In the corporate field, diversity refers to the presence within the organization of professionals of diverse age, sex or sexual orientation, nationality, religion, ethnicity, culture, condition or with a series of special needs due to illnesses, accidents, disabilities or a certain family situation.
For its part, inclusiveness is the collection of practices that are adopted, from an organizational effort, within the company so that every employee –regardless their distinguishing feature is-, is culturally and socially accepted and treated with equality. The final objective is to create a sense of belonging around which every member of the company feels recognised, valued and respected as a person and free to be who they are in their working context.
Being complementary, diversity and inclusiveness must be developed together. According to Katherine Earley, an expert writer in organizational sustainability, “inclusive diversity policies can be an added value in terms of innovation, growth and competitiveness” and can allow companies to reach “a sustainable development”.
Other arguments in favour of corporate diversity are the augmentation in the reserve of ideas and expertise; the improvement in customer service due to the coexistence, within the staff, of diverse skills; a more positive rating on the part of consumers; and, from a HR perspective, a higher rate of talent retention.
There are several measures that can be taken to achieve the objective of implementing diversity within a company successfully. At institutional level, an authorized referent is the International Labour Organization (ILO), which published a practical guide in 2017: Promoting diversity and inclusion through workplace adjustments. Throughout this publication, the concept of “reasonable accommodation” is very much present, defined as those necessary and suitable changes in order to adapt to the particular features of a worker or a candidate, “so that he can benefit from the very same rights and opportunities as the rest of workers”.
Reasonable accommodation may not just be centred around modifications in the physical environment of the workplace to remove, for example, accessibility barriers in accordance with applicable legislation. Inclusiveness is also worked on from the operating protocols of the company.
According to the ILO, non-physical reasonable accommodations can include practices similar to the following: regular meetings between some manager and an employee with special needs to go through his duties and schedules: clarity and transparency regarding timetables or food services to meet diverse dietary needs.
Diversity inclusiveness is susceptible to occur even before employment relation with an employee begins, since some reasonable accommodation may be necessary to be set up during the recruitment process, such as physical relocation of the place where selection processes are made or a change in the date of the interview.
The organizational consultancy firm Sy Partners points out some other good practices that may be also carried out by companies regarding diversity and inclusiveness. One of them is the need on the part of members with key responsibilities to exercise empathic leadership towards employees requiring reasonable accommodation. Another one is to ingrain in the corporate culture that inclusiveness consists not only in accommodating a person but also helping him develop his career inside the company.
Diversity is not only concerned to employees with special needs and corporate managers. In order for inclusive policies to succeed, it is essential that every staff member is involved in this increasingly irrepressible culture in the business world.