Shifting Focus from “Diversity” to “Inclusion” and Why It Matters

Every month we dive into what we are all so passionate about here at FMP: human capital management. Over the last decade, we as industrial-organizational psychologists have been flooded with material on diversity and its importance in the workplace. Today it is simply a fact of life that diversity—meaning a wide range of cultures, experiences, backgrounds, and skills—is an essential element to any organization. A diverse team will provide unique and extensive insight into your consumer or client base, increased innovation and creativity, improved overall performance, and boosted productivity1. Due to these evidence-based benefits, we see more and more recruiters striving to diversify their organization. While it is certainly worth celebrating that companies are prioritizing diversity by hiring from a wider pool of applicants, we need to look beyond recruitment and onboarding at how these new diverse hires are being treated once they’ve accepted an offer. Diversity and inclusion are not the same thing, and while great strides are being made in the realm of diversity, we must ask ourselves, “Are we devoting the same time and effort to inclusion?”

To better understand the difference between diversity and inclusion, we can turn to America’s favorite pastime: baseball. Diversity can be seen as simply making it on the team, while inclusion is the opportunity to get off the bench and play the game. It is not enough to create a diverse workforce; we must ensure that everyone is engaged, supported, and given the resources needed to thrive in their role. For minorities especially, it is easy to feel like an outsider in corporate settings. Here are some tips on how to facilitate inclusion on your team and beyond:

Lead by Example

Organizations generally adopt a “top-down” approach, meaning real change in culture and organizational attitude starts with leadership. When leaders encourage all employees to speak up, voice their opinions, be innovative, and challenge the status quo, the rest of the organization will follow. But it’s not just leadership who has this power. Most employees have influence, whether formal or informal, over their peers. By treating coworkers as equals, reaching out to new hires, being friendly, and making others feel welcomed and valued, you are modeling inclusive behavior and making it known that discrimination of any sort is not acceptable.

Recognize Success

One surefire way to boost engagement and employee morale is to publicly recognize exceptional performance. Especially when an employee who may not fit the corporate norm (i.e., cisgender straight white male) excels, make sure they know they are doing a great job and their contributions are being noticed and appreciated. Sending out an email or making an announcement at a team meeting or town hall are a couple of ways to make sure notable contributions are being recognized. This makes employees feel seen, heard, and included, leading to lower attrition and greater sense of wellbeing among employees.

Respect Boundaries (even if you don’t understand them)

Having a diverse workforce means that there will often be unfamiliar aspects and new or confusing situations. You may have a coworker with a disability, a transgender or non-binary coworker who uses “they/them” pronouns, a Muslim coworker who wears a hijab, or a pregnant or breast-feeding coworker who requires additional breaks throughout the day. As a general rule, if something does not apply to you, it is not your place to question or comment on it. Understand people’s boundaries, treat everyone with respect, and when you are uncertain, consult HR (and a Google search to gain greater insight never hurt anyone).

Feelings of security and inclusion are fundamental for success in the workplace. Diversity in the workplace is on the rise, and new perspectives foster innovation, the blending of different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences can sometimes lead to conflict and misunderstanding. Additionally, prejudice and discrimination do not cease to exist once a new hire starts working. Feelings of alienation and ostracization can negate all the potential benefits of diversity, and often lead to lower retention, engagement, productivity, and wellbeing among all employees. It’s time to expand our focus from simply hitting the diversity quota to creating an environment where all employees feel empowered to be and do their best.

How does your organization facilitate inclusion? Share your thoughts with us on LinkedIn!


1.    6 Benefits of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace. (n.d.). Retrieved from

2.      Maister, J. L. (2019, March 22). 35 Mind-Blowing Diversity Recruitment Stats. Retrieved from