How to Foster True Inclusion in Your Business Everyone deserves to feel like they belong at work. Here's how you can help ensure your employees do.

By Miriam Lewis

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As a chief inclusion officer, I'm often asked why diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) matters for business.

The business case for DEI has been proven with countless studies showing its potential to increase morale, customer reach, and profit. According to McKinsey, the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.

But benefits to a business's bottom line don't just happen by hiring diverse workers; they're seen when every employee feels a sense of belonging. That includes seeing themselves in your company policies and beliefs, as well as benefits offerings and daily practices.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion cannot live in a vacuum. The success of one depends on the success of all three.

Here are steps you can take to build true inclusion in your business today.

1. Cultivate an environment in which employees feel safe, valued, and heard.

We know diversity of thought leads to innovative ideas and better outcomes and solutions for customers. If it feels tricky to have much diversity when your business has a small number of employees, expand your perspective of what diversity is. Beyond race and gender, this could also be generation, family status, religious beliefs, differing abilities, veteran status, and sexual orientation.

Having some mix of worldviews and backgrounds (whatever that looks like for your business) can make for a stronger workforce. But it won't go as far if employees don't feel supported to share those unique perspectives—and trust that they'll be heard, considered, and potentially implemented.

We show people that they matter through our actions and words—as simple as caring about them and their loved ones and acknowledging their presence. Trust and open communication also go a long way. Ask for perspectives and suggestions for improvement. Demonstrate employees' value through verbal recognition, incentives, and stretch projects.

Perhaps most importantly: Ensure psychological safety through formal anti-discrimination and harassment policies and training. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has resources that can help.

2. Evaluate if your benefits and policies meet the needs of a diverse workforce.

This starts with listening to employees to understand their needs.

For example, beyond traditional benefits like retirement plans and disability and life insurance, small and midsize business owners are providing additional benefits in response to their unique workforce's needs. This includes childcare benefits, paid family and medical leave, and employee assistance programs (EAPs), according to the Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM.1

I encourage you to go a step further to ensure that the details of your workplace benefits are also truly beneficial to all employees. For example, do you have employees in same-sex partnerships whose families could benefit from medical coverage?

Offering flexibility—however that looks for your business—is also a powerful tool.

Then consider your workplace policies. Take your dress code for example: Does it allow for religious head coverings? Even if your general policy is "no hats," you can note that religious accommodation requests are available. You can also proactively let employees know they are empowered to follow the dress code in a manner consistent with their gender identity or gender expression, to name a couple of ideas.

Everyone deserves to feel like they belong at work. As you continue your efforts toward a more inclusive environment, emphasize the "and" in diversity, equity, and inclusion by carving out time and effort to advance all three.

Get timely ideas from businesses like yours.


The subject matter in this communication is educational only and provided with the understanding that Principal® is not rendering legal, accounting, investment or tax advice. You should consult with appropriate counsel, financial professionals, and other advisors on all matters pertaining to legal, tax, investment or accounting obligations and requirements.

Insurance products issued by Principal National Life Insurance Co (except in NY) and Principal Life Insurance Company®. Plan administrative services offered by Principal Life. Principal Funds, Inc. is distributed by Principal Funds Distributor, Inc. Securities offered through Principal Securities, Inc., member SIPC and/or independent broker/dealers. Referenced companies are members of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392.

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1The Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM (Feb. 2–9, 2023), surveyed 500 business owners, decision makers, and leaders at companies with 2–10,000 employees, as well as 200 full-time employees.

Miriam Lewis

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Chief inclusion officer at Principal Financial Group®

Miriam Lewis is chief inclusion officer at Principal Financial Group®. Since her start at Principal® in 2019, Miriam has led global inclusion initiatives and responsibilities to build a more inclusive workplace and culture, increase employee performance, and support efforts in recruiting and retaining diverse talent. Additionally, she consults leaders and teams across the business on best practices for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to effectively serve its customer base and continue to help advance financial security for diverse communities. 
 

Disclosures

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