Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

Category: Professionalism

Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace: Why does it matter?

It’s likely that most college students have heard something about the importance of diversity in the workplace, but we might not have necessarily heard why this is important. How does creating a diverse and inclusive environment benefit a workplace?  A recent article on Capterra’s website* references seven separate studies that demonstrate the value of diversity in the workplace. A summary of findings from the studies includes:

  1. Diverse executive boards generate better returns and their organizations earn more money
  2. Diverse groups uncover more angles, helping organizations find new solutions to problems
  3. Diversity leads to better results by changing the tenor of conversations
  4. Diverse teams are open to a broader (and potentially better) range of solutions

*See the original post for more detailed information and links to studies.  

We know that diverse teams are important because they can lead to better results in a variety of forms, but how does this happen? Diverse teams often experience feelings of discomfort, which isn’t a bad thing and can be part of the reason why they end up with better results. However, if team members aren’t sure how to handle difficult conversations, aren’t use to being in diverse teams, or if feelings of discomfort are left unaddressed, outcomes can deteriorate. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to move beyond just diversity in the workplace, and toward inclusion.

Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace: What does it look like?

How can students prepare themselves to be a part of a successful diverse team that values and encourages inclusion in the workplace? Interestingly, Skanska, a construction company with projects in almost all 50 U.S. states, is an organization helping to lead this initiative, describing diversity as a noun (it exists) and inclusion as a verb (active participation).  For Skanska, inclusion means actively creating a culture that demonstrates respect and encourages everyone to contribute their best based on their individual backgrounds and perspectives. Check out the four-minute Skanska Diversity & Inclusion Video, showing how they’re working toward their goals of becoming a diverse and inclusive organization, one which looks like their customers and the communities in which they work and how. Each Skanska employee is empowered to contribute to this goal, with a mantra of “it starts with me”.

How can inclusion start with you? The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) lists “Global/Intercultural Fluency” as one of the core competencies college graduates need to develop in order to be career ready (prepared for a successful transition into the workplace). According to NACE, development of this competency means to value, respect, and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions…to demonstrate openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences.  How do you develop and demonstrate this competency? Seeking out new opportunities and experiences with people different from yourself, taking the time to get to know the cultural and social intricacies of those involved, is a place to start. The MU Career Center Guide to Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace provides a number of ideas and examples of how students can work on developing cultural competence, as well as demonstrating your experience in this area on your resume, cover letter, and more.

For even more resources and information on this topic, check out Mizzou Career Tools on our website, using keywords such as “diversity” and “inclusion” in your search!