According to a recent McKinsey & Company report, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to see financial returns above their industry medians, while companies in the top quarter for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to see the same.

We can conclude from such findings that workplace diversity directly affects company performance in a positive way. But what’s the secret to unlocking these benefits for all companies?

Diversity and Inclusion: A Two-Pronged Approach

If you have worked in HR and recruiting for some time, diversity and inclusion are not new concepts to you. However, not all of us fully understand what these concepts mean, how they differ, and why they are both necessary for organizational success.

Diversity is the “who,” referring to the demographics — e.g., ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc. — of your employees. Diverse groups of employees are more likely than homogenous groups to generate innovation through new perspectives, new approaches to problem-solving, and heightened creativity. (See the results of McKinsey’s report.)

In general, employees enjoy working on diverse teams, with 57 percent of employees believing their companies should be more diverse.

Inclusion is the strategy of ensuring the workplace environment is accommodating for workers of all backgrounds. This includes policies and protections put in place to make employees feel comfortable, supported, and welcome. Traditionally, you might think of maternity/paternity leave, health benefits, anti-discrimination policies, etc. Today, workplaces are also offering more unique perks and policies in hope of attracting and retaining a variety of workers.

To truly embrace diversity, you can’t just hire workers from various backgrounds. You must also provide them with a workplace in which they can thrive. That means making every employee feel comfortable sharing their views and opinions, regardless of their background.

It’s Not Always Easy

The benefits of diversity and inclusion are known and proven, yet some of the largest organizations are struggling to cultivate diverse, inclusive workplaces. Tech giants like Google, Uber, and Twitter have made headlines for less than stellar inclusion stats:

- Only 26 percent of Microsoft employees are women.
- More than 60 percent of Google employees are white.
- 15 percent of Twitter’s tech roles are held by women.
- None of Uber’s tech leadership roles are held by Black or Hispanic workers.

This just goes to show that enormous recruiting budgets and well-known employer brands are not enough on their own to guarantee diversity hiring success. These major companies are not starving for applicants, and yet they’re still failing to create diverse workplaces.

How to Get Diversity and Inclusion Right

Diversity hiring is possible. Year after year, organizations do get it right. If you’re dreaming of a more inclusive and diverse workplace, consider these tips:

  1. Diversity and inclusion begins at the top. Managers set the tone for welcoming diverse individuals and ideas, so be sure you are leading by example. Hold yourself accountable. Look at who you are hiring, why, and what you can do to show employees how to be more accepting and inclusive.
  2. Focus on employee strengths. Help employees figure out where they fit. What work do they enjoy doing and excel at? Then, nurture each employee’s strengths with additional training and learning opportunities. Not only will this benefit the projects each individual works on, but strengths-based management structures also drive higher productivity and profit, according to Gallup.
  3. Train for diversity awareness. From the executive board to entry-level employees, everyone in the company could use some training to help them gain the skills they need to successfully work with diverse teams. Employees will need collaboration techniques to facilitate the most fruitful working relationships with their colleagues.

A version of this article originally appeared on the ClearCompany blog.

Sara Pollock is head of the marketing department at ClearCompany.

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