Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are more than just policies and marketing tools. They are quickly becoming a top priority for organisations of all types and sizes, as companies that embrace DEI outpace their competitors and perform better as a result of integrating DEI principles as part of their core DNA.
As Thailand’s workforce shrinks, the embrace and implementation of DEI principles can make companies better places to work, while also differentiating them from competitors and unlocking better business outcomes. Let us first examine exactly what DEI means, before explaining why it represents a crucial step forward for modern organisations.
What is the difference between diversity, equity and inclusion?
These terms are interconnected but not interchangeable, and the distinctions are important.
Diversity is the recognition of all elements, particularly the social aspects, that make us different from one another. Examples include age, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, disability status, and even career background. However, diversity alone does not mean much if only certain groups are actually listened to, or hold in their hands most of the meaningful power in the organisation.
Diversity is the first step towards improving the workforce, but it is not enough to simply implement a quota system so that all social groups are present. Hiring more women, minorities, or people with disabilities is important, but the end goal is to give them a meaningful place to effect change within the organisation.
Consider that one-third of women still do not feel comfortable voicing their opinions in the workplace, fearing negative repercussions. Simply having women in the room is not enough; companies with higher female representation at the leadership level are more likely to outperform those with less. The same lesson holds across other demographics as well, suggesting practical implications which go far beyond issues of basic fairness.
Inclusion is how an organisation embraces these individual differences, and allows people with different backgrounds and characteristics to thrive professionally. Fundamentally, the term refers to how much “value” is placed on diversity in the workplace, and the contributions made by members of minority groups.
If diversity refers to who is being hired, then inclusion refers to the processes and programmes that help integrate all members and their viewpoints. It should therefore be unsurprising that inclusion also has implications for staff retention. If employees of diverse backgrounds don’t feel valued, or sense that their contributions don’t matter, they will eventually leave – creating added costs and lost opportunities through staff attrition.
The other essential piece of this transformation involves equity, which ensures that everyone has access to the same opportunities. Companies should review their workplace policies to ensure that everyone is given the same opportunities for contribution and advancement, recognising that systemic roadblocks might need to be addressed to ensure that all staff are treated fairly.
Research shows that employees who believe they will be treated fairly regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, or other factors are almost 10 times more likely to look forward to going to work – and over 5 times more likely to stay longer at their position.
Why DEI initiatives are crucial for your organisation:
Diverse ideas and perspectives – Employees from diverse backgrounds and life experiences can contribute ideas which spring from different perspectives, leading to more multifaceted and innovative problem-solving processes. Post-COVID, many companies are downsizing or restructuring, and there is legitimate concern that this trend will negatively impact vulnerable groups. It should be a strategic priority to maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce during this period of staff upheaval, to prevent adverse impacts.
A diverse and inclusive workforce is also better at understanding and responding to a diverse and inclusive customer base. Integrating DEI is therefore advantageous not only for the benefits it brings to company culture, but also for making the organisation more aware of cultural trends that could affect the market in the coming years. The pandemic has shown the need for companies to understand complex problems quickly and react swiftly, and balanced teams tend to do better when faced with a crisis, given their access to more ideas and input from personnel who bring a broad range of perspectives.
Higher retention rate – In an ageing world where talent is scarce, the proper implementation of DEI principles can earn trust and commitment from employees. Even in relatively homogenous societies such as Thailand’s, younger workers are demanding more social responsibility from their employers – and are choosing jobs accordingly.
A PolicyLink report likewise shows how implementing DEI into the hiring process reduces costs that are associated with mental health, physical health, absenteeism, and staff burnout. Representation matters, and a diverse workforce will naturally attract more creative and talented people to your company.
Better outreach to existing and potential customers – Customers come from a diverse background as well, including a mix of races, cultural backgrounds, and so on. When your workforce is diverse, you are better positioned to understand the needs of your target audience – leading to faster problem-solving and new growth opportunities. This ability to “mirror the market” is critical going forward, as companies adjust to radically different ways of doing business post-COVID.
With remote/virtual work becoming a social norm, companies will have access to a more diverse talent pool than ever before. In this way, the challenges of the pandemic can be greeted as an opportunity to reassess hiring trends and adapt to market/social forces. At the same time, reaching customers by traditional means will be harder, and a diverse workforce can bring unique insights that are invaluable for reaching both new and existing customers.
People and businesses perform better when they are welcomed, respected, and included – and that is why we welcome a diverse pool of talent to Grant Thornton in Thailand. Our team can also help your organisation make real steps forward on the DEI pathway, putting a better company culture and better business outcomes within reach. Contact us today to learn more about how your company can implement DEI principles, for lasting success in the years ahead.