Diversity and Inclusion: What’s the Difference and What’s the Benefit?

Understanding the meaning of diversity and inclusion

Although these terms are often used in tandem, they are distinct concepts. Diversity refers to the traits and characteristics that make people unique from one another. This includes characteristics such as gender, disability, race, and age. Diversity also encompasses less visible traits and characteristics such as learning style, personality, and social upbringing. Diversity in the workplace should mean that an organisation employs a diverse team of people  thatis reflective of the society in which it exists and operates.

Inclusion is a concept of its own. Inclusion refers to the work environment in which people work. A workplace that achieves positive inclusion is a professional environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully and have the right working conditions and resources to feel comfortable and confident to be themselves. It’s the act of embracing your diverse workforce and encouraging them to bring their whole selves to work. It focuses on the behaviours and social norms which affect how included the workforce feels, and what opportunities they’re given.

Not only is inclusivity crucial for diversity efforts to succeed, but creating an inclusive culture will prove beneficial for employee engagement and productivity.

What are the commercial benefits of diversity and inclusion?

Aside from the obvious moral benefits of diversity and inclusion, there’s a huge commercial advantage for businesses that actively promote diversity and inclusion (D&I).

Promotes dynamic thinking and innovation

Living in a world that’s fast-changing and full of diversity, a large part of running a successful organisation is keeping ahead of these changes. Only with a dynamic-thinking workforce can businesses achieve this. With a diverse and inclusive workforce, businesses avoid falling into groupthink whereby decisions go unchallenged and everybody conforms to the consensus. Instead, the workforce culture encourages new ideas and lateral thinking. Employees feel comfortable to innovate and think differently.

Increases staff motivation and performance

When diversity is embraced, staff members feel more integrated and aligned with the wider business. Instead of feeling detached from the business strategy, employees develop an affinity with the organisation and a stronger commitment to achieving business aims. In turn, this improves employee engagement and performance.

Improves business performance

Research has established a direct correlation between commercial success and D&I. A report by McKinsey revealed that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity were 30% more likely to have financial gains above their national industry medians.

Similarly, the same study showed increased gender diversity on the senior-exec team achieved the highest performance increase in Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT). For every 10% climb in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5%.

Higher staff retention

The 2020 Employee Retention Report by the Work Institute showed the top reason people left their jobs in 2019 was due to a lack of career development. It’s possible a lack of D&I and equal opportunities contributed to this. Furthermore, the same survey showed Manager Behaviour to be the third top reason people left their jobs. Again, this could be a sign of Managers neglecting D&I causing dissatisfaction among staff members. When leaders neglect D&I, this has been shown to increase employee dissatisfaction and in-turn contribute to higher staff turnover.


Diversity and inclusion is a win-win situation for everyone and every organisation. Aside from being morally and ethically the right thing to do, creating a diverse and inclusive professional environment is proven to bring benefits to organisations, both big and small. Knowing the difference between diversity and inclusion and understanding how they interlink is crucial for creating a successful business culture.

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