Updated: Jul 22
Over the past several years, companies nationwide have been reckoning with how to make their company more diverse and their culture more inclusive. The reasons for doing this go far beyond doing the right thing or complying with Affirmative Action - it is an incredibly healthy choice for the company and can have huge economic benefits!
Retention & Turnover
One big reason to focus your company culture on diversity and inclusion is it makes your employees want to stay. Employee turnover industry-wide is high right now, and as you know, turnover (and the subsequent recruiting) gets expensive, so companies should be diligent about making their current employees feel safe and included. A University of Houston study reports that 65% of workers who have experienced exclusionary behaviors at work are considering leaving.
Exclusionary behaviors are any actions or words that make the employee feel like their dignity has been disregarded and they have been othered or stereotyped.
These behaviors can range from corporate bullying to microaggressions from peers. If a company culture actively fights against exclusionary behaviors and ensures that all its employees feel included, then their retention will be drastically higher.
Here's a statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that blew my mind: of the incoming workforce, 61% is female. In contrast, as of 2017, women only made up 2.7% of the workers in the trades, and only 9.1% of the workers in the entire construction industry. Now, a recurring problem in construction is that personal protective equipment (PPE) is designed around measurements of a male body, resulting in PPE that doesn't properly fit women, and indeed many smaller-statured men. Furthermore, women are significantly less likely to speak up regarding their PPE fit out of concern that they would be seen as a complainer. This all directly affects their safety.
Exclusionary behaviors like I discussed above also take a heavy toll on safety culture. If an individual is feeling stressed because of a hostile or exclusionary work environment, they may be distracted and focus less on their safety. Or, perhaps safety standards weren't effectively communicated to the employee due to bias or a language barrier. This is dangerous, and undercuts attempts at a robust safety culture.
It's been proven time and time again:
diversity drives innovation.
People of diverse backgrounds, opinions, experiences, and ideas bring creativity and vitality to the team. In an environment like that, innovation happens naturally, as the team has to think creatively to overcome a larger variety of problems. Simply by having a perspective outside our current cultural norm, leaders are able to problem-solve in a way that heterogenous companies cannot. According to a study by the Center for Talent Innovation, employees are 75% more likely to see their ideas make it to the marketplace if their company leaders are diverse.
There are real, tangible reasons to implement diversity measures and make a company culture shift toward inclusion. There's a myth out there that implementing diversity measures can be a financial burden on the company, but that is simply not true: a 2015 Deloitte study showed that diverse companies had 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period than non-diverse companies did. The reasons I outline above are only some of those reasons. Ultimately, the health of the company and the team soars when there are genuine diversity, equity, and inclusion measures. The demographics of America are changing, and the workforce should adapt with it, instead of sticking to old norms. Not only does it create a competitive edge as we attract and retain talent, but it also directly benefits the company.