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Fostering belonging through workforce diversity and inclusion

Is your company fully leaning into workplace diversity and inclusion? It not only creates a sense of belonging for your people, but also gives your company a competitive advantage. Here’s a closer look at the benefits of diversity and inclusion – and steps for achieving your D&I goals.

If your company’s diversity and inclusion program aspires to go beyond the silo of HR – and achieve its mission of attracting, retaining, and developing diverse talent – read on.

Defining diversity and inclusion

What is workplace diversity?

Workplace diversity is achieved by not only hiring individuals of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities, and sexual orientations, but also those with diverse experiences, education, skill sets, beliefs, and personalities. An organization is considered diverse when it not only mirrors the society in which it operates, but also tears down institutional bias around race.

While not entirely comprehensive, the broad categories that define workplace diversity (mentioned above) can help identify gaps that exist within an organization. They also provide an opportunity to establish metrics and set goals for increasing diversity in the workplace.

You can’t have true inclusion without diversity

Judith Williams, Global Head of People Sustainability & Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at SAP

What is workplace inclusion?

Through social norms and behaviors, a culture of workplace inclusion ensures all employees are given equal opportunity – and feel welcome – to participate and contribute.

What is diversity and inclusion?

Combined, diversity and inclusion – frequently referred to as D&I – is the umbrella term for the programs, policies, strategies, and practices that execute a company’s mission to create and sustain a diverse and inclusive workplace.

A culture of inclusion is not only critical to the success of diversity efforts, but creating an inclusive workplace also creates a positive employee experience.

“You can’t have true inclusion without diversity,” says Judith Williams, Global Head of People Sustainability & Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at SAP. “If everyone has the same background, expectations, and experiences, inclusion is really easy. You don’t have to think about what it will take for people with different backgrounds and experiences to excel.

“It’s when you actually get diversity in your organization – a mix of gender, a mix of generation, a mix of cultural background – that you begin to ask the fundamental questions about: ‘Are we inclusive?’, ‘Do people feel like they belong?’, and ‘Can everyone bring their best selves to work?’”

What are the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

A diverse and inclusive organization ensures all voices are heard. Through representation, organizations foster a socially- and morally-adept workplace. These are wins in and of themselves. A diverse workforce can also benefit an organization’s bottom line by creating a competitive advantage in many ways.

Here are some of the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace:

  • Financial performance. A study conducted by McKinsey & Company found that ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their respective national industry medians.
  • Employer of choice. According to Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers view a diverse workforce as an important factor when evaluating companies and considering job offers.
  • Innovation and growth. Harvard Business Review found that diverse companies are 70% likelier to capture a new market. They’re also 45% more likely to report increased market share year-over-year.
  • Increased employee engagement. 83% of millennials report being actively engaged when they believe their organization fosters an inclusive workplace culture. That percentage drops to 60% when their organization does not foster an inclusive culture. (A Gallup study has assessed the cost of disengaged employees at up to $350 billion per year in lost productivity.)
  • Powerful decision-making. Teams that are inclusive make better decisions up to 87% of the time, according to a study conducted by Forbes.

How to get started asking employees about diversity and inclusion

Surveys help organizations understand employee attitudes toward D&I, as well as illuminate what the workforce believes will help break through barriers. In seeking feedback, organizations give every employee a voice.

Employees are affected by issues happening both inside and outside of the workplace. Listening can help identify opportunities for your organization to support your employees.

Not sure how to get started with gathering this information? We recommend a two-step process:

Step #1: Go straight to the source and ask your employees. Our suite of survey tools can help you capture employee sentiment towards D&I.

Create your free Qualtrics account

Step #2: Now that you’ve laid the groundwork with an initial D&I survey, use pulse surveys to check in regularly with employees. Doing so will help refine your D&I-focused goals and prioritize resources to optimize outcomes.

Learn more about creating an Employee Pulse Survey

How to take action to accomplish your D&I goals

The most effective D&I initiatives are grounded in objective data and analytics. Now that you’ve surveyed your employees, you can review the results and build a D&I action plan for your organization.

Here’s a checklist to get you started:

  • Define the why. Businesses need a clear vision of the D&I program’s purpose, and must set short-term and long-term goals. These should be communicated to the workforce in a concise and relevant manner so all employees understand their roles, and are united as they work towards a new culture.
  • Engage executive leadership. Involve senior stakeholders in your D&I program as soon as possible. Doing so creates advocates who will lead and inspire your workforce from the top.
  • Review the data. Understand where you are with demographics, both overall and at all levels of leadership.
  • Identify root causes of the issues. Reading the open-ended comments can be useful for understanding context and identifying underlying issues. For additional insights, you may also want to encourage key stakeholders to speak with employees to better understand their responses.
  • Create measurable targets with clear accountability.
  • Align your actions to objectives. Ensure that your actions are aligned to the company’s overall D&I strategy and objectives, as well as what was highlighted in survey or pulse results.
  • Track involvement and accountability. Involve all employees in implementing D&I actions plans. Use transparency in communication to hold yourself and your teams accountable to taking action.
  • Make D&I part of your company’s DNA. Just like your corporate values, put your company’s diversity and inclusion mission statement in writing.
  • Tap your talent acquisition team. Understand from your recruiting team who is applying for your open positions. Encourage recruiters to attend (or sponsor!) events centered around diversity. Ensure your website – and especially your applicant tracking system – is accessible to a wide range of abilities. Remove any biased language from job descriptions to ensure everyone is encouraged to apply.
  • Make inclusion part of the employee experience. Establish an inclusion committee or a series of employee resource groups dedicated to D&I efforts. These groups create an avenue for employees to talk about their experiences outside of their day-to-day job functions and connect with others from around the company.
  • Open up lines of communication. Leadership roundtables, always-on feedback mechanisms, and communications platforms such as Slack enable employees to share their experiences and contribute their ideas.
  • Communicate rigorously and candidly on your progress. Providing regular and honest updates to employees keeps D&I programs front of mind to help consistently inspire change. The communications must always include an option for employees to feedback to the business, which helps create the united front required to break through the barriers to diverse and inclusive workforces.
  • Foster a culture where it's okay to speak up. We all have blind spots. Encourage employees to voice their thoughts and concerns to help move the organization forward.

Just 1 in 10 D&I programs reach maturity in the workforce. This is despite 87% of organizations stating it as a value or priority area.

It’s a sobering stat, and one which is going to take on greater importance as younger generations - millennials through to Generation Z - become the dominant groups within the workforce. These demographics are set to be more culturally diverse than anything seen before, and they are motivated by values, purpose, and experience.

Any type of change is always hard. But new D&I programs are easier to implement when they are guided by data and metrics, built upon a clear vision, and supported by a dedicated and motivated team.

Buzzfeed is a great example of an organization using employee data to cultivate a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Working with Qualtrics, Buzzfeed has been able to reach a milestone of 50/50 representation of women and men in leadership positions, and achieved up to 90% participation in its campaigns.

Businesses already have the data and insights they need to close the D&I gap at their fingertips. Now it’s time to uncover those insights and build tailored programs that make a real difference to societies and economies across the globe.

Want to experience D&I strategy in action? Watch How Leaders Can Address Inqeuity at Work