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An Introduction: Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

diversity and inclusion

Diversity, equality and inclusion

It is no overstatement to say that diversity, equality and inclusion are already becoming the cornerstones of modern businesses. An organisation’s ability to foster a positive and inclusive environment for their people isn’t just an example of good management- it also acts as a demonstration of just how much a business values its people.

Nowhere is this more critical than when looking at attracting younger talent into an organisation. As Millennials and Gen Z workers (ages 25-40 and 16-24 respectively) begin to make up more than half of the global workforce, it precipitates a shift in prevailing attitudes and priorities.

What has existed for decades as prevailing attitudes among the older generation cannot be taken for granted when trying to position yourself as an attractive prospect for younger candidates. There are increasing incidences of Millennials calling out bias within the workplace, with examples of racism, ageism and sexism being more widely challenged and pointing to a societal shift – away from what may have been considered the norm.

Research by Forbes suggests an increasing trend for younger workers to seek out brands who are actively engaged in social causes. For businesses who are looking to appeal to younger talent, they would do well to consider how they are able to demonstrate their commitment to certain values or causes such as environmental issues or matters around diversity and inclusion.

For businesses across all sectors, it is clear therefore, that putting initiatives in place to support a diverse and inclusive workforce should be at the top of their priorities moving forward. From fostering a more welcoming and supportive working environment to transforming the way their brand is perceived by the wider world, diversity and inclusion offers businesses the ability to add value to their organisation in an unprecedented fashion.

Diversity, equality and inclusion – what does it mean?

At the core of things, diversity and inclusion represents a commitment to acknowledging and embracing the inherently broad and diverse makeup of people, empowering and appreciating the things that make us different; be it race, gender, ethnicity or creed.

Diversity and inclusion serves as the foundation of a fairer and more accesible workplace, whereby organisations not only don’t discriminate on the basis of identity, background or circumstance but in fact, embrace the diversity of their employees as an asset in guiding their overall business strategy.

So what does diversity, equality and inclusion mean specifically from a business perspective?


Simply put, diversity in the workplace refers to the makeup of a workforce and how diverse an organisation’s pool of employees are. Diversity is commonly mistaken as a shorthand for ethnicity and although race does form part of workplace diversity, it is only one component of the wider practice, which also takes into account age, gender, religion, education and other factors.


If diversity refers to an organisation’s commitment to hiring a diverse workforce, then equality in the workplace represents the continuation of this practice- putting their money where their mouth is so to speak.

Equality is the demonstration of a company’s commitment to treat all employees fairly and offer them equal opportunities for growth, development and advancement. It also takes into account the need to not discriminate or treat people unfairly on the basis of their ethnicity, age, gender or other considerations.


Inclusion represents the cultural transformation which occurs within a diverse workplace. An inclusive environment is one where employees feel equally comfortable, valued and accepted in their workplace, without feeling the need to conform.

An inclusive workplace represents the ideal end state for businesses looking to enact D&I initiatives as it demonstrates a seamless meshing of people from a variety of backgrounds, all thriving and in many instances, leveraging those different experiences to help positively influence the business.

What is an inclusive workplace?

If asked, most businesses would probably agree on the importance of diversity and inclusion as a cornerstone of their future strategy; where many would differ would be the question of just how inclusive their organisations truly are.

Understanding the need for inclusion is one thing but making it reality is another challenge entirely. Not helping matters too, is the tendency for businesses to conflate inclusion with diversity:

“Diversity and inclusion are not one and the same, and neither happens through osmosis. To make employees feel more included, appreciated, and safe in the workplace, initiatives must be targeted to achieve specific results.”

– Karima Mariama-Arthur, CEO and founder of WordSmithRapport speaking in Forbes.

It is clear that for an inclusive workplace to make the leap from a ‘nice to have’ to a reality will require businesses looking inwards at their existing structure and asking hard questions about the makeup of their current workforce.

There are a number of questions that business leaders will need to put to themselves, not least of all:

  • Do you have diversity in your recruiting, in each of your departments, and in your leadership? Or do you have a workplace where 50% of your employees are women but 0% of your women are managers?
  • Do you have a good representation of employees of colour overall, but all of them are in the same department?
  •  Do you have a variety of different ages and experiences spread throughout your current workforce?
  • When looking at promotions or advancements, are there any common patterns which determine successful candidates- are decisions motivated by any non professional factors such as age, ethnicity or religion?

Gaining an understanding of the true makeup of their workforce will inevitably require businesses to lean on their HR teams.

The HR function lends itself perfectly to the task of gaining a true overview of an organisation’s hiring patterns and the systems and processes which they currently use in their every day roles should also be leveraged to give business leaders access to reporting, all of which will be able to identify any patterns of bias- unconscious or otherwise, in the hiring process.

HR teams will also be best placed to advise on how best to craft and drive forward policies around inclusion. This is an area where it will be vital for business owners to allow their HR teams to take the lead and advise them on the best course of action. What will be of particular importance is communicating clearly the difference between diversity and inclusion and the way that one feeds into the other.

hands typing on laptpo

The importance of diversity and inclusion

Even pre-pandemic, diversity and inclusion was a metric which businesses were becoming increasingly more scrutinised by. It is a fact of modern life that our everyday experiences bring us into contact with people from all backgrounds, genders and religions, so therefore, it is vitally important that this diversity is represented in the modern makeup of our workplaces.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement which reached prominence in 2020 served as a key turning point for employees and consumers alike, many of whom called for more examples of businesses demonstrating their commitment to social causes.

Research by Mckinsey found that organisations with a more diverse ethnic makeup within their workforce, were likely to post financial returns far and above those of their contemporaries.

Furthermore, post-pandemic, there is increasing indication that diversity and inclusion are factors becoming more and more prioritised not only by existing employees but also as a metric by which potential recruits judge a company by.

A diverse workforce brings together a range of different perspectives, all of which should be leveraged by an organisation in order to help inform their decision making process. Furthermore, by not being hidebound to a narrow way of thinking, businesses open the door for more innovative solutions, drawing upon the experience and skill set of their diverse workforce.

Demonstrating a strong commitment to inclusivity and diversity in your workforce is an undeniable asset from the perspective of your brand reputation- something that will factor massively into any searches for new talent.

Examples of diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Challenging unconscious bias

One of the main causes for concern for business are the ways in which unconscious bias can bleed into the hiring process and beyond. This could perhaps be coloured by influences such as company culture, existing connections to the business or even something as simple as the personal preference of the hiring manager.

Whilst not inherently harmful in and of themselves, allowing these biases to filter into the recruitment process can mean bringing on board a new hire who ultimately isn’t a good long term fit for the organisation. Furthermore, allowing these more informal, personal metrics to shape and influence the hiring stage means placing yourself at risk of passing up those individuals who have the potential to truly transform your organisation.

The introduction of a blind hiring process, standardised interview questions and automated pre-screening tests can all help to eliminate well entrenched instances of bias and help businesses set out on the right foot when it comes to sourcing new talent.

Using inclusive language

As with all things, communication is key and this is nowhere more true than when it comes crafting an inclusive and diverse workforce. As the demand for diversity and inclusion initiatives continues to rise, so too will the need to have professionals in place who are able to lead in a more open and inclusive way.

Deloitte’s Equality Imperative makes it clear that true equality isn’t something that can be achieved overnight and that:  “equity…takes commitment to examining and redressing the bias and racism built into everyday decisions, which may appear fair on the surface, and which may have even been designed with good intentions, but ultimately have disparate effects on racial and ethnic minorities and other marginalized identity groups.”

Understanding and becoming fluent in inclusive language will also require commitment on the part of business leaders and HR teams. Fluency won’t happen overnight and honestly, that’s no bad thing. The diverse spread of your workforce will understand and appreciate the efforts being made to foster a more inclusive environment.

Educating and informing leadership

Whilst the business case for diversity seems obvious, many organisations still find themselves falling behind when it comes to creating an inclusive and equality driven environment for their people. The number of female professionals in high ranking positions still lags behind that of their male counterparts and it is increasingly evident that when it comes to other matters of diversity- such as ethnicity or sexual orientation- that many businesses still have a long way to go.

Identifying gaps in our knowledge and understanding is no bad thing. Many of us are products of our generations and with many business leaders being of an older generation, they can be forgiven for not always moving in lockstep with current trends.

The important thing is a willingness to become educated and more informed on matters and when it comes to matters of diversity and inclusion, business leaders should be willing to engage with their HR teams and their wider workforce in order to fully understand the challenges facing the diverse makeup of their people.

Continuously collecting feedback

When it comes to creating effective diversity and inclusion policy, it is vital that your people act as the spearhead of any initiatives, with their feedback being taken on board in order to influence decision making. Diversity and inclusion is all about creating a welcoming environment for all your people, therefore it is vitally important that your people have a say.

Furthermore, diversity and inclusion isn’t something that can be achieved overnight, nor is it something that can be introduced and forgotten about. Effective D&I represents constant evolution and education amongst businesses, in order to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the challenges facing their people.

It is important therefore that HR teams are always getting the measure of the mood of their people, using pulse surveys or one on one discussions to gauge how truly effective any policies of D&I have been and what adjustments they need to make. D&I benefits your people, therefore their voices have to be heard above anything else.

two women talking at the table

Remembering remote workers

The past year has served to demonstrate that hybrid working is more than just a trend and has in many instances made the leap from emergency expedience to a fully embedded part of working culture.

Despite this, there are still indications that businesses are struggling to reconcile themselves with the long term implications of flexible working. The Advanced Trends Survey  found that almost half (49%) of HR professionals are still identifying gaps within their processes when it comes to managing a remote team. A further 56% claim that the wider shift to hybrid working models has identified the importance of maintaining regular lines of communication with the workforce.

HR professionals have to be mindful of the employee experience and how a wider shift to remote hybrid working may lead to a certain sense of disconnect with their people.

Regardless of whether they are new hires or long serving employees, consider whether your HR teams need to put specific communication policies in place to set out expectations for how they engage with employees who work away from the office.

Creating core values

From an organisational perspective, diversity and inclusion serves as a reflection of your brand as a whole and also reflects an important aspect of people management- being able to value every person in your business as an individual.

Demonstrating a strong commitment to inclusivity and diversity in your workforce is an undeniable asset from the perspective of your brand reputation- something that will factor massively into any searches for new talent.

Research on the Psychological contract also demonstrates the positive impact that a diverse and inclusive environment can have on your existing workforce.

We all want to work for organisations that value us as individuals beyond the skill sets which we bring to the company and businesses who place value on a diverse workforce are effectively demonstrating their commitment to good employment practices and indicating to their people a commitment to their needs as more than just a business resource.

The message therefore is clear- D&I initiatives cannot simply be a trend; rather, employees are looking for businesses to ensure that a diverse and inclusive working environment forms a key part of their organisational structure,  rather than something which can be discarded when convenient.

The challenges of diversity and inclusion initiatives

As discussed previously, there is a gulf between acknowledging the need for initiatives to drive forward diversity and inclusion and the ability to make that a reality.

With the business and moral case for an inclusive workplace clear though, what exactly are the barriers businesses are facing?

The most pertinent issue will be that the very broad scope of D&I often works against it in this sense. Encompassing as it does ethnicity, religion, gender, age and a variety of other factors- formulating a universal consensus around what constitutes effective inclusive policy is almost impossible.

Employees who feel marginalised on the basis of one thing may not necessarily understand the struggles of other employees.

Research from Deloitte also indicates a generational gap playing a part in these perspectives:

”Older generations tend to view diversity through the lens of representation, focusing on categories like gender, race, and religion. Younger generations instead emphasise cognitive diversity, or the diversity of thoughts, ideas, and skills.”

This is a pressing issue because a large percentage of executive level decision makers in businesses are of this older generation. These are individuals who will have grown professionally within environments where certain cultural attitudes hold sway and the implication is that within their own organisations, these attitudes and trends will also play a prominent part and trickle down into the workforce.

One of the greatest challenges facing a successful implementation of diversity and inclusion initiatives, will therefore be the ability to educate and inform executive level talent and to help bring a new perspective to their own experiences.

As workplaces become increasingly diverse, they bring with them a hugely different variety of experiences and challenges being faced by individuals, all of which must be understood on some level.

HR teams will form the backbone of a drive for greater awareness and understanding and it is an area where executive talent will have to relinquish control to a degree and allow the expertise of their people teams to take the lead.

Diversity inclusion strategy examples

So how do we take our understanding of the need for diversity and inclusion in the workplace and translate that into an effective strategy? There are a number of steps which businesses must take into account:

Step 1 – Gather data

The first step to embedding effective diversity and inclusion will be to ensure that you have a framework in place to help you collate data that can help inform your ongoing strategy. Again, this will fall at the feet of HR teams and will rely on leveraging their existing systems and processes in order to gain a measure of their existing workforce. This can be achieved via pulse surveys of the workforce, open forum discussions or more focused one on one chats with employees.

Other elements such as potential gender pay disparities, should already form a key component of existing HR reporting. It will be important therefore to test the capabilities of your HR systems and to see if you have the ability to gather the metrics you need to help inform and drive forward future policy.

Step 2 – Identify areas of concern and develop objectives

Moving beyond the first step, the natural continuation of gathering data will be to utilise it effectively to identify key areas of concern. By having this overview, businesses will be more effectively placed to pick up on incidences of bias or areas where prevailing attitudes may have given rise to problem areas.

By leveraging this data effectively, businesses will be able to paint a clear picture of what objectives they hope to achieve through diversity and inclusion policies. Remember, effective change is unlikely to happen if implemented in a broad sense. Only by understanding existing gaps in their processes will organisations be able to implement effective policy.

Step 3 – Implement training

Once your objectives are understood, the next step is to develop a framework of education and development to help ensure your people are moving in lockstep when it comes to D&I. Training around inclusion should be pushed out across the business structure entirely and be seen to be taken up by executive level talent as it is their attitudes and trends which have a tendency to trickle down into the wider workforce.

Step 4 – Communicate the initiative

As a prelude to any training or development, it will be important to effectively push out communication to the wider business, making the objectives of any D&I initiatives clear to all. This is particularly important as it will serve as a reflection of your intent. Your employees who are likely to benefit from a more inclusive workplace will want to understand that this isn’t a flash in the pan approach and will constitute meaningful change across the organisation.

Furthermore, communicating future policy and strategy could also be applied externally, communicating your commitment to partners or the wider consumer base. As a statement of intent, this is particularly important as it communicates your commitment to change to the wider world and can have a demonstrable effect on your employer value proposition as it pertains to your perception by potential new hires.

Step 5 – Measure and dispatch results

It’s important to understand that change doesn’t happen in a vacuum, nor can you guarantee that any diversity and inclusion initiatives will happen overnight. Businesses should always be mindful of the need to constantly gather metrics around their strategies and to use that information to inform, manage and maintain their ongoing policy.

There’s no guarantee of getting D&I right the first time around. The intent is the important thing, as is ensuring that you have a framework in place which is able to constantly educate and inform your decision making process when it comes to building an inclusive workforce.

Diversity and inclusion

Important things to remember when implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy

Ultimately, there’s no magic bullet when it comes to getting diversity and inclusion right within your organisation. D&I is a pretty broad church and it’s important to understand that people’s experiences are far from universal and that truly effective policies of diversity, inclusion and equality are ones which act as an ongoing process and constantly draw upon the experiences of your people.

It also has to be pointed out that unfortunately, diversity and inclusion initiatives can occasionally be viewed in a pejorative sense, with some employees feeling as though this constitutes a shift to some form of favouritism based on a non professional metric. True inclusivity is about eliminating bias in all forms and it is important that your objectives are communicated clearly to your people to avoid potential discontent.

Accusations of performative activism or token gestures are thrown around a lot in the corporate space when it comes to driving forward policy to support an inclusive workforce. It is important therefore, that your approach is considered and thorough enough to dispel any such concerns.

Your workers deserve to understand that your commitment to fostering an inclusive environment is motivated by much more than just a need be seen following trends.

The ultimate take home is that truly comprehensive D&I won’t happen overnight and as a policy, it will require constant management and adjustment from people teams and HR professionals, in order to take on board the feedback of their people and to suitably course correct when needed.

Diversity and inclusion offers a unique opportunity for organisations to position their brand as a forward thinking and welcoming entity to employees. With matters of equality becoming more dominant in the media, the ability to demonstrate your commitment to crafting a welcoming and inclusive environment will be an undeniable asset in helping you attract key talent.

How can Mitrefinch help?

As mentioned, the key to driving forward true diversity and inclusion will be the ability to gather and leverage key data around the makeup of your workforce. At Mitrefinch, we understand how important it is to have this overview, which is why our suite of HCM technology has been designed specifically to give you the visibility you need to form effective strategy and policy.

Gain an understanding of the diverse spread of your workforce with effective HR reporting that offers you the ability to understand the holes that may exist in your current processes- identifying disparities or areas of concern such as potential gender pay gaps. Armed with this information, you are better placed to formulate a focused strategy.

Our Flexipay solution also guarantees accuracy and compliance of the pay cycle, ensuring that your people are rewarded equally for their efforts and supporting any ongoing policies of equality and inclusion.

Information is vital to ensuring the ongoing success of diversity and inclusion and to help your business action real, tangible change. Our workforce management solutions are designed to help you along every step of the way, arming you with the information you need to drive forward effective policy and communicate intent with not only your employees but the wider world.

If you’d like to find out more about how Mitrefinch can help support you In achieving your goals of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, get in touch with one of our friendly team members today.


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