What Is Meant by Diversity and Inclusion? And Why You Should Make Them a Priority

Published by:
Joe Caccavale
September 7, 2020
min read

Debiased Hiring Bundle

What is meant by diversity?

Diversity means the inclusion of people from various backgrounds. In the workplace, we use the term diversity to describe the mix of people in an organisation. 

A diverse company is one where there’s a healthy mix of people from different backgrounds, whether that be in terms of race, education, or beliefs.

When we talk about diversity in the workplace, we tend to think predominantly about ethnicity and gender, although these are just the most surface-level, physical forms of diversity.

But what is diversity, and what is its scope? True diversity covers all sorts of aspects...

Types of diversity

  • Race 
  • Ethnicity 
  • Gender, 
  • Sexual orientation 
  • Socio-economic status 
  • Age 
  • Physical abilities
  • Religious beliefs,
  • Political beliefs
  • Neurodiversity 
  • Education
  • Socio-economic status 
  • Accent
  • Work experience
  • Introvert vs Extrovert
  • Personality type

That explains diversity. How about inclusion?

Often when we try to define diversity, we approach the subject from either a conceptual or theoretical standpoint. To truly understand the reality of diversity we also need to assume a practical position and consider how diversity translates into action. However, we cannot get this right without thinking about inclusion. While these two concepts often go hand in hand, there is a marked difference between diversity and inclusion - so what exactly is inclusion?

What is inclusion?

Inclusion refers to a culture of accepting, welcoming, and offering access to equal opportunities to groups or individuals with different backgrounds.

The difference in backgrounds could be anything from ethnicity, age or gender, to less visible differences such as education, experience, or personality. 

Inclusion is often described as a sense of belonging. 

Inclusive work cultures are ones that equally value and respect every member of staff, regardless of their identity.

A genuinely inclusive workplace should offer equal opportunities to everyone. No group should be promoted, listened to, or paid more in relation to another.

What inclusion is not

Inclusion isn’t just an indifference to people’s backgrounds.

Just because you’re not discriminating against anyone doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re being inclusive.

Inclusion entails not just seeing past people's backgrounds, but actually taking them into account in decision-making.

What is the difference between equality, diversity and inclusion?

Inclusion is often spoken of alongside diversity and equality.

Whilst they do play a role in upholding and improving one another, there is a distinct difference between the terms.


The variety in people - whether it be race, gender, education, etc. 


Treating everyone fairly and equally


Practices and general culture of allowing people to be themselves and feel valued

How do inclusive practices promote equality and support diversity?

By creating a working environment in which people feel comfortable to be themselves, you’ll naturally attract a more diverse array of talent. This could be through word of mouth, reviews, or by being transparent around inclusion on your careers page.

Talent from minority backgrounds (not just in terms of race, but also socio-economic and disability) may be deterred from applying to jobs if they feel they’ll be judged or overlooked. Before you set out to improve diversity, you’ll need to ensure you’ve got an inclusive workplace for people to come to work in first - where diversity is actually valued and appreciated.

What does inclusion mean for your organization?

Inclusion can mean many different things to an organization, from the intangible implementations including the establishment of discussion forums, and training programs.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are more practical and tangible interventions that could include the construction of specialised prayer rooms, and facilities that accommodate various practices required by certain groups of people. This could also include the purchasing of special foods and accommodations in events and gatherings. 

How far you take this is really up to your organization's stakeholder makeup, as well as the resources available to actually go ahead with implementation. But even small or cheap interventions can go a long way in making people feel thought about and considered.

Why should diversity be valued?

Diversity of thought

If your workplace is diverse, you’ll benefit from all of the different thoughts and ideas that come from people’s various backgrounds and experiences.

This is commonly referred to as ‘diversity of thought.’  

Peoples’ backgrounds afford them unique insights and ways of approaching problems.

A lack of diversity in teams can actually be outright detrimental - it’s been claimed that the CIA was ‘too white’ to see 9/11 coming.

So if you want to build teams that are creative and innovative, then diversity should be a top priority.

Employees should reflect customers

Your workforce should ideally represent customers, in order to have an understanding of their needs and problems. Chances are, your customers are fairly diverse, and so your employees should be too.

Doing the right thing

Other than the fact that diversity is better for business and increases the bottom line, caring about diversity is the moral thing to do.

We have the power to dismantle systems of oppression that disadvantage people from certain backgrounds.

And we can do this by creating equal opportunities and actively trying to improve diversity in our workplaces.

What are the benefits of diversity, equality, and inclusion?


Research has found that inclusive companies are 1.7x more likely to be innovation leaders in their market. 

Problem solving

According to Harvard Business Review, diverse teams solve problems faster than those who are cognitively similar.

Financial performance 

The McKinsey Report found that companies in the top quartile for diversity financially outperform those at the bottom by 33%.

Employee engagement

Deloitte research concluded that diversity and inclusion improves engagement. People that feel included engage more with the wider organisation.

Talent sourcing 

Having a diverse workforce can help attract talent. In one Glassdoor survey, 67% of job seekers said a diverse team was important when considering offers.

Diversity in the workplace UK - a few stats

As seen in the data below, there's plenty of room for improvement here in the UK.

  • 77% of White people in the UK are employed, versus 65% of people from all other ethnic groups combined (GOV.UK
  • 78% of firms in the UK pay men more than women. (Computer Week)
  • No sector in the UK pays women more than men (Druthers Search)
  • Only 9.7% of executive positions in the FTSE 100 are held by women. (The McGregor-Smith Review)
  • People with disabilities are more likely to be working part-time than those without disabilities (House of Commons Library)
  • 46.3% of working-age disabled people are in employment compared to 76.4% of working-age non-disabled people (ONS)
  • Minority background individuals make up 10% of the workforce but only 6% of top management positions (Market Inspector)

Behaviours that support equality diversity and inclusion in the workplace

In one poll, 20% of HR departments said that attracting and retaining diverse talent was one of the main hurdles that their organisation faced.

Remove unconscious bias from your hiring

We found that 60% of people hired ‘blind’ through our platform would’ve been missed through a traditional CV sift.

What does that tell you?

Well, it means that your average hiring process is prone to bias that prevents you from finding the best person for the job.

A blind hiring process like the one we use at Applied has been shown to result in the attraction and hiring of up to 4x more candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds.

By removing bias from your hiring, diversity will increase as a by-product.

You can steal our hiring process here.

Make sure diversity starts at the top

If you’re going to be investing time into diversity initiatives, you should first make sure that your senior leadership is diverse.

This is a true measure of how much you value diversity, and if this isn’t addressed first, it will make your efforts seem hollow or disingenuous.

If this is something that needs looking at, you’re not alone. According to one review, over half of FTSE 100 firms didn’t have a single director who came from an ethnic minority background.

Be transparent around diversity

Diversity can’t be fixed overnight.

But, you can show your employees that you’re doing your bit to improve.

Share any pay gap reports or data you’ve been collecting to show that you’re acknowledging and addressing the issue.

Glassdoor data found that 57% of employees want their company to do more to increase diversity, so show your employees that it is in fact a priority.

Collect data using employee engagement surveys 

Diversity and inclusion can be somewhat measured using feedback surveys.

Employees want to feel that their voice is being heard and accounted for, so this is the perfect opportunity to let people have their say.

Make it so that your diversity efforts can be tracked and set objectives just like any other function’s work.

These surveys will not only show your commitment and keep you on track, but also help solve problems - let employees tell you what they do and don’t like themselves.

8 tips for improving inclusion as part of your diversity strategy

1. Find out how new hires like to work before they begin

We send out a ‘Who’s Who’ survey before new hires begin so that everyone knows how best to communicate and work with each other.

Here are some of the headings that we use:

  • Nickname
  • Preferred pronouns 
  • Tasks they like
  • Tasks they avoid
  • Preferred means of contact 
  • Non-negotiables (e.g. family time after 5 pm)
  • Just so you know (e.g. I don’t drink alcohol)
  • Signs of stress
  • What time of day do they work best
  • How to tell if they’re too busy to be disturbed‍

2. Make sure flexible working is an option

Everyone works differently and has different responsibilities outside of work.

If you truly respect that all of your employees have varying needs and stresses, then flexible working options are a must.

Parents or carers, for example, may need to be at home on certain days of the week. If your hiring is effective (which you can prove using our data-driven methods), then there’s no reason not to trust employees to deliver on their own terms.

Since people may have needs they’re not comfortable expressing, it’s vital to offer flexibility to all employees, not just those who communicate their need for it.

3. Organise more inclusive socials

Certain types of socials may tend to attract certain types of employees. 

Those who don’t drink, are socially anxious, or have other commitments on Friday evenings may feel excluded from socials if it’s always the classic pub trip.

Try organising different types of socials on different days and at different times of the day.

It could be as simple as a board games evening, or a lunch trip.

Showing that you appreciate people’s differences, even in small ways like this, goes a long way towards improving inclusion in the workplace.

4. Ensure decision-making is open and feedback-based

Flexible working, socials etc. will only go so far if decision-making is inclusive too.

If decisions are still being made without taking individuals’ needs into account, then the above tips are just bells and whistles, with little substance behind them.

According to Culture Amp, the majority of women in the workforce feel excluded from decision making and uncomfortable expressing their opinions.

Fixing an issue like this doesn’t have to be too difficult.

Where possible, you could ask the wider organisation for feedback before making big decisions - especially where the people function is concerned.

If it’s people you’re trying to help, then why not get direct feedback from those you’re advocating for?

5. Use a text analysis tool to ensure you’re writing is inclusive 

The words you use carry subconscious meaning.

In job descriptions, for example, women can be put off from applying if you use too much masculine-coded language.

This is because certain terms carry hidden meanings - which can be associated with particular gender norms.

Take a look at some examples from this LinkedIn article.

There’s also the reading burden…

Is the level of complexity and use of jargon appropriate for what you’re writing?

We go deeper into inclusive language in our job description guide - which applies to anything you’re writing.

6. Double-check your dress code

If your organisation has a dress code, you may want to check that it takes into account people from all cultures and backgrounds.

Some black people, for example, feel as if they have to groom their natural hair to fit in - which has now become somewhat of a civil rights issue.

Although your dress code may not explicitly forbid certain hairstyles/clothing etc., employees may feel the need to tone themselves down to feel comfortable.

Inclusion is about addressing these issues head-on.

7. Track progress using feedback surveys

Although it’s not a concrete metric, inclusion can be gauged through feedback surveys.

Products like Officevibe can be used to collect and analyse employee feedback.

If employees are reporting that they are feeling comfortable and valued at work, then you’re probably doing something right!

Don’t be afraid to share your progress - it shows that you’re taking proactive measures to make people’s work lives better… and you can ask for input and feedback on any areas that are lagging behind.  

8. Look for cultural add, not ‘fit’

You should care about company culture.

It essentially dictates how people work and how well they perform.

But the focus should always be on expanding and improving culture, as opposed to protecting it from change.

Culture fit is basically just a measure of how similar a candidate is to the current makeup of the company.

Instead, look at what someone could add to the company culture, and how well aligned they are to your mission and values.

Here at Applied, we’re passionate about improving diversity. We designed our hiring platform to remove bias from hiring, so that the best person gets the job, regardless of background.

Our platform uses a data-driven and anonymised approach, so you can be sure that you are hiring people for the right reasons. By levelling the playing field and focusing on candidates' skills and merits, you can have confidence in your ability to find the perfect person for your next role.

Candidates love our process because it’s transparent and fair. Each candidate receives bespoke, automated feedback on where they succeeded and where they could improve. This means that even if they were unsuccessful, they walk away having gained something.

To find out more,
Request a Demo of the Applied platform, and see for yourself how you can embrace the future of hiring.