Embracing IDEA: The Key to Organizational Excellence & Positive Change

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives are now integral to the efforts of organizations to achieve positive change. The terms and definitions related to DEI are constantly evolving. Different jurisdictions use various acronyms, including EDI, DEI, and IDE, which can confuse people outside the field. Some consulting professionals have proposed adding accessibility as a fourth factor in assessing organizations, and the acronym “IDEA” emerged. IDEA stands for inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility. This article provides an overview of each of these factors.


Inclusion refers to a workplace culture that recognizes, accepts, and values diversity rather than merely displaying it. It means creating an environment where everyone feels respected and embraced, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, or age. However, simply having a diverse workforce does not guarantee an inclusive culture. For instance, if senior management is not varied, the company’s culture falls short of inclusivity. Additionally, informal segregation within the workforce can exist with certain roles dominated by specific groups.

Without an active commitment to inclusion, opportunities for growth and development may be reserved for those favoured by the privileged. But when active inclusion becomes an organizational value, it can transform the culture from a passive ideal to an equitable environment providing everyone with opportunities. This approach not only improves employee morale but can also unlock the previously unseen potential of the workforce, leading to increased innovation and productivity.


Diversity in the workplace is multifaceted and includes internal, external, organizational or functional, and worldview diversity. Internal diversity refers to traits such as gender, age, race, and ethnicity that are innate and unchangeable. External diversity relates to education, work experience, and socioeconomic background characteristics that are learned and can change. Organizational or functional diversity is determined by assigned roles in a company or organization, where individuals bring unique skillsets, perspectives, and ideas. Worldview diversity encompasses the previous three elements and includes political beliefs, moral values, epistemology, and outlook on life. Creating an inclusive workplace culture that values and respects this diversity is essential to unlocking each individual’s potential and promoting innovation and success.


Equity is a vital aspect of organizational culture that ensures all individuals have equal opportunities to participate, perform, and engage. Unlike equality, which only focuses on equal distribution, equity also considers outcomes assessment.

For instance, imagine a workplace where each employee has different abilities. It may seem equal if the company provides the same work tools and facilities to everyone. However, this approach may not accommodate the unique needs of each employee. In contrast, equity would mean providing reasonable accommodations that enable all employees to perform their work effectively. This approach ensures everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, regardless of their unique needs or abilities. By promoting equity, workplaces can build a culture that values and supports diversity and inclusivity.


Accessibility is a multifaceted concept that goes beyond the physical accessibility of buildings and structures. It also includes digital accessibility, which refers to ensuring that all employees can access and use websites, software, and other digital technologies.  This includes ensuring that online content can be navigated using assistive technologies like screen readers and that videos are captioned for those with hearing impairments.

In addition to physical and digital accessibility, accessibility encompasses the needs of each employee, including neurodivergent individuals. For example, some individuals may require quiet spaces or accommodations for sensory processing differences, such as dimmer lighting or noise-cancelling headphones, to effectively engage in a workplace environment.

To create a truly accessible workplace, it’s essential to consider the diverse needs of all employees and create an environment that caters to those needs. This could include providing ergonomic workstations,  using inclusive language in all communication, providing flexible work arrangements, and offering training on creating accessible digital content.

The IDEA framework is an approach that promotes organizational excellence and positive change by incorporating accessibility alongside inclusion, diversity, and equity. This framework recognizes that creating an accessible workplace is not just a matter of compliance with legal requirements. Promoting a culture of inclusivity, respect, and empathy for all employees is also essential.

Implementing IDEA initiatives in the workplace can have numerous benefits for employees and the organization. For example, a study conducted by Deloitte[5] found that organizations with more diverse and inclusive cultures are more likely to experience higher levels of innovation, employee engagement, and financial performance. Additionally, a report by McKinsey[6] found that companies with diverse executive boards are more likely to have higher financial returns than those with less diverse boards.

Moreover, IDEA initiatives can help organizations attract and retain top talent. In today’s globalized and interconnected world, a diverse and inclusive workplace is essential for companies to remain competitive. A study conducted by Glassdoor[7] found that 67% of job seekers consider diversity and inclusion important factors when considering potential employers. Therefore, by prioritizing IDEA initiatives, companies can increase their appeal to potential employees and improve their ability to retain existing ones.

Organizations must approach the framework with intentionality and purpose to successfully implement IDEA initiatives in the workplace. This requires a commitment from leadership to actively promote a culture of inclusivity and equity and allocate resources toward achieving this goal. Companies must also engage in regular assessments and evaluations of their IDEA initiatives to ensure they effectively promote organizational excellence.

In conclusion, the IDEA framework provides a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to promoting organizational excellence through inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility. By implementing IDEA initiatives in the workplace, organizations can benefit from increased innovation, employee engagement, financial performance, and improved ability to attract and retain top talent. However, successful implementation requires a commitment from leadership and a proactive approach toward promoting a culture of inclusivity and equity. As organizations continue to evolve and adapt to the changing landscape of diversity and inclusion, the IDEA framework will undoubtedly play an important role in shaping the future of the workplace.



  1. Nishii, L. H. (2013). The Benefits of Climate for Inclusion for Gender-Diverse Groups. Academy of Management Journal, 56(6), 1754–1774. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2011.1215
  2. Cox, T. (1994). Cultural Diversity in Organisations: Theory, Research and Practice. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
  3. Cuddy, A. J. C., Fiske, S. T., & Glick, P. (2008). Warmth and Competence as Universal Dimensions of Social Perception: The Stereotype Content Model and the BIAS Map. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 61–149. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0065-2601(07)00002-0
  4. Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J. C., Glick, P., & Xu, J. (2002). A Model of (Often Mixed) Stereotype Content: Competence and Warmth Respectively Follow From Perceived Status and Competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 878–902. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.82.6.878
  5. Deloitte. (2017). The Diversity and Inclusion Revolution: Eight Powerful Truths. Deloitte.
  6. Hunt, V., Layton, D., & Prince, S. (2015). Diversity Matters. McKinsey & Company.
  7. Glassdoor. (2019). Diversity and Inclusion Study. Glassdoor.