woman sitting on concrete looking at a landscape view
By: Angelica Reyes
An organization’s greatest resource is its people, and research shows that organizations can benefit further from having a diverse and inclusive workforce. A McKinsey study indicates that diversity and inclusion (D&I) play an integral role in business continuity, profitability and are more likely to outperform their counterparts that lag behind on D&I.  
An organization that adopts diversity accepts and respects the different perspectives, experiences, and skills that each employee brings regardless of gender, sexuality, culture, ethnicity, religious beliefs, disability, age and so on. While inclusion, often used in tandem with diversity, celebrates and values the distinct individuality of employees and creates equal opportunities and resources for everyone to do their best work. Diversity is empowering people to be themselves and inclusion is ensuring that everyone feels valued. Therefore, an organization that truly adopts D&I creates a mosaic of diverse strengths and skills that in turn, collectively contribute towards shaping the culture, values and future of the organization. 
Many organizations today understand the importance of making D&I a cornerstone, but long-term progress in fostering a truly diverse and inclusive culture is also attributed to the employees’ engagement and sense of belonging within the organization. Therefore, consistently engaging with employees by listening, encouraging feedback, being aware of potential roadblocks that may hinder progress on D&I and showing genuine effort goes a long way. Here are some ways on how organizations can stay on track in creating an inclusive and engaged workforce to drive lasting change – for better. 

Lead by example 

Leaders of organizations who make D&I an integral part of the organization’s values pave the way towards consistent and meaningful progress. In addition, leaders that actively get involved in supporting D&I awareness events and who take a genuine interest in employees’ sense of belonging in the workplace naturally inspire those around them to follow their lead in cultivating inclusivity. 
“The companies you will see participating on International Women’s Day or during Black History Month, you’ll see these companies and there are certain companies that are standouts. They’re doing such a great job and the one thing that is consistent in all of them is they’re engaging all of their employees. But I think it needs to start at that top level and then come down. If you don’t have that buy-in at the top, it’s not going to go anywhere.” 
– June Dias, Senior Solutions Sales Executive 
Although leaders are the vanguard of fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce, having an appointed D&I council consisting of members from various business divisions across the organization can also help drive D&I policies and the cohesive roll-out of initiatives. Additionally, the D&I council can oversee and manage the progress of initiatives in place, initiate important conversations and help keep employees engaged with the organization’s D&I strategies.  

Listen and encourage ongoing feedback 

A key component of inclusion is to make employees feel that they belong and foster an environment where they feel that their voices are heard and that their opinions matter. Investing in platforms to encourage employees to share their feedback and suggestions on the organization’s D&I progress, policies and initiatives gives organizations a better understanding of their progress, identify areas for improvement and develop new opportunities that can help drive long-term success. 
 “It is important to track the progress on policies and initiatives to have a clear understanding of how employees feel on a deeper level on the organization’s D&I efforts. Without this core information, we would not know what is important and if we are going in the right direction with our actions.” 
– Salim Fazal, Programs Manager, Quality and Services 

Communicate the importance of being aware and the impacts of unconscious bias 

Unconscious or implicit biases within the workforce are one of the main barriers that impact progress in D&I and affect employee engagement. A Harvard Business Review study indicates that employees who perceived bias were four times as likely to regularly feel alienated at work and about three times as likely to leave within a year. Although it is not easy to eliminate, making concerted efforts to reduce its negative implications and developing a structure and criteria for employee hiring, evaluation and promotion can go a long way. It also takes ongoing commitment, initiating honest conversations, and helping employees to reflect on their own personal biases and how it impacts others is one of the first steps towards positive change.  
“First, define a strategy and assign goals against your strategy. For instance, relook at your job postings and ensure that you are removing bias and using language that will resonate with everyone. Communicate at every opportunity your company’s position on D&I and all the programs you have in place, the plans you have to support your employees’ career goals, well-being and other initiatives that will help them foster a sense of belonging in your company.” 
– Daisy Rajaratnam, Director, Employee Experience 
A diverse workforce creates a melting pot of a broad range of experiences, perspectives, skills, and ideas, while inclusion cultivates a sense of belonging. Together, it nurtures the foundation to create an engaged and thriving workforce that in turn, contributes towards the long-term success of an organization. When organizations make D&I at the core of everything they do, it becomes a part of the corporate culture and influences how employees interact not only with the people around them at work, but also within the communities they live in.  
As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week, we shine a spotlight on how, collectively, we can create a world that is diverse, inclusive, equitable, and where everyone’s distinct differences are valued and celebrated.
If you missed our virtual celebrations on March 8, where Ricoh Canada proudly supported Women of Influence in celebrating Canada’s most accomplished diverse role models, click here to watch the event recap and meet the women who have left their mark and initiated lasting change – for better. 
If you missed our last blog post on ‘creating meaningful progress towards empowerment and equality in the workforce,’ click here.