An Abundance of Acronymns

The field of diversity and inclusion (D&I) provides training professionals with various helpful acronyms to use in employment contexts. There’s the simple D&I, of course. Though it’s more common now to find frameworks emphasizing three critical areas, where the concepts of equity and equality are used interchangeably depending on strategic focus and preference ­— equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Further, there are instances of B’s and J’s joining or replacing letters such as in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) and diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ/JEDI) or simply diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIB). These additions are contextually important, and much like the substitutable equity and equality, are preferential rather than essential considerations in an EDI(BJ) strategy. Here are some definitions of key terms:

Equality: Equality means equal rights and opportunities are afforded to all. At work, we often talk about providing equal opportunity, which extends this description to include efforts to guarantee equal job opportunities for a range of people.

Equity: Equity acknowledges that offering the same resources and opportunities to everyone won’t necessarily result in a fair and equal working environment. Rather, individuals often require specific inputs that will enable them to achieve the same outcomes as their peers.

Diversity: Diversity implies recognizing, respecting and valuing differences. Taking positive action and other initiatives aimed at attracting a wider talent pool are key ways that organizations can seek to embrace diversity and create more diverse cultures.

Inclusion: Inclusion is how we describe efforts to create an environment where everyone feels accepted and valued. A diverse culture won’t necessarily be inclusive. Inclusion in the workplace only occurs when people are satisfied that their differences and perspectives are respected.

Justice: Justice is about addressing organizational inequalities in a way that ensures a sense of justice prevails for those part of historically marginalized groups. DEIJ/JEDI efforts must continue to acknowledge past mistakes as organizations make positive changes.

Belonging: Belonging is sometimes included in the EDI acronym to describe what inclusive diversity feels like for employees who work in a culture that values difference and encourages empathy. An inclusive culture is one that nurtures a sense of belonging for all employees.

Sure enough, all this quickly becomes overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be if you focus on a simple outcome: Creating an inclusive culture where diversity can flourish and where employees feel a sense of belonging and of justice. Companies that have realized this in recent years act accordingly to ensure that the “I” of inclusion is the primary focus of their EDI(JB) strategy. Here’s why:

Why Inclusion Is the Key Factor in a EDI(JB) Strategy

The notion that a diverse workforce is an inclusive one has dominated thinking on workplace culture over the last decade. Despite significant efforts across different sectors to improve organizational diversity, however, marginalized groups of people continue to suffer as part of exclusionary workplace cultures. This is because focusing on diversity alone doesn’t account for individual perceptions of working life.

What organizations tend to find is that a diversity strategy that disregards inclusion can lead to the development of a toxic working environment. Only a long-term effort to create an inclusive and diverse workforce will empower employees and allow them to flourish as individuals, as team members, and as part of the wider organization. Starting with inclusion, then, is essential when planning a broader EDI(JB) strategy.

How To Put Inclusion at the Center of Your EDI(JB) Strategy

Four key factors help organizations center inclusion in their EDI(JB) strategies and imbue an inclusive mentality amongst employees: inclusive leadership, an inclusive culture, inclusive hiring and employee networks. Combined, these approaches enhance existing diversity initiatives and help create a fair and equitable environment that meets employees’ unique needs.

Inclusive Leadership

Real change only occurs when it is driven from the top. Even if an organization has a diverse leadership structure, leaders who don’t value difference — something which is evident through their words and actions — will create a working environment where certain employees will feel like they don’t belong.

Educating leaders about the principles of inclusion, as well as the cultural and financial impact of embracing it in the workplace, is a crucial first step. Attending one-off training sessions is not enough. Rather, inclusion should form part of ongoing leadership learning and development so that inclusive behaviors become implicit in the company culture.

Inclusive Culture

An inclusive culture is one in which everyone feels that they can be themselves when they come to work. Establishing an environment that allows uniqueness and authenticity to thrive is only possible when people become aware of their unconscious biases. If employees acknowledge their preconceived views and tacit prejudices, they can then work towards eliminating them.

Inclusive culture programs provide employees with the necessary tools and training to achieve this aim. Regular training sessions, for example, can bring people together to discuss their limiting beliefs and unconscious biases. After completing inclusive culture programs, staff members can then choose to become inclusion ambassadors for the business.

Inclusive Hiring

Increasing diversity doesn’t address barriers to inclusion. Inclusion, therefore, must be a primary consideration during the talent attraction process right through to the interview and onboarding stages. Without an inclusive recruitment strategy, businesses risk missing out on the full benefits of workplace diversity and achieving an inclusive environment.

Inclusive hiring involves connecting with, interviewing and hiring diverse individuals through understanding and valuing different backgrounds and opinions. Companies should train managers to interview in a way that will encourage diversity. Writing succinct job adverts, using gender-neutral and other inclusive language and incorporating inclusive imagery are also encouraged.

Employee Networks

Employee networks are an effective way of getting staff to buy into the inclusion agenda. Companies can utilize a range of employee networks that represent different diversity categories (e.g., LGBTQ individuals, women, employees with disabilities and others). These networks help drive innovative initiatives and make sure that diverse perspectives are heard.

By joining a network, employees get exposure to people across the wider company who have similar outlooks and workplace challenges. Together, they can find ways to promote better inclusion and diversity in the business. As these networks continue to evolve and expand it becomes easier to embed an inclusive diverse culture.

A Multitude of Benefits

Regardless of which acronym underpins an EDI(JB) strategy, creating a working environment that fosters inclusion and diversity has many benefits and, in many ways, can help organizations reach their full potential. Researchers have demonstrated several advantages associated with efforts to promote equality and inclusion in the workplace. The most common are:

  • Happier employees.
  • Improved retention and attraction.
  • Fewer people issues.
  • Heightened innovation.
  • Enhanced customer service.
  • Increased profits.

As we enter a new crisis period characterized by high inflation, tightening markets and limited resources, firms must once again find ways to achieve organizational resilience.

Trainers need to remember, therefore, that an overarching benefit of pursuing an inclusion-centered EDI(JB) strategy is that diverse companies with inclusive cultures tend to be the most resilient.