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When businesses truly embrace diversity and inclusion, they create a powerful, complementary team that’s unbeatable together . Unfortunately, though, there’s no magic wand you can wave to get there.

To leverage the incredible team-building and innovative potential of diversity and inclusion, businesses need to articulate strong values, make them a real part of daily work culture, and create policies and procedures that hold themselves and their employees accountable. It takes honest commitment, thoughtful planning, strong follow-through, and built-in checks and balances along the way.

With that said, no business should be dissuaded from working towards building diverse and inclusive HR policies just because the work is complex. In fact, organizations who don’t tackle the challenge and opportunity of diversity head-on only set themselves up to stagnate.

In this post we’ll explore:

  • What strong workplace diversity and inclusion “look like” as we near 2020
  • How truly valuing diversity and inclusion builds success for businesses
  • The many costs associated with undervaluing and not practicing workplace diversity and inclusion
  • How HR professionals trying to increase their knowledge of current best practices for diversity and inclusion can connect with the best resources

The State of Workplace Diversity & Inclusion

The world of workplace diversity has transformed immensely over the past decade. A diverse, progressive, and inclusive workplace culture can no longer be treated like an optional, industry-specific perk. Instead, a commitment to diversity and inclusion has become a necessity for businesses at any size. In fact, diversity and inclusion policies are increasingly requirements when it comes to disclosures for business partnerships, grant applications, and proposals.

In today’s modern work climate, organizations that don’t understand and leverage the value of workplace diversity will fail to outperform their competitors.

Let’s take a minute to break down both the words “diversity” and “inclusion” and think about what they really mean in today’s marketplace.

Workplace diversity means hiring, promoting, and valuing professionals from a variety of different backgrounds, experiences, and approaches. It means employing people who think differently, look differently, and experience the world differently from each other. It means thinking beyond age, race, religion, disability, or sexual identity. It means trying to build a team that is truly complementary and reflects the world and marketplace as a whole.

Diversity, however, is nothing without inclusion. In fact, it is inclusion that has become the hot-button issue and the trendier topic over the last two years. Inclusion is the company’s devotion to and strategies for ensuring their diverse workforce functions as a true team, and all people’s skills, values, and perspectives are valued in a fair way.

As we approach 2020, diversity is firmly cemented as one of the most important values for all corporations and businesses, while inclusion is continuing to emerge and take its rightful place as a key focus of HR. Let’s take a minute to think about what benefits forward-thinking HR departments can create for their organizations when they get both diversity and inclusion right.

How Diversity & Inclusion Help Businesses Win

As an HR professional, it’s your job to build a team that sets your business up for success. From that perspective, diversity and inclusion aren’t even really values or ideals anymore – they’re simply matters of best practice.

When your organization embraces a variety of professionals, perspectives, and people, you create a team that can accomplish more than any homogeneous group. With that said, maximizing their impact means pairing that diversity with inclusion – that is to say, diverse staffing practices must be supported by policies, leadership, and day-to-day workflows that keep everybody feeling empowered and engaged.

Businesses that call pull those two components off can reap significant business results that less diverse or inclusive workplaces simply can’t access.

Talent Attraction and Retention

One of the most seismic shifts of the twenty-first century has been the deemphasis on base salary, especially in the face of a thriving workplace culture. Simply put, great talent wants to work in a great environment – one that feels warm but professional, welcoming and collegial.

People also want to work in a place where their perspective is appreciated and valued. That’s where the organization that values diversity can connect with outstanding talent. If you can establish an identity and a reputation as a business that truly creates opportunity for people based on the strengths of their talents and thinks beyond twentieth-century concepts of what corporate leadership and a productive office look like, you’ll be operating a workplace where the very best talent of every background will want to work.

Increased Authentic Engagement

When your boss is the person who signs your check, you’ll work to meet their expectations. When your boss is a person who shares your values, applies fairness in every possible situation, and builds a team of diverse voices that makes you (and everybody) feel heard, you’ll work to exceed everybody’s expectations.

By fostering a diverse team, promoting diverse leadership, and creating a workplace where everybody has the level of comfort, support, and safety they need to get their work done, you can build something truly special: an environment without glass ceilings or toxic secret inner circles. You will have a workplace where all employees feel like they’re working positively toward shared goals. This sets talent up to be their best selves and function as a whole that’s much greater and more powerful than the sum of its parts.

Building a Variety of Perspectives

Too often, organizations lock themselves into a vision, a culture, and a way of thinking early on in their lifecycle and craft hiring and promotion programs in a way that reinforces that orthodoxy. This can be a recipe for business stagnation.

Forward-thinking businesses aren’t afraid of a diversity of perspectives or approaches destabilizing what they’ve previously built. On the contrary, these businesses realize that a team with a wide variety of backgrounds creates a much greater pool of ideas for innovation, problem-solving, messaging, and more.

When each department, committee, and project team is diverse and everybody knows their perspective and work is valued, businesses create the strongest possible framework for innovative thinking, innovative work, and innovative approaches to quality assurance.

Fostering a Reputation as a True Modern Business

If you can establish a great, diverse, inclusive workplace culture where everybody feels supported and bought-in, you can turn your organization into a destination landing spot for great talent and great buzz alike. Your HR and marketing departments can leverage your thriving, positive culture as an anchor point for campaigns that help your business grow and spread the word about the great work you’re doing.

How Businesses Lose When They Don’t Prioritize Diversity & Inclusion

Organizations that lack a strong commitment to diversity don’t just miss out on all the benefits discussed previously, they also create several very real and very dangerous business problems for themselves. Whether it’s through explicit exclusion or simply a lack of care at the leadership and HR levels, businesses that disregard building a thoughtful approach to diversity put themselves in a tenuous business and legal position.

Businesses that preach diversity on paper but do little to make inclusion a daily workplace value at every level leave themselves vulnerable to many of the same problems. In fact, in some ways, a half-hearted approach to diversity and inclusion can set you up to lose bigger, as the organization comes away looking either disconnected from its values or like a fraud.

Increased Turnover

When employees don’t feel fully safe, valued, appreciated, plugged-in, or supported, they head for the door. Of all the changes to the workplace over the last twenty years, this is the one that’s caught senior leaders and HR professionals off-guard the most.

Turnover due to gaps in diversity and inclusion isn’t just the result of stereotypical harassment or bullying, though. Today’s top talent is sensitive to their environment and can generally gauge whether or not they are a fit for a job and its culture within six months. If talent feels there is a glass ceiling or lack of potential for success and personal happiness due to your organization’s lack of devotion to diversity and inclusion, they’ll just hand in their notice and move on.

No HR professional needs to be told how damaging the spend associated with turnover is. Gaps in productivity, hiring expenses, and training time all hurt the bottom line and significantly impact the team’s ability to fire on all cylinders. Even if you’re great at identifying and hiring diverse talent, you’re just setting your organization up for a brain drain if there isn’t a framework in place to ensure those professionals are valued and supported.

Lower Employee Morale & Reduced Engagement

Discrimination and exclusion are ugly things, and when people see them in the workplace – even devoted professionals – they simply can’t work like their best selves. To put it simply, toxic cultures bum people out, and nobody is motivated to do their best work when their workplace feels toxic.

With that said, the way gaps in inclusion affect morale can be subtler but no less devastating. When employees are physically present but feel like they aren’t valued, heard, and included in the same ways as their peers, their engagement level, buy-in, and quality of work begin to drop at a steady pace.

One of the biggest mistakes HR leaders make is underestimating how many people are sensitive to issues of diversity and inclusion. When discrimination occurs or inclusion is clearly not a priority, the blow to morale and buy-in extends far beyond the direct victim of the situation. That means that organizations that do wrong by their minority or LGBTQ+ employees are actually damaging the productivity, motivation, and engagement of a much higher percentage of the workforce, who stand as allies to those groups.


Diversity is a synonym of “variety,” and the less diversity an organization has, the less variety there will be in terms of innovative thinking and profit-driving work. If you get a room full of 10 people from similar backgrounds and ask them to solve a problem, they’ll probably come up with one or two well-defined ideas. In a room of 10 people from diverse backgrounds, however, you can have a much richer discussion about possible solutions because there are more ways of looking at the problem and a wider range of past experiences and familiar approaches available.

Organizations that don’t prioritize diversity and inclusion at every level within the organization set up themselves up to fall victim to groupthink. This can be especially limiting at the executive or leadership level, where a true team of complementary minds is necessary to steer the work.

Reputation & Perception as an Innovator

In this day and age, reputation is everything, for individuals and businesses alike. Tone-deaf marketing campaigns sink brands overnight, and reports of regressive, toxic, or non-inclusive culture on sites like Glassdoor can quickly limit an organization’s potential to land great talent.

When people encounter a discriminatory or non-inclusive environment in today’s culture, they’re not going to suffer in silence or keep it to themselves. They will use the tools available to make sure that the world knows exactly what gaps exist in their current or former employee’s commitment to inclusion.

Legal Issues

Of course, litigation is always the elephant in the room, especially when HR issues are concerned. When it comes to inclusion and diversity, a lack of HR commitment can quickly spiral into a costly legal situation.

On one hand, all organizations in the U.S. with at least 15 employees are beholden to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). EEOC investigations and adjudications can last for months, or even years, creating a long, damaging process that can devastate an organization’s ability to turn a profit in both the short- and long-term. Depending on the state in which your business is located, there may be additional anti-discrimination and inclusion laws you need to consider.

On the other, there’s the specter of civil litigation. Civil cases can be resolved much more quickly than EEOC investigations, but they can be just as damaging in terms of finance, reputation, and ongoing employee morale. No matter where your organization is located, there are several attorneys in your area who make their bread and butter on discrimination claims, and they know how to use your own policies (or lack thereof) against you to win the biggest possible award for their clients.

Key Takeaways

As an HR professional, it’s your job to build the best possible team and create an environment in which that team can thrive and succeed. Part of building that great team is truly understanding the importance of diversity to high-quality work; another part is commitment to supporting the team you’ve built with policies, procedures, and structure that help them feel plugged-in and valued.

Some key takeaways from this post include:

  • Diversity and inclusion are no longer optional workplace values
  • Businesses that create a welcoming, diverse, inclusive environment provide themselves with the best opportunities for innovation and the widest array of skills and perspectives
  • Organizations that don’t embrace diversity and inclusion stand to lose the war for talent and set themselves up for legal and financial trouble

How to Learn More

Whether you’re an emerging HR leader trying to build a better understanding of diversity and inclusion or an experienced veteran looking to bring yourself up to speed on how D&I best practices are evolving, be sure to reserve a seat at Launchways’ upcoming Diversity & Inclusion Summit for HR and Finance Leaders.

The free education session will take place after hours on Wednesday, October 16th at TechNexus in Chicago and will feature an expert panel with the Midwest’s leading HR professionals and diversity and inclusion experts, including…

·      Rebekah Wolford of Paylocity, a culture- and success-oriented HR leader with experience leading data-driven D&I initiatives

·      Alex Koglin of Launchways, a leading Chicago-area employee benefits consultant with a passion for LGBTQ+ rights

·      Chanté Thurmond of The Darkest Horse, an executive talent consultant who specializes in radical inclusion and expert team building

·      Manny Flores of SomerCor, a small business lender with a track record of empowering diverse entrepreneurs

Panel discussions will be packed with takeaways related to diversity and inclusion, including…

·      How to foster a diverse and inclusive company culture

·      How to build diverse and inclusive HR policies and practices

·      How to ensure compliance with federal and state diversity and inclusion regulations

·      How to create diverse and inclusive benefits packages.

In addition to these key insights, open Q&A and networking time will allow attendees to guide and personalize the summit experience to maximize their takeaways. If you’re a finance or HR leader in the Chicago area, be sure to save your seat at the Diversity & Inclusion Summit for HR and Finance Leaders!

This post is brought to you by our valued partner Paylocity.

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