Commentary

How the workplace can support Diversity and Inclusion

Companies with a diverse workforce are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making

September 07, 2017
Businesswoman leading informal meeting

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is about celebrating differences among people; respecting the individual no matter who they are; keeping an open mind, and being supportive of different perspectives. Numerous studies have shown that companies with a diverse workforce are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing return.

In an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, opportunities are multifaceted and come from all parts of the globe. To conduct international business, you require workers from diverse backgrounds and with differing experiences, who speak local languages and who understand foreign norms and cultures; as well as employees who are able to handle different perspectives.

Having a diverse pool of talents will allow you to expand market share in different geographies and even venture into new sectors. This is particularly the case in Asia Pacific, as the region continues to lead global growth.

Notably, in a rapidly changing world, D&I can be a key differentiator because a diverse team allows for differentiated thinking. Companies that promote a culture in which employees feel safe to experiment with different solutions will also help drive innovation, growth in new directions, and breakthroughs to serve clients better.

“As we enter the innovation era, we cannot have homogeneity of people. We need diversity of thought because that pushes us one step further,” says Jordan Kostelac, Senior Associate, Workplace Strategy, JLL Asia Pacific.

So, how do you drive D&I at the workplace?

Recruiting different talents with the right values

According to Kirstie Ellard, JLL’s Chief Human Resource Officer for Asia Pacific, the recruitment process plays a key role in ensuring companies have a mixed pool of talent. “It is important that there is a focus on recruiting outside of the sector; it isn’t just ticking the boxes on skills and experience but ensuring that people with different attributes and the right values are being considered for potential employment,” says Ellard, who oversees a diverse team. Our 95 Asia Pacific offices have as many as 37,000 employees operating in 16 countries.

Raise D&I awareness through activities and events

With a progressively aging workforce, especially in developed economies, it is increasingly common that employees in the office will span five generations, says Ellard. Apart from generational diversity, there is also diversity in geography (cultures, nationalities, language and so on) as well as, of course, gender. “Raising awareness through activities and events will help to deepen understanding of diversity and facilitate a culture of inclusiveness at the workplace,” she says, as JLL prepares for its D&I Week in September.

Foster inclusion with a conducive office environment

While diversity might be achieved through recruitment, inclusion requires the right leadership, work-settings that promote teamwork, as well as policies and processes that foster a sense of connectedness regardless of differences, according to Ellard.

Inclusion will help enrich the workplace experience and lead to higher productivity as staff feel comfortable coming to work. In fact, based on our latest workplace experience survey involving 7,000 workers across the globe, the office of the future is powered by the richness of Human Experience (HX). It is this experience that defines engagement, empowerment, and fulfillment at work; creates happiness and inspires people to do their best work in their career. To quote the Harvard Business Review, inclusion is necessary because without it, “the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation and lead to business growth won’t happen.”

Institutionalize a policy and respect it

Ellard stressed that policies and procedures governing issues such as flexi-work hours, gradual return to work arrangements, and dress code at the office could help to take down barriers but they won’t be effective unless employees are comfortable about adopting them. “These institutionalized policies and procedures could only be used if we permit ourselves to respect them. For people to be comfortable with using them, we work with our leaders around giving that permission and having a mature approach about allowing people to do so, and enabling them to meet both their work and outside of work commitments.”

Enhance the workplace experience

Your organization should also look into its corporate purpose, community building, and human leadership to further support inclusiveness and influence engagement, empowerment and fulfillment at work.

You can have a diverse team, but the benefits of a diverse team can only be brought to life when staff accept each other’s differences, feel supported and work together. Here are some suggestions that you can consider to enhance the workplace experience:

Institute recognition and awards

To create a sense of purpose at work, companies should look into how staff could be united to contribute to something bigger such as the success of a business. These may involve providing recognition and rewards.

Design for collaboration and teamwork

To foster community building, you may want to consider how your workplace is designed for collaboration and the sharing of ideas. Organizations must create physical places that break down barriers, enhance inclusion and co-working, according to Ellard and Kostelac.

These spaces also need to cater to a diverse group of people, ranging from spaces for concentration and collaboration, experimental and creative work areas to health-based and family-dedicated environments. Our HX survey outcome showed that communal space has the strongest impact on quality of life (14.26%) and engagement (13.6%).

Leadership that empowers your employees

The right style of human leadership involves putting people first and one that focuses on providing a genuinely caring and nurturing work environment, where all are treated equally, fairly and respectfully.

“It is about having a nurturing environment that allows people to have transparent conversations and the freedom to be authentic; to be who they are,” adds Kostelac. D&I have become a key focus amid rapid technology developments because innovation doesn’t happen by chance and requires a culture that values input from a diverse crowd.  An office environment that empowers team members to feel safe to propose novel ideas and allows the sharing of credit during success will be conducive to innovation, says Kostelac.

According to our survey, the right managerial behaviors that drive employee engagement and commitment at work are trust, kindness and those that allow staff freedom to take initiatives without being judged.

Conclusion: Strive for employee-first approach

Undoubtedly, D&I is fast becoming a key corporate strategy that will help drive a company’s bottom line. This human-centered approach, which puts people first, forms the core building block for the workplace of the future.

To create positive experiences at the workplace, and to drive trust and transparency while boosting performance, thorough consideration must be given to the working environment and how it can be used to achieve the broader company goals.

Want more? Talk to the team