Ensuring inclusion in the workplace is now as important as fostering productivity, particularly for younger members of staff who see diversity not as an ‘added extra’, but an essential part of working life. A recent workplace study by Deloitte found that “83% of millennials are more engaged when reassured that their company promotes and supports an inclusive culture.”
The need for a diversity & inclusion strategy is capturing the attention of companies too. According to a 2021 Linkedin workplace learning report, nearly two-thirds (64%) of L&D pros globally, and nearly three-quarters (73%) in North America, report that their executives have made diversity & inclusion in the workplace a priority. This means that as corporations become increasingly inclusive and diverse, those that fail to follow suit are at risk of being left behind, harming their status as prospective employers in turn.
So, what is diversity & inclusion in the workplace?
Diversity in the workplace is often perceived as something purely cultural. In reality, it applies to gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, language and social background too. Diversity and inclusion is a way of promoting and embracing all the differences that we see around us, so that our workplaces engage and include everyone. Diversity & inclusion in the workplace is about promoting difference, albeit differences that strengthen rather than weaken connections.
In practice, the reason why diversity helps a workforce to become integrated is twofold: 1. It helps promote different perspectives which in turn promotes a well-rounded approach to business and associated problems. 2. It ensures that, for every client from a different background, you have someone on your team who shares that background, thus ensuring their needs and worries are fully understood.
This is only a brief overview though - it’s worth looking at some of the key benefits that diversifying your workplace can bring.
Why is diversity & inclusion in the workplace important?
Within a diverse workplace, employees can better understand each other's differences. Not only will this give people a common sense of purpose, but it will also increase their commitment to the company as a whole. When team members' differences are embraced, their personal traits celebrated rather than ignored, they are more likely to promote your company in turn - whether leaving positive reviews on glassdoor.co.uk, or posting on LinkedIn.
As employee engagement grows alongside a sense of community, you are much more likely to reduce employee turnover, plus all the associated costs for it. But where new roles do come up that can’t be filled internally, your credentials as a welcoming, diverse workplace should hold you in good stead: not only will you have a much larger talent pool to choose from, you are more likely to attract new graduates and millennials for whom workplace diversity & inclusion is a given rather than a bonus.
How does language learning create an inclusive workplace?
- It shows that your business embraces & values diversity
Fostering D&I is an essential part of establishing your reputation as a modern, forward-thinking business. As more companies seek to diversify their teams across all metrics (not just gender and ethnicity, but views and personality) those businesses that stagnate will naturally be seen as belonging to the past. This could harm not only a company's reputation as a prospective employer but as a potential business partner, particularly amongst overseas clients who could be put off by a lack of inclusion.
- It makes employees more culturally aware
The culture in which a person is raised influences everything, up to and including business etiquette, such as which hand to accept gifts with and whether you can make small talk. Hence, by taking on people from a wide variety of cultures, or even training your existing workforce in a foreign language, your team is more likely to be clued up on the subtleties of communication and interaction in different cultures. And in an increasingly global marketplace, this can make or break a deal with an overseas client or business partner.
- It’s a gateway to cross-cultural training
It’s easy to place cultural training on the agenda, but it’s also just as easy to put it off: with multicultural staff on your team, you are much more likely to invest in the sort of training you might otherwise neglect. When you do decide to get up to speed on cultural traditions and social norms, language learning can be a great route in. A language learning course can be customised to place emphasis on cultural concepts and norms in addition to learning vocab & grammar. You can also use the roleplay element of your language course to further hone your team’s cultural awareness at the same time as spelling and pronunciation.
- It ensures that everyone in a global organisation has a voice
Although some companies champion a degree of diversity & inclusion, this is often not enough. It is only when a company makes an orchestrated effort to promote voices from all walks of life that individuals can feel secure that their voices will be heard. And when people feel that they will be heard, they will be far more likely to speak up, bringing to light valuable insights that would otherwise pass by unheard.