What is it?
Diversity means having different identities represented. Diversity initiatives became widespread across American workplaces in response to the civil rights movement and the creation of federal equal employment opportunity guidelines in the 1960s. But it soon became clear that simply hiring workers of different backgrounds didn’t guarantee they would stay.
In response, progressive organizations began focusing on inclusion as a distinct but related strategy. Thus, the field of “diversity and inclusion” (D&I) was born. Inclusion is the movement to make everyone feel welcome—focusing on the work environment beyond hiring practices. This means making employees feel they are valued, treated fairly, and empowered to grow, regardless of their backgrounds or needs.
An inclusive culture fosters psychological safety, a concept coined by Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson. According to Edmonson, “Team psychological safety describes an interpersonal climate characterized by trust and respect, in which people are comfortable being themselves.”
While diversity is relatively easy to break down into metrics like hiring numbers or demographics, inclusion can be difficult to measure. At a basic level, inclusion is a measure of whether employees feel like they belong and are valued at the organization. While this can seem subjective, there are key sentiments organizations can track, such as whether people feel like their opinions are valued, differences are celebrated, and promotions and policies are fair.
Organizations can foster inclusion by encouraging different perspectives, recognizing employees’ unique talents, and ensuring equal access to opportunities. Ultimately, an inclusive workplace increases engagement and unlocks employees’ full potential.