What Does Diversity and Inclusion Mean for Your Business?

what does diversity and inclusion mean

Ethnicity, gender, age, disability, religion, and sexual orientation are all protected characteristics under the Equality Act of 2010. This ensures that employees and candidates are not treated unfairly because of these characteristics. 

Historic injustices – and how they should be fixed, are increasingly in the headlines. Whilst you can’t suddenly change the world, you can go beyond legal compliance and add value to your business whilst contributing to employee wellbeing. This is a guide on what diversity and inclusion means for your business, whether you’re hiring or looking to build and maintain an inclusive culture.

Hiring Inclusively

Sarah Chandran, Head of inclusion consultancy Fresh and Fearless describes how language used can deter certain candidates. For instance, words like ‘energetic’ exclude older candidates whilst characteristics like ‘driven’ or ‘empathetic’ suggest an interest in hiring a certain gender.

Most of the time these language biases are unconscious and reflect preconceptions we have about a role. However, a recent study from the Centre for Social Investigation at the University of Oxford found that 24% of job applicants with a white Western background receive a call-back for job applications, compared to 15% of applicants with an ethnic minority background. Whilst these biases are often unintentional, they have real world consequences.

Beating your biases

How can you make sure that unconscious bias doesn’t interfere with your recruiting process? Here are four bias busting ideas:

  • Community Engagement – Firstly, engage underrepresented communities through mentoring and educational programmes. This provides them with skills and knowledge to successfully apply for roles otherwise inaccessible.
  • Prioritise Personality and Talent, not Background and Experience – Kimberly Nei, director of talent analytics at Hogan, suggests looking out for personality traits that fit the role. She says “personality assessment does not produce meaningful subgroup differences (no difference in performance due to gender and race etc) and is unbiased, unlike traditional face to face interviews.”
  • Use Tech to Beat Your Bias – Gaia Caruso from Sparta Global suggests using tools like Textio which gives “bias interruption that goes beyond gender.” However, artificial intelligence as a bias buster has a long way to go since in 2018 Amazon had to withdraw an algorithm from its selection procedures because it had effectively taught itself to prefer male candidates.
  • FInally, train for Unconscious Bias in Recruitment – Chandran from Fresh and Fearless says that unconscious bias training alone won’t solve the problem of discrimination in society but it is a significant step all employers can take.

Quick bias checklist

In addition to these anti bias techniques, here are a few common biases you can look out for:

  • Confirmation bias – A preconception about a candidate that makes you look for info to confirm that preconception. Use a structured interview, ask all candidates the same questions to avoid this.
  • Affect Heuristic – Heuristics are mental shortcuts that help us make decisions. This means that many of us make decisions based on emotions. Asking candidates to perform measurable tasks keeps emotions out of the selection process.
  • Anchoring Bias – this is where we fixate on one aspect of a candidate’s application and give it more weight. Keep this in mind, are you weighing all aspects of the application properly?
  • Halo or Horn Effect – similar to anchoring bias, this is a fixation on one good or bad piece of information. Use a formal scoring process and get each panel member to justify their selection decision.

What does diversity and inclusion look like for existing employees?

Hiring is the first step in what you hope to be a long and fulfilling career for your employees. Therefore, making it a diverse and inclusive place is crucial to that end. Creating an inclusive culture could be the single best investment businesses can make in 2021.

It could be your key to recruiting and retaining the best talent; a Deloitte study found that 4/10 employees would leave their current employer for a more inclusive one. Nearly a third have already left a previous employer for diversity and inclusion reasons. With stakes this high, a culture of inclusion and diversity must be present from top to bottom.


A key to maintaining a healthy workplace is to tackle microaggressions. It is easy to spot explicit harassment or bullying, however, an effective culture strategy must understand that harassment can take subtler forms. Psychologist Derland Wing Sue defines microaggressions as ‘brief everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership

A SurveyMonkey study revealed that three of the most common microaggressions at work are:

  • Being treated unprofessionally because of gender or race.
  • Called well spoken with the implication that this is despite race or class.
  • Being spoken over whilst talking.

Tolu Farinto, from Utopia, a culture change business, explained how microaggressions can “take a huge emotional toll on people as they wrangle with the idea that they are different, that they don’t belong”.

This kind of exhaustion hurts the employee’s wellbeing and productivity. Therefore, to minimise damage to your employee and business, let employees address microaggressions through secure channels. Employees should have a helpline they can speak to in confidence. Additionally, it should never be the victim’s problem, a laxed attitude towards employee denigration is a sign of a toxic work culture. The issue should not be minimised either and should be reported to HR as an incident.

Microaggressions are defined as “‘brief everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership.”

Derland Wing Sue

Where to start?

Every business is different, including yours. Not all of these scenarios will apply to you and you have probably already given these considerations some thought. In other words, it is good to take a ‘temperature check’ of your workplace culture to see what areas need focusing on. Workplace surveys are a good way to get more information on your employees’ experience at work.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that this is an ongoing process, continuing to monitor workplace culture and listen to feedback.In conclusion, Make diversity and inclusion part of your business health check. Take steps during recruitment, have processes in place for incidents, and check in on employee satisfaction from time to time.

Next steps

Lastly, do you have bias-proof  recruitment practices? Are your discrimination policies up to date for hybrid work? Get in touch via the contacts page or via our twitter, instagram, or linkedin to see what we can do to help!