In view of the increasing shortage of skilled workers, diversity and inclusion are becoming an increasingly decisive competitive factor for companies. The comprehensive and consistent integration of different genders and age groups as well as employees from different social and ethnic backgrounds not only strengthens their image as an employer, but also increases the loyalty of employees and boosts their willingness to perform and innovative strength. However, this only benefits companies in which the workforce really feels perceived, appreciated and supported. This is the conclusion reached by the international management consultancy Bain & Company in its study “The Fabric of Belonging: How to Weave an Inclusive Culture”. A total of around 10,000 employees in Australia, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Canada and the USA were surveyed.
“Companies around the world have diversity and inclusion on their agenda. But they are struggling to make real progress,” explains Dr Imeyen Ebong, Bain partner and head of the organisation practice group in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. “Often, there is still no consensus on what constitutes successful inclusion for all stakeholders and what parameters are appropriate to assess the benefits of certain measures.”
Respectful treatment is essential
In fact, most of the employees surveyed have the impression that they are not full members of their company. According to the study, it does not matter whether they belong to a minority or not in their respective work environment. Overall, only about 30 per cent say they feel fully included and respected, regardless of their skin colour or sexual orientation, their ethnic origin or social class or age group. This result weighs all the more heavily because the majority of respondents consider respectful and appreciative interaction in professional life to be essential. For almost two thirds, an inclusive environment is an essential factor when deciding on a job with a new employer.
“It is not enough to simply change the recruiting strategy or to rely on quotas alone,” says Bain partner and organisational expert Mareike Steingröver. “Only a sustainable inclusive corporate culture brings out the true value of a diverse workforce.” Employees only feel they truly belong to a company or a team if they are treated respectfully in their individuality, promoted and encouraged to participate fully.
Lack of inclusion becomes a risk
If a company lacks the appropriate culture, this can have a negative impact on staff retention. According to the study, employees who do not see themselves as part of the whole at their workplace are more likely to look for a new job. In fact, this group of people is six times more likely to quit than employees with a strong sense of belonging. “In times of increasing staff shortages, a lack of inclusion threatens to become a serious risk for companies,” Steingröver warns.
In contrast, the commitment to more inclusion pays off in many ways. For example, employees who feel fully accepted are significantly more likely to promote their employer. Their Net Promoter ScoreSM (NPS®), which measures the willingness to recommend, is plus 71 per cent. This contrasts with a value of minus 83 percent for employees who do not feel fully accepted in the company.
Another advantage of a sustainable integrative company culture is that employees are more willing to take on new challenges or tasks internally. They also deal with them more creatively. The more a company strives for the comprehensive inclusion of all employees, the higher their willingness to perform and innovative strength. If, on the other hand, only diversity is promoted, the effects are significantly lower.
All participants must pull together
In the course of the study, Bain identified a series of systemic and behavioural measures with which companies can develop into inclusive organisations. The focus is on three steps:
- Signal commitment. Clear goals on diversity and inclusion need to be communicated. This alone increases the sense of belonging for many employees. Therefore, the first measure should be to credibly communicate that diversity and inclusion are a real concern for management.
- Support further development. Programmes for promotion, coaching and training need to be established. Having the next career step in sight significantly strengthens the feeling of being a full member of the company.
- Improve togetherness. Meetings and cooperation with like-minded people and mentors must be encouraged. People feel seen when they have allies who accompany and assist them.
About the study
Bain & Company’s study investigated the impact of employees’ sense of belonging to a company on their behaviour and personal attitudes. Around 10,000 employees of different ethnicities, genders or age groups in Australia, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Canada and the USA were surveyed. All hierarchical levels as well as different company sizes and industries were taken into account. The study reveals how much an inclusive company culture increases the attractiveness of the employer.
Text: Bain & Company
Translation by the editors