Research shows that diverse teams perform better in almost all organisational areas. Diverse and inclusive teams are reportedly better at decision making, resolving conflict, and are more creative and innovative. More diverse organisations also enjoy more engaged and satisfied employees, with an HBR study showing that the perception of increased diversity leads to better employee attendance, thus reducing absenteeism costs. 

More diverse companies are also able to better retain top talent and recruit the best new talent. It is important to note that the diversity that leads to better outcome is intersectional.  

Mckinsey reported that companies that have more racial and ethnic diversity ‘are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians’ while ‘companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians’.  

A report by Credit Suisse showed that organisations that had at least one woman in their board had a higher return on equity, lower gearing and higher average company growth.  

So, yes, it is important to intentionally recruit a diverse set of employees to your organisation. However, the key to making a diverse team successful is inclusion. 

Diversity without inclusion does not work 

Diversity, as we’ve illustrated above, is great for organisations. But it won’t stand on its own. In order for diverse teams to thrive, there must be inclusion. 

Inclusion is a set of cultural norms, behaviours, and policies implemented in an organisation that make all employees feel valued for their unique traits and experiences and safe to express their ideas and creativity. 

The lack of inclusion in a diverse team means that members that have been historically underrepresented in organisations will encounter more barriers because their workplaces are not ready to accommodate their needs. 

To unpack this idea of inclusion more, here are a few examples of a diverse but non-inclusive workplace: 

  • An organisation that employs women but pays them less than their male counterparts 
  • A company that has a diverse team with members from different religious backgrounds but does not allow them to take time off during their festivals 
  • A gender diverse team that does not offer gender neutral parental leave 
  • A diverse team that holds meetings where the ideas of a select few are heard and acted upon 

Three habits for leaders who want to be more inclusive 

While inclusion should be embodied at all organisational levels, it needs to be facilitated and modelled by team leaders.  

Different leaders who want to lead their teams inclusively will be at different levels of their learning journey. Some might be at the start of their journey; others will be seasoned at inclusive leadership.  

If you are in the early stages of your inclusive leadership journey, or whether you have gained some experiences, here are three (out of six) important habits that NAWO’s partner Emberin has curated for leaders who want to foster better inclusion in their teams: 

  1. Acknowledge the uneasiness of difference: placing your trust in someone you perceive as ‘different’ may feel like a gamble – and we are hardwired this way. Thus, it is important to acknowledge that embracing difference may feel uneasy. That’s why one of our NAWO mantras is ‘get comfortable uncomfortable’ 
  1. Communicate as one team: Trust that all your team members want the best for the business. Then establish frameworks for communication that ensure all team members can express themselves. (Learn about how Coles builds organisational trust through communication) 
  1. Be courageously curious: avoid groupthink and get curious about differing opinions. Play the devil’s advocate and ask questions to unpack the ideas of new voices in your team.  

Do you want to learn more about inclusive leadership habits to take your inclusivity (and bottom line) to the next level? Head to our Inclusion Leadership Habits for Operations Leaders Program page – NAWO’s signature program created for operations-based leaders in collaboration with Emberin, a global leading organisation in diversity and inclusion training programs. 

What is invisible diversity and how can inclusive leaders support team members with invisible diversity? Watch our National Webinar with the multi award-winning advocate and keynote speaker, Emily Unity!