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Diversity and inclusion in the workplace: a worthy challenge

Aside from making a warmer and creative environment, hiring different people also improves productivity and innovation

We know that society and companies aren’t inclusive for all people yet, especially regarding women, black people, refugees, LGBTQIAs, disabled people and others that are part of minority groups. So, why do we still need quotas or positive policies to integrate them to educational institutions and formal employment?

Besides the ethics of providing equality of opportunities for different citizens, we know now that social responsibility brings other benefits with it. A survey by Brazil’s Hay Group shows that 76% of company employees that care for diversity acknowledge they have more freedom and feel more secure to expose their ideas and innovate at work. In companies that have no diversity in their agenda, this proportion falls to 55%.

The study, made with 170 Brazilian companies, identified that only 5% of them assess how their employees perceive diversity in the work environment. In countries such as the United States and in parts of Europe, this proportion jumps to 20%.

Engagement and profitability

According to experts, improper and racist/sexist jokes, selective processes that underscore privilege and the lack of space for subjectivity manifestation may be avoided with corporate education, debates and projects developed by the institutional communication department. The results can be seen in the medium- and long-term. Gradually, they are incorporated by all staff and leaders, favoring human relations and, consequently, business.

American consulting firm McKinsey assessed over one thousand companies in 12 distinct countries and showed that those that care for gender diversity were 21% more profitable than those that didn’t. When the question involved race, ethnicity and other cultural differences, profitability was 33% higher.

The analysis suggests that, albeit the correlation does not mean a direct and inevitable consequence, it indicates that, when companies commit to have a diversified leadership, they are usually more successful. In general terms, they are able to attract talented professionals, be more client-focused, improve employees’ satisfaction and decision-making, leading to virtuous circle of growing profits. “Thus, to include diversity as strategic to the agenda is a great way to maximize results and differentiate the company in relevant themes such as innovation, motivation, leadership and, consequently, financial results,” concludes Hay Group.

Learning from the different

Living with different people, with different skills and distinct perspectives of what you already know, is rewarding for the individual and the collective. “Where diversity is recognized and practiced, the incidence of conflicts is 50% lower than in other organizations,” reckons the Hay Group report.

The survey mentions the cases of French group Saint-Gobain, architecture and construction multinational company. With a history of 350 years, the company bets on diversity to bring results across the 66 countries where it operates. Engagement of professionals among the many plants around the world is encouraged, and there is special care for everyone to understand the importance of diversity and its practice in the daily routine.

The presence of people from different cultural backgrounds contributes to a look without boundaries on business possibilities. Leaders in these environments reinforce this type of behavior, and encourage the opening and capacity to work efficiently with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Moreover, diversity is a strong leverage that drives innovation, a core element of an organization’s strategy. The greater the difference in background, origin and culture of professionals, the greater the chances of an innovative environment. Saint-Gobain has already been included four times in Clarivate Analytics’ Top 100 Global Innovators, which compiles the top 100 companies in the world.

Staff and consumer engagement

By promoting well-being in the professional environment and commiting to the inclusion of employees representing the diversity found in our society, companies also have a better image before their clients. Reputation of having social and environmental responsibilities is a plus when competing for preference.

“The repercussion of diversity in companies does bring results and also impacts productivity and profitability by the simple fact that it makes people more engaged,” said Jorgete Lemos, diversity director of the Brazil Society for Human Resource Management (ABRH). “When people note that they aren’t rejected or aren’t simply performing a task, they feel valued. You feel well and supported, knowing that your participation is unique, because you’re seen as an individual and your characteristics are respected.”

But, besides generating creativity, profit and innovation, companies that adhere to collaborative and integrative practices are also more successful in retaining talents and have a lower turnover rate, engaging their internal employees in the long run and maintaining professional well-being organically and naturally.

“We try to assess and relay the most possible and most diverse types of information, promoting events and drawing guidelines on diversity. Our work plan is progressively structured: first we talk about recognition, next promotion and then equality,” explained Jorgete.

Cooperation and a sense of belonging gradually become part of the routine, strengthening good practices and fostering camaraderie and tasks that require collaborative effort to reach mutual goals between individuals of the same team.

Corporate commitment

With that in mind, 32 non-governmental companies and organizations outlined commitments with the civil society and reiterated publicly their institutional position on the theme. In the Letter of Support to Diversity, regarding Respect and Inclusion of LGBT+ People in the workforce in Brazil, signed by companies such as Google, IBM and Braskem, there are policies for minorities, the historically excluded and socially vulnerable, in special, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA).

The signatory companies employ, altogether, more than 100 thousand people in Brazil. They invest in practices that allow professionals to feel welcome, respected and free to express their personalities and share their personal experiences, which in turn benefits all – professionals, companies and organizations.

The letter further states that “such practices positively impact attractiveness, recruitment and retention of professionals, in addition to promoting a collaborative, productive and innovative culture.” Setting up a work program about the theme can potentially change habits inside and outside the professional environment, as well as make people rethink their beliefs and question their social behaviors.