It seems like everyone is talking about “Diversity and Inclusion (D&I)” these days. Job postings for D&I roles in the United States rose 30% in the last year and Glassdoor’s 2020 Job & Hiring Trends report predicts that companies will make it even more of a priority this year. Over 40% of Fortune 500 companies have a senior D&I role, with some even situating the role within the C-Suite. Furthermore, the younger workforce is prioritizing diversity and inclusion when considering what jobs to take, with 83% of Gen Z and 85% of female millennials claiming that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion impacts their choice of employer. And if that’s not enough, a Wall Street Journal analysis found, that “diversity and inclusion appear to be good for business.”

What is inclusion?

Clearly D&I plays an important role in business performance, employee retention, and employee happiness. But what is diversity and inclusion? While these two terms are almost always used in tandem, they actually represent very different concepts. Verna Myers, a noted diversity advocate, explains the difference well. She states, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” More specifically, SHRM defines inclusion as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.” You can create a diverse workplace through hiring, but inclusion requires concerted effort from everyone in the organization, especially management.

How do you create an inclusive workplace?

Managers can create an inclusive environment by treating all employees equally and making sure their direct reports feel heard and respected. Some specific strategies include recognizing bias, maintaining relationships, showing gratitude, treating employees with respect, and valuing their unique strengths. Each of these behaviors requires attention and intention, so manager education is key. One way to educate managers is through concrete examples of their own behaviors towards their employees.

How can Cultivate help?

Cultivate is uniquely positioned to help foster inclusion, especially now that most employees are working remotely. Our product tracks seven core digital behaviors: communication frequency, responsiveness, asking for opinions, giving opinions, giving recognition, after hours messaging, and positivity. For each of these behaviors, we expose to managers how they treat individual employees and how that treatment varies, e.g. bias. This data helps managers create an inclusive environment by showing them their current behavior patterns and allowing them to update accordingly. In the below example, the manager might not know that she gives more recognition to some employees than others. Armed with this information, she knows exactly how to change her behavior to recognize her direct reports more equally.

Inclusion helps a company’s bottom line, but perhaps more importantly, it improves engagement, buy-in, and overall mental health for employees. When employees feel included, they are more creative and more willing to make mistakes, both factors that lead to more effective teams. While we adapt to remote work and productivity during a global pandemic, inclusion is more important than ever. Even small improvements in inclusivity through manager behavior change can have large scale impacts on individual mental health and engagement.

Rachel Habbert, PhD
Rachel Habbert, PhD

Rachel is the Senior People Scientist at Cultivate. As a psychologist, she’s always been interested in people: how we think, grow, evolve, and interact. She is excited to help Cultivate users interpret their behaviors through a scientific, research-based lens.