skip to Main Content
Inclusion In The Workplace:  What You Need To Know

Inclusion in the Workplace: What You Need to Know


The terms “diversity” and “inclusion” are often lumped together.  However, organizations committed to bringing out the best in every employee understand that the terms are related, yet different.   Knowing the differences between diversity and inclusion in the workplace can help your organization build happier, more productive teams.


Diversity vs.  Inclusion: What’s the Difference?

Diversity and inclusion are related because both are necessary to build a competitive organization.  However, each has a different role to play in the workplace. 

In general, diversity refers to the many ways in which employees may be different.  Diversity encourages organizations to consider age, color, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and other personal characteristics.  In contrast, per Profiles in Diversity Journal, “Inclusion involves bringing together and harnessing these diverse forces and resources in a way that is beneficial. Inclusion puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection—where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create business value.”

Put another way, diversity focuses on getting people who are different into the organization.   Inclusion, by contrast, focuses on creating an environment where diverse people are accepted and appreciated.


What Does Inclusion in the Workplace Look Like?

Consider the following scenario:  A host has invited eight people to a dinner party.  Four have no dietary restrictions, but the remaining guests include a vegan, a vegetarian, and people with allergies to gluten and seafood.  If the hostess insists on serving a menu filled with dairy, seafood, and wheat, she will surely to alienate half of her guests.  But with a few tweaks, she can create a menu that pleases everyone. 

In the workplace, diversity is getting an invitation to the dinner.  Inclusion is making sure that everyone can enjoy the meal.

What inclusion in the workplace looks like in any given environment depends on the industry, the history of the workplace, and many other factors.  But according to research from Catalyst Research Centers, employees feel included when their differences and their work are respected and appreciated by the organization and their colleagues.   As a result, these employees feel that they are valued members of the team.

In contrast, according to Catalyst, in non-inclusive organizations, diverse employees feel “devalued, dismissed, or ignored.”  These employees do not feel like part of the team because their differences are highlighted in negative ways (jokes, stereotypical remarks, etc.).

Moreover, in inclusive workplaces, diverse employees are comfortable speaking about their experiences, are heard when they speak, are given opportunities to contribute to the organization, are supported, and have multiple opportunities for career advancement.


Why Inclusion in the Workplace Matters

Research provides many reasons for employers to create inclusive workplaces.  Here are three reasons.

First, without inclusion, diversity efforts are meaningless.  Money spent recruiting and hiring diverse personnel is money wasted unless efforts are made to create an environment where those hires can thrive.  Diverse hires who are not nurtured or valued report feeling like tokens rather than valued team members. 

Second, inclusion helps organizations recruit and keep employees.  Indeed, in a Deloitte survey, eighty percent of employees responded that inclusion is an important factor in choosing an employer.   Seventy-two percent of those polled said that they would leave their current employer for a more inclusive workplace.  In fact, thirty percent of younger respondents had already done so.  Inclusion helps organizations avoid the costs associated with high employee turnover.

Finally, inclusion benefits an organization’s bottom line.  Employees in inclusive organizations are more productive, more innovative, and more adaptable.  As a result, the organizations that employ them are more profitable.   However, the Harvard Business Review explained, “Without inclusion, however, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen.”   Inclusion isn’t just a moral obligation; it’s an economic imperative.


Inclusion in the workplace benefits employers and employees.  To learn more about creating an inclusive culture in your organization, enroll in the Equity Toolkit e-courses. The Equity Toolkit is an interactive, four-course online series containing essential, research-based concepts on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.


DeEtta Jones

DeEtta Jones is an invited speaker, equity, diversity and inclusion strategy consultant and author with more than twenty years of experience working with people from around the world to on personal effectiveness and building workforce capacity.

Back To Top