Workplace Diversity: Employee Engagement’s Close Cousins Diversity, Inclusion and Respect


Find out what it means to me

When it comes to workplace diversity and its impact on employee engagement Aretha Franklin’s signature line couldn’t be more apt. When people feel respected, they become more engaged, right? Diversity – together with its cousin’s Inclusion and Respect (DIR) – is not a peripheral issue separate from the overall engagement of employees. It’s part and parcel of the main equation. Finding out what respect and inclusion mean to employees in the context of workplace diversity is best understood by asking the right questions.

  1. Do you feel accepted, comfortable and safe within your organization?
  2. Are diverse identities, ideas and ways of thinking and working valued in your organization?
  3. Does your organization’s workforce reflect the diversity of the community?
  4. Does your organization have a clear definition of what is considered a respectful workplace?
  5. Overall does your workplace feel respectful?

Macro Multiculturalism

Let’s take a step back to look at the bigger diversity picture. Blending differences to create a harmonious common culture – the melting pot metaphor – is an integration approach to diversity that’s been commonly associated with the U.S. Conversely, the proverbial Canadian stance is best described as a mosaic of otherness, where diversity fits into and by extension gives definition to national culture.

Returning to the organizational fray: when efforts focus on trying to minimize group differences, say – in the name of equality and fairness for all, research shows these well-intentioned measures paradoxically reinforce the dominance of the majority and the marginalization of the minority.  The strength of sameness is also its weakness, so say studies. Acknowledgment of differences, findings suggest, stir feelings of inclusion and establish a link between diversity and engagement.

Culture, Faith, Ethnicity, Race, Gender Spectrum, Age, DisAbility

Interestingly, TalentMap research shows organizations of all sizes move through phases of maturity on the diversity-inclusion-respect spectrum, from where there’s little buy-in or leadership awareness through to regulatory compliance, strategic acceptance, and integration, up to those who lead best practices.

“When we initiate conversations about diversity,” says TalentMap Senior Vice President, Norm Baillie-David, “most organizations say inclusion is a big part of what they do. But when we do the measurement, what we’re seeing is many organizations are actually in the beginning stages. Nonetheless, there’s lots of demand from organizations, especially those with a workforce population that reflects the communities they serve (police forces, financial institutions, and governments chief among them).  They’re taking a business interest not because it’s the right thing to do, but because they believe in the link to employee engagement.”

Building a Business Case

There’s loads of ammunition to build a business case around the link between diversity, engagement and better organizational outcomes.

  • According to McKinsey & Company, gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely and ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their peers
  • Research by Cedric Herring from the University of Chicago found across hundreds of companies, diverse teams drive 6% greater revenue, 15% more customer wins, and create significantly higher market share
  • Deloitte’s Australian group reports inclusive teams outperform their peers by 80% in team-based assessments
  • Catalyst research shows organizations with more women serving on the board financially outperform their peers over a long period of time.

Organizations that effectively capitalize on the strengths of all employees and leverage their differences and unique values have the most engaged employees, writes Dr. Rohini Anand for Diversity Inc. She cites the success of giant food services and facilities management multinational, Sodexo, as a case in point.

“…Sodexo embarked on a journey to drive employee engagement through a sustained and comprehensive commitment to diversity and inclusion.  Sodexo’s employee engagement surveys have reflected increases in the engagement of women and people of color since the survey was first conducted in 2006.  In fact, 2012 results show that diversity is one of the top two key engagement drivers for employees.”¹

Dr. Arnand’s reference to diversity as a key driver of engagement in 2012 is equally relevant today. TalentMap studies show the relative weight or impact of diversity and inclusion consistently rank as one of the top four dimensions of engagement. What’s more, these results are not only positive for employees who are members of diverse groups, but are positive for the entire organization. And it’s not only policies and programs, it’s the spirit of optimism and pride in the organization which drives employee engagement and organizational success.


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