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

Become a Brandon Hall Group member!

We are a human capital management research and advisory firm with more than 10,000 clients globally. For over 27 years, we have been delivering research-based solutions that empower excellence in organizations around the world. Our vision is to inspire a better workplace experience. Becoming a Brandon Hall Group member means our team joins your team. Membership provides a host of resources and services and – most importantly — a seasoned team of thought leaders and client support professionals dedicated to your success.

Click here for more information and to sign up for a free trial membership.

Click here for information on Brandon Hall Group’s Professional Certification Program

Like what you see? Share with a friend.

Related Content