Diversity and inclusion has thankfully become more visible as a topic of discussion in the boardroom. Yet, organizations that encourage a diverse workforce, aren’t necessarily fully diverse, nor are they inclusive. In this article, we explore how to put more ‘I’ in your ‘D&I’ agenda.

Companies have come a long way in the last decade to embrace diversity in their hiring. The practice of hiring people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.,—has been encouraged by pressure groups and organizations like the National Diversity Council, asking organizations to see diversity as a business imperative.

Recent research conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, backs the argument that increasing the diversity of leadership teams is good for business :

  • Leads to more and better innovation.
  • Improves financial performance – in fact, companies with diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue due to innovation.
  • Increases adaptability, due to different viewpoints and solutions.

Sometimes, however, adopted agendas to choose from a wider talent pool fall short of creating an inclusive workplace that is accepting and comfortable for people of all backgrounds.

Often overlooked types of diversity

Cognitive and Neurodiversity

We all know that some people are straight-line thinkers, others more imaginative, some great with figures. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and we all think differently. More extreme versions of cognitive diversity include people with Aspergers or Dyslexia. Diversity found in intellectual functioning is often not that easy to notice, and sometimes requires additional accommodation.

Behavior and Ethodiversity

Behavior comes as the result of the unique experiences each of us gains through the way we are brought up and the events that we’ve encountered along the way. It’s easy to be judgemental of behaviors by failing to respect these subtle nuances in colleagues that have arisen through a different kind of upbringing and life experiences.

Personality and Thought-style

People think in different ways. You might notice managers tend to employ people that think along the same lines as themselves. This is one of the reasons why companies ask individuals to complete personality tests. But that too can be disruptive in its outcomes, if assumptions of the personality required for a role are misguided by bias.

Cultural background

There are other aspects of character and personality that can find bias in hiring processes, such as accents and cultural behaviors; such as the tendency of some cultures not to start work early, and others to take an early afternoon break. It’s easy to fall into the habit of expecting individuals from other backgrounds to work in accordance with your cultural norms. All this does is put pressure on people to work when they’re less able to perform, which isn’t the best way to achieve optimum productivity.

Taking Inclusion the Extra Mile

The best way to transition from a diverse to an inclusive culture is to include your workforce in decisions on the norms of behavior that should exist in your organization.

Often, the way we work together as teams in a business is dictated by management teams, commonly from the same background. In consequence, workforce behaviors and assumptions on hiring come from a small pocket of cultural and behavioral understanding. Even when any personal bias is swept aside, the consequence of dictating behavioral policies and expectations—rather than engaging your people in a discussion on what standards of behavior are acceptable— will always fall short of the mark.

Consider establishing hiring panels comprised of a diverse group of decision makers in order to reduce bias in recruiting new hires.

You can also go the extra mile and create a policy panel made of people from different backgrounds, or run inclusivity workshops every few years to reset the latent understanding of what norms of behavior are acceptable within your company culture.

For more ideas on how to design your talent strategy around inclusivity, speak to one of our consultants.

Learn more about our approach to diversity

Ian Tomlin

Ian Tomlin


Ian Tomlin is a marketer, entrepreneur, business leader and management consultant. His passion is to help make great ideas happen. Relentlessly optimistic about the potential of technology for good, Ian’s 30+ year career has focused around the intersect of strategy, technology and marketing. He writes on subjects including workforce management, future of work, talent acquisition technology and organizational design.
Ian has written books, articles and guides on brand, digital transformation, enterprise applications, data science, and organizational design. He can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter.