An Inclusive Workplace Means an Engaged Workforce

When employees feel a sense of belonging, and their thoughts and ideas are welcomed and valued, they are more engaged.

Both Quantum Workplace and Brandon Hall Group discovered that in their 2020 employee engagement research. This sense of inclusion is an incredibly powerful concept to remember as you forge plans to navigate COVID-19 and make 2021 a better year for your employees.

The three most important people functions in the months ahead, according to Brandon Hall Group’s research, are:

  • Assessing and fostering employee well-being
  • Assessing and driving employee engagement
  • Fostering an inclusive workplace

Inclusion can be challenging. It is often linked to and associated with diversity. But as Quantum Workplace stresses in its 2020 Employee Engagement Trends report, diversity and inclusion (D&I) do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. A company can be diverse, but not include diverse voices in the conversations and decisions that matter. Contrarily, many companies might feel inclusive, but lack diversity.

Both Quantum Workplace and Brandon Hall Group see a “Diversity and Inclusion Perception Gap.” Most organizations (close to 90%) perceive themselves as diverse and inclusive. But when Brandon Hall Group asked about behaviors that demonstrate diversity and inclusion, a much smaller percentage rated their organizations highly for important aspects of inclusion.

Some examples include:

  • Regularly reviewing and changing policies and work practices to ensure they are inclusive of all diverse groups (46%)
  • Addressing pay transparency issues by gender and race/ethnicity (32%)
  • Developing leaders who reflect the diversity of the workforce and customer base (23%)
  • Addressing retention/attrition percentages by race/ethnic groups (18%)

Quantum Workplace’s Best Places to Work data shows that 89% of employees agreed that “everyone here is treated fairly regardless of race, gender, age, ethnic, background, sexual orientation or other differences.” However, 94% of white employees agreed with that statement compared to 85% of black employees. This shows a disparity in the employee experience when it comes to diverse employees.

Diversity and inclusion is more than just a mindset. The values, such as belonging and feeling valued, need to be exhibited consistently. When they’re not, it can have a negative impact on employee engagement. But when D&I lives and breathes, employees have a greater sense of belonging that goes beyond a paycheck and a job.

Brandon Hall Group research shows that when there is a strong feeling of belonging in an organization, employees feel:

  • That their managers are invested in their performance and success
  • Empowered to connect with peers across the organization
  • Their workforce is diverse
  • Their organization welcomes their opinions and ideas
  • There are many ways to make contributions to the organization besides their specific jobs

When employees feel valued, the research shows, they feel:

  • Compensated equitably compared to their peers
  • Recognized regularly for their contributions 
  • A high degree of autonomy on how they do their work
  • The organization wants their opinions and values them

To truly understand your level of inclusion, you must measure it. Brandon Hall Group’s research shows that employers are 2.4 times more likely to track metrics for diversity as they are to track inclusion. This makes it very difficult to understand whether an organization’s diversity has a positive impact on the level of inclusion. 

Here are inclusion metrics that high-performing organizations use to evaluate engagement:

  • Participation in employee resource groups (ERGs)
  • Participation in various types of training
  • Promotion rates
  • Engagement scores
  • Recognition
  • Performance ratings
  • Project team inclusion

Using ERGs as an example, examine participation among different demographic groups and employee levels. Is participation representative or dominated by one or two groups? If so, ERGs are not inclusive. 

Do the same analysis for other areas, such as training participation. Is the percentage of participants similar among men and women, whites and racial minorities, and managers and individual contributors? If not, you should consider possible reasons and remedies.

Quantum Workplace wisely recommends ensuring leaders and managers are committed to diversity and inclusion. They set the tone and can make a huge difference on inclusion and, therefore, employee engagement. Here are a few of their tips:

  • Provide managers with the right training to promote inclusion. Their job is to connect and build relationships with their employees. Coach them on how to approach one-on-one conversations and ensure they understand unconscious bias and how to avoid it.
  • Educate leaders about the impact of their decision making. Highlight the effect of their decisions on your diverse employee groups across the organization and explore these groups’ challenges. Use real-life feedback and opinions gathered in focus groups and surveys to fuel these conversations.
  • Teach leaders about social issues from expert and authoritative sources. Your managers should be aware of the struggles their employees face and be knowledgeable about social issues from a wide range of sources and perspectives. 

We all face many challenges as we head into 2021. An engaged workforce provides an important competitive advantage. That requires having as many employees as possible feeling they belong and are valued. Inclusion is a critical driver of engagement, especially with remote work, flexible work schedules and an uncertain economy. 

 -Claude Werder, Senior Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

For information on Brandon Hall Group’s research and how we can assist your organization, please visit

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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.