Hiring is an investment businesses make in themselves. Who they hire ultimately influences the type of culture they have, the perspectives that are brought to the table, and the level of success that is achieved. When businesses understand that diversity and inclusion within their workforce are important, they start to see the benefits that are attached to it.

Most people in a hiring position are good, well-intentioned individuals. However, all of us have a variable degree of unconscious bias. Just look around your office or workplace, how diverse and inclusive is it actually?

Whether intentional or not, many businesses lack true diversity and inclusivity. Most co-workers look like each other and feature similar backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences. So what does modern-day diversity and inclusion really mean?

Diversity is about the holistic makeup and representation of an organization. This includes differences in gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientations. Inclusion speaks to how well and valued the input, perspectives, and contributions of each individual are within the organization — meaning that person A and person B are equally given attention and appreciation for their ideas and experiences. However, this isn’t enough. Diversity and inclusion can exist within a workplace, but if there is a lack of belonging, the organization’s employees will lack satisfaction and the benefits will be a moot point. Belonging is the concept that all employees are welcomed, wanted, and safe in their work environment. Without this sense of acceptance, minority hires are likely to feel uncomfortable and look to leave the organization.

It’s important to underscore that diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace is not some trend or an attempt to project a certain type of social appearance to the public. When done right, diversity and inclusion within an organization lead to real value and benefits presented to both the entity and the employees. A McKinsey & Company study found that companies that had more gender and ethnicity diversity in executive leadership positions were more likely to have above-average profitability compared to companies that lacked executive-level diversity.

But profitability isn’t the only concern. Daily workflow, innovation, and decisive decision-making are critical areas to the functional success of a business. According to Deloitte, having a diverse workforce, where inclusion exists, increases creative thinking by 20 percent and improves chances of capturing new market opportunities by 70 percent.

Yet, what about the employees and the benefits that are presented to them? More and more top talent, especially from the Millennial and Generation Z age bracket, are seeking out employers with a diverse and inclusive workforce. When employees are able to join an organization where their co-workers come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, they are able to enhance their own perspectives, worldview, and ideas. Additionally, when a company features a diverse workforce, new minority hires are more likely to feel a sense of acceptance.

Avoiding Tokenism

There is a fine line between actual diversity and inclusion, and tokenism — which is the “practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of minority groups, especially by recruiting people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of racial or gender equality.” While that is the book definition, we all have probably witnessed this misguided effort in some form during our work or educational careers. Many employers and hiring managers have seen themselves as being progressive by hiring minority candidates for the sake of adding diversity. However, this mindset falls right into the issue facing true workforce diversity and inclusion.

To avoid tokenism, organizations need to have a top-down, genuine approach to diversity, inclusion, and belonging within their business. Candidates need to be evaluated on a variety of factors and value levels to the company. Hiring needs to be focused on putting the right individuals in the right positions and that includes who presents the best combination of skills, work ethic, and outside perspective. Past hiring, companies need to evaluate the treatment of minority employees. Are minorities equally paid for their work like others with the same skills and experience? Do your diverse workers receive equivalent opportunities for advancement, leadership, and recognition? What environment and initiatives are you presenting to minorities once they join your organization?

Employers often fall into the trap of hiring a minority candidate and thinking they have achieved diversity and inclusion within their organization. It’s just not the case — and the hard stat benefits that come with it won’t be felt either. Being aware of tokenism and our unconscious biases are the first steps to organizations across all industries striking the right movement to a diverse and inclusive workforce.

As Aristotle said, “the whole is greater than the sum of our parts.” The world is filled with individuals of differing races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and other life carving experiences. When we begin to notice and appreciate the value of diversity, we begin to reap the rewards as a whole. The workforce is a better place for all when every voice is heard, respected, and valued. It is on every one of us to understand the importance of differences and how they positively impact an organization from both a cultural and profitability standpoint. With America being seen as the “melting pot of the world,” it is time for the American workforce to represent it.

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