How can you promote a diverse and inclusive work force?
3rd August, 2020
Diversity and inclusion has again come under scrutiny in the recent weeks following the global reach of the BLM campaign and subsequent reports on the diversity gap.
All countries face the challenge of how to encourage greater diversity and equality of opportunity. The current conversations have highlighted the positives of taking a proactive approach of not only raising public awareness but creating an appetite of reform. In light of the global political landscape, UK employers may be assessing their own business practices and asking whether they are doing enough.
Notwithstanding the moral and societal benefits, there are numerous business advantages in having a diverse and inclusive workforce. According to a 2011 study by Deloitte[i] a company with a diverse and inclusive workforce is 2 x likely to meet their financial targets, 3 x likely to be high-performing, 6 x likely to be innovative and agile and 8 x likely to achieve business outcomes (for example, higher revenue per employee). This is backed up by a growing body of research which indicates that inclusive and diverse teams outperform their competitors[ii]. Clearly, a diverse and inclusive workforce is a win-win for everyone and a great business investment.
What does diversity and inclusivity actually mean?
Diversity is the recognition and acceptance that people have individual characteristics and life experiences which make them unique; this may include gender, race, socio-economic status, religion, sex, disability, age and sexual orientation. A diverse workplace is one which acknowledges the benefit of having a range of perspectives in problem-solving, creative-thinking and decision-making with the workforce being a representation of this
Inclusivity is where differences are valued and in particular, characteristics which have historically been excluded or marginalised. An inclusive workplace means creating an environment in which everyone feels they can belong without having to conform, one where their contribution is valued and they can perform to their full potential no matter their background, identity or circumstances
Whilst diversity and inclusivity are separate concepts both are equally important. You could have a diverse workplace but if these differences are not valued then this will not be an inclusive environment or alternatively you could have an inclusive workforce where differences are valued but the percentage of your workforce are made up of a homogenised group. As the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development states, the aim should be implementing fair policies, practices and having strategies in place which enable a diverse range of people to work together effectively.
Tips for employers
- Create a diversity and inclusivity strategy within your business management plan
Diversity should be more than a talking point but a meaningful conversation at a leadership level. By adopting a diversity and inclusivity strategy and setting attainable diversity goals just as you would financial goals, you can create an actionable plan. Implementing clear diversity initiatives at leadership level and explaining to staff how it links to your overall business strategy will ensure employees are aware of the benefit and motivated to realise your vision.
Whilst legislation prohibits “positive discrimination” in that you cannot have quotas or hire an individual on the basis of their race or gender etc., (unless in the rare exception, it is an occupational requirement of the job) there are many diversity goals which you can implement such as the number of diverse candidates in your pipeline and to encourage candidates from under-represented groups.
- Be accountable
It is important to be transparent whether you are meeting your diversity and inclusivity goals and have mechanisms in place to monitor and respond to what is/what is not working. By holding leadership accountable, you can be critical of whether current measures are effective and change your actions accordingly.
Accountability does not have to stop at leadership level. You could consider implementing “champions” in the workplace, where employees (known as champions) are invited to promote and share their experiences. There are many great initiatives which your organisation can get involved in such as “Time to Change” where champions are focused on changing attitudes around mental health and “Stonewall” which offer diversity champion programmes to ensure all staff are valued and accepted. These programmes challenge misconceptions and encourage employees to have open conversations– ultimately creating a more inclusive environment.
- Increase employee-engagement to create an inclusive workplace culture
When it comes to workplace culture there is often a gap between what leadership perceives and what employees say is happening on ground level. To achieve an inclusive culture there has to be honest feedback from employees. You can increase employee-engagement by holding anonymous surveys, offering idea sounding boards and open “town hall” meetings where employees can ask senior managers questions.
- Promote inclusive events and activities
You could dedicate a week in which you hold activities and events which promote learning, understanding and inclusivity in the workplace. Such topics could range from black history, LGBT and Pride, disability and/or and mental health awareness to help demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Additionally, you could consider partnering with non-profits or panel speakers to gain insights on different experiences and perspectives which can be held in the workplace and/or via webinar.
- Implement an Equal Opportunities policy and ensure it is put into everyday practice
A good place to start is to implement an equal opportunities and diversity policy. This policy should be communicated to your entire workforce and action plans should be created to ensure this policy is implemented into everyday practice.
- Training and development
Training and development is a great way to educate staff on diversity and inclusivity. For example, you could offer unconscious bias training or induction training on diversity and inclusivity for new starters. If you would like further information, please contract Claire Brook who offers tailored in-house training sessions .
[i] Juliet Bourke by Deloitte, The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths, 2011
[ii] Bourke, Which Two Heads Are Better than One?; Garr, Atamanik, and Mallon, High-impact talent management.
[iii] Dr Jill Miller, Melaine Green by CIPD, Diversity and inclusion in the workplace, 2020
[iv] Dr Jill Miller, Melaine Green by CIPD, Diversity and inclusion in the workplace, 2020