respected, valued and connected— and bring their authentic selves to the team and business.” Forty percent have “begun to understand the value of a diverse workforce, and have taken initial steps to engage diverse employees in talent and business initiatives,” while 24% view “diversity as a problem” and see themselves as a “numbers-based organization focused on affirmative action goals.” 

So, then, how to move forward and create an authentic culture of diversity, inclusion, and belonging? 

  1. Take action — and responsibility.

Be open to — and encourage — ongoing employee feedback and reporting. Initial numbers can be misleading, especially for new DI&B initiatives. Remember, it’s not about how many diverse hires are brought in or promoted. The true test of a strong DI&B framework is everything from turnover to employer branding to continuing to pulse-check and iterate on employee feedback surrounding inclusion and belonging. 

It’s also important to be transparent and intentional — if efforts don’t pan out the way you’d planned, say so. Share learnings and next steps. Above all, keep everyone in the know and aligned on common goals and initiatives. Change is inherently uncomfortable. But by keeping employees in the loop, you’ll demystify any shifts and promote greater awareness, understanding, and belonging — and, with that, will be more likely to keep initiatives on track. 

  1. Don’t assume. Ask. 

While employee reviews, the Indeed Work Happiness Score, and Client Diagnostic Assessments with an Indeed representative can give you a good sense of where existing DI&B falls short, go deeper. Survey employees. Create safe spaces for inclusive conversations. Understand where your organization falls short — and take steps to act accordingly. Never assume and never be afraid to ask. 

  1. Don’t view DI&B as a finish line. 

Cultures, climates, and employee wants, needs, and goals change — so, too, should your DI&B efforts. 

To that end, never stop being curious. Create internal teams and identify stakeholders to keep an eye on your DI&B framework and ensure new and emerging voices are being heard. Keep benchmarking, reimagining, and reporting on your existing efforts. And, above all, be sure leadership is leaning in and listening when employees and other stakeholders share their unique experiences within your organization. Understanding and considering all feedback promotes a culture of inclusion, belonging, and continuous learning. 

Now more than ever, DI&B is essential to your organization’s success. Profits depend on it. Employees demand it. And, implemented and iterated on properly, it can be your company’s dynamic competitive advantage.