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Comparing & Contrasting Definitions of Inclusion

Updated: May 4, 2023

Something that is very important to us here at Mattingly Solutions is accurately defining and measuring what it means to excel in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Recently, we have published blogs defining these key constructs, along with a comparison to one survey company’s approach to measuring inclusion.

In my time working in this area, I have come across many different approaches to defining inclusion that I have often found to fall short. Through a quick Google search, I found some of these definitions and wanted to present them here to discuss how they could be improved.

Definitions of inclusion

The White House Executive Order on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) in the workforce defines inclusion as follows:

  • “The term ‘inclusion’ means the recognition, appreciation, and use of the talents and skills of employees of all backgrounds.

McKinsey, a consulting giant, defines inclusion as:

  • “how the workforce experiences the workplace and the degree to which organizations embrace all employees and enable them to make meaningful contributions.”

BetterUp, the virtual coaching start-up, defines inclusion as:

  • “...creating an environment where people — regardless of surface or hidden level differences — feel welcome and valued. That means no individual is denied access to education, resources, opportunities, or any other treatment based on the qualities that make them unique, whether intentionally or inadvertently.”

Here we see three different examples of what inclusion means, coming from the government and two different private firms. Each of these definitions, while sounding similar, says something different.

How are they different?

The White House defines inclusion in terms of the actions towards employees of all backgrounds, focusing on the recognition, appreciation, and use of talents. McKinsey, on the other hand, defines the construct on how employees experience the workplace. They add on how the organizations also embrace their employees and enable them to contribute in a meaningful way. BetterUp emphasizes the environment, while adding on that there are no barriers that prevent access.

From looking at these definitions, we see that defining inclusion is hard. Inclusion can be understood, from these definitions, to encompass the environment, the behaviors that occur in that environment, and the feelings that one gets from being in that environment and receiving those behaviors.

Why does it matter?

Our definitions are what guides our measurement. Whether it’s a presidential executive order or a consultant’s tech report, these definitions exist to instruct what will be measured and defined as “success” in inclusion. When we don’t delineate between the behaviors, the environment, and the resulting feelings, we don’t know who is actually excelling in this area and how we can improve inclusion.

Here at Mattingly, we define inclusion as “actions that make others feel valued, respected, seen, and heard. Inclusive behaviors enable members from different identity groups to fully contribute their unique perspectives and contributions to the workplace.” (Read more about inclusive behaviors in our book, Inclusalytics).

These inclusive behaviors are what result in feelings of belonging, or “the feeling that one’s authentic self is valued, respected, seen, and heard” (Mattingly et al., 2022).

It is critical in our measurement and intervention approach that we isolate inclusion as a behavior – which can be seen, measured, and trained—and belonging as a feeling that is the outcome of this inclusion. These clarified construct definitions allow for stronger measurement and, therefore, better assessment of opportunities to improve and better training to improve both inclusion and belonging.

Looking to assess inclusion in your organization? We have a scientifically valid instrument that measures inclusion in terms of behaviors and belonging in terms of feeling. Contact Mattingly Solutions today to learn more about the Mattingly Inclusion & Belonging Assessment (MIBATM).


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