Inclusion is no longer just a ‘nice to have’, it’s a business essential

Over the past decade, I’ve seen organisations move from asking “Why should diversity matter to us” to “How can we make sure our business is truly inclusive?”

Embedding inclusion has been proven to have profound impacts. It helps develop an engaged and happy workforce with reduced levels of attrition, sickness and grievance, and this in turn results in improved productivity and financial return. Forward thinking organisations have moved beyond simply measuring ‘diversity’ by box ticking against specific characteristics, to actually embedding real ‘inclusion’ where everyone can be their authentic self.

Those that are truly strategic in their approach understand the need for a future-proofed strategy. They are demanding a better understanding of how to effectively target their investment in inclusion and, like with any business cost, there needs to be evidence of business benefit.

Equal Approach has been working over the last two years in the US and UK with inclusion experts and academics to develop a tool that can quantify this ‘Return on Inclusion’ (ROI). The tool considers over 100 elements of a business’s performance, inputting this raw data into specifically developed formula, to evidence both a financial return for every £1 spent on inclusion and to benchmark organisations against 2,500 others. As well as the numbers, the tool generates an extensive report of core findings which is used for future investment recommendations.

Within traditional organisations, where there is a record of good business performance, it can be difficult to establish an impetus for change. However, having worked with SSE, it’s clear to me that there is an understanding at the highest levels that future performance depends on the business becoming more forward thinking.

Our ROI work with SSE showed that, in comparison with other providers within the energy sector, SSE has achieved measurable traction on its objective of being more female-focused. By openly disclosing where they are in the journey now, a £4.52 ROI for every £1 invested in gender diversity initiatives, and knowing where they want to get to in the future, a £15 ROI for every £1 invested in wider inclusion initiatives, SSE is helping to pave the way for its more traditional peers. But it still has some distance to go.

SSE now has a significant opportunity to embed the principles of inclusion and diversity throughout its business and create a truly inclusive culture over the next three years. Achievement of this offers substantial commercial benefits for the organisation, and would confirm SSE as an industry leader in this area that others aspire to emulate. I look forward to seeing SSE implement their new Inclusion Strategy and the business benefits gained as a result.

About the author
Dawn Milman-Hurst is the CEO of Equal Approach and has helped SSE on its Inclusion and Diversity journey