Diverse and inclusive workplaces matter to employees and translate to positive business outcomes, according to a pair of Tacoma- and Kent-based consultants asked to weigh in on an increasingly relevant element of workplace culture.

“One thing we’ve learned from a business standpoint is a diversity in perspective makes an organization stronger,” said Jason Jocson, a senior human resources consultant in Kent with Vancouver, Washington-based BBSI, a professional employer organization that partners with small- and medium-size businesses to provide payroll, risk, risk management, and business consulting.

“The diversity and perspectives within the organization help the livelihood of a company, small or large, and I think a lot of small-business owners have yet to tap into that notion,” Jocson said, noting the issue’s increasing importance as Puget Sound’s population continues to get more diverse.

Dane Wolfrom, a consultant who helps companies wanting to establish diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs, said data support the benefits of diverse and inclusive workplaces.

“The science is you’re going to be more productive, you’re going to have better outcomes, whatever your business is, we can even show that to you,” said Wolfrom, senior manager at Tacoma-based startup Truclusion, which is expected to formally launch first quarter 2020 to help companies create more diverse and inclusive workplaces. He and Truclusion’s other principals have individually and collaboratively consulted companies in the tech, education, and nonprofit industries over the last year, ahead of forming their new company and melding their expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). 

Wolfrom, who entered the DEI space several years ago and received an executive certificate in strategic diversity and inclusion management from Georgetown University, also leads the Seattle chapter of the Culture Collective, a roughly year-old global ecosystem for professionals — especially those in culture, diversity, or inclusion — for workshops, discussions, and idea-sharing on lessons learned on transforming and building great cultures in the workplace. So far, the Seattle group has about 60 members representing about 30 to 40 companies, he estimated.

There’s a return on investment to issues like employee retention, Wolfrom noted. By creating an atmosphere of inclusion — which he called both a sense of belonging and being valued, and one of the three pillars of retention — companies can reduce the cost of onboarding new people. The other pillars are enjoyment: a person likes what he or she does; and opportunity, such as for promotion or doing significant work. Ideally, a company has all three elements.

Truclusion is developing a self-assessment toolkit, which will allow companies and organizations to self-assess where they are on their journey to inclusion, and suggest “next steps,” Wolfrom said. The assessment toolkit will empower companies to do the work themselves and be confident they’re on the right path. It also will support the company’s DEI director with data, “So challenging discussions with leadership can be data-driven and not about perceptions.” The toolkit is in beta-testing now.

Jocson and Wolfrom shared some of these reasons diversity and inclusion are important to workplace culture.

• Sense of community: Small- and medium-size businesses are part of any community, from Main Street to Wall Street. If the makeup of the company reflects that of the community — a connection is created.

• Innovation: Diverse and inclusive teams are more innovative and creative, leading to improved outcomes. It is difficult to predict business problems, but having employees with differing experiences sometimes helps businesses look around the corner a little easier.

• Smart business: There is empirical proof that diversity and inclusion programs translate to positive impact to a business’ profitability. A diverse business simply attracts and creates repeat business.

• Talent pool: An established diverse workforce and inclusive culture attract stronger candidates.

• Engagement: Diverse and inclusive culture increases engagement, which the Gallup Q12 projects will increase productivity by 16 percent.

• Retention: With the replacement cost of an employee at about 20 percent of annual compensation, improved retention from creating an inclusive culture produces significant cost savings. About half of the workforce will be millennials in 2020 and will continue to grow. Diversity matters to them. It makes sense that diversity should be a business priority to retain talent.