The Inclusive Workplace

How many business leaders and HR teams view diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) as simply a box to tick and a process to follow for the sake of it?

Making the workplace more equitable and inclusive is a necessity and on the agenda at every board and leadership team meeting, so why is it still so hard to see real evidence of change and commitment?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are no longer considered “nice to haves” — especially during these uncertain times. In the past decade we’ve made great strides in the evolution of diversity in the workplace and in promoting inclusivity. Economic instability and other priorities caused by the pandemic can’t mean that organisations now regress.

More than that, when discussing the benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, it must come from the right place. These aren’t cynical business benefits, built with an eye on profit margins and marketable branding. These are benefits that reach beyond the workplace, with the promise of enacting social change through better business practices.

Most importantly, there are no quick fixes when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. That’s why a deep and intelligent understanding of what constitutes diversity in the workplace is integral.

It’s more than policies, initiatives, managing headcount and “doing your bit” for equality. It’s believed that equitable employers and workplaces outperform their competitors as their approach and intentions uniquely address the needs, perspectives, requirements, and future potential of all of their employees and team members – both now and in the future.

Diversity and inclusion are interconnected, yet far from “either or.” Diversity considers the representation or “make -up” of an organisation, whilst inclusion considers the relative capability of an organisation to listen to the views, perspectives, and presence of the different groups of talent it employs and how these perspectives are valued and integrated into the business.

A business that proactively seeks to deliver a diverse and inclusive environment will progress towards providing a working environment that enables everyone (regardless of who they are and what they do for the business) to feel equally involved, supported, valued and integral to the workplace.

Why is it Important?

A variety of research has shown that having a diverse and inclusive workplace can contribute towards:

  • Greater inclination and readiness to be creative and innovate
  • Improved employee retention and employee engagement
  • Improved trust and enhanced psychological contracts between employee and employer
  • Higher revenue growth and financial stability
  • Increased ability to attract a diverse talent pool on a continued basis
  • Increased profitability & willingness to try creative ideas
  • Stronger governance and problem solving abilities

Employees with diverse backgrounds introduce their own perspectives, ideas and experiences. They consequently influence and create organisations and businesses that are resilient, effective and willing to strive. In turn they outperform their competitors who are not proactively investing in diversity. The benefit of innovation is particularly key in industries and sectors where rapid moving development is a key to success; for example, technologists or startup businesses needing the “edge” and new ideas to survive, rely on this for growth and profitability.

What most progressive businesses recognise is that the approach to change needs to be continuous (as with all causes for change) and having a planned approach for getting started is key.

There are a range of approaches to making the DEI program within an organisation impactful, but before it gets started it’s important to understand the baseline and know what needs to be achieved and what the goals are. No business actively wishes to have a culture where not every employee feels like they can thrive, but it’s hard to know how to address problems if you don’t know they exist, and to what extent problems are arising.

Measuring inclusion is essential as Executives and HR can’t simply rely on their own perceptions of the culture in the organisation, so to understand where and how lack of inclusion is impacting the company culture, go to the stakeholders and ask questions – delve into their views and ask for honest and direct feedback that you are prepared to act on. Conduct a stakeholder analysis so that you fully understand the issues and perceptions from everyone involved. Once the landscape and baseline is defined, then the business can move forward towards, creating sustainable and lasting change. 

What do organisations need to do?

Embed and foster accountability: Without it, successes and failures will fall to the side when priorities change, or deadlines creep closer. Accountability is a necessity to reinforce responsibility for DE&I work to get done. This responsibility should sit with business leaders – inclusion is not the responsibility of one person or one group — such as your DE&I Leader and their team. Business goals must be tied to DE&I, and senior management feedback must underline and support this.

Measure inclusion and diversity: Organisations often use diversity demographic representation as their measure of success for their DE&I strategies. This primarily focuses initiatives on talent acquisition and promotion processes. Both are incredibly important and should be part of the discussion around inclusion and equality. However, measuring belonging and inclusiveness are just as crucial as one measures the success of the other.

Remember that systemic change is fundamental: Organisational change and transformation doesn’t occur through personal actions in isolation. Processes and policies must be reviewed, amended, or reprioritised to ensure they are created with everyone’s success in mind. Organisations have made systems with exclusion purposefully intended — we must now be proactive about removing that exclusion.

However, the real way to proceed is through communication and commitment. Organisations need to ensure that their diversity and inclusion initiatives are solid, sustainable and don’t fall into the bucket of “initiatives that didn’t make it.” Top leaders should stake the first steps and articulate their individual and collective perspective, identity, value and culture. They should openly and honestly consider how their experiences of power and privilege may influence their approach and effectiveness and that of others who follow them. A key starting point is to evaluate how dynamics of DEI affect their sector and marketplace, and their overall business strategy – this will identify opportunities and how change is required to succeed.

If you would like to speak with us about how make your workplace more diverse, equal and inclusive, head over to the organisational change and HR services section of our website – or give us a call on +44 (0)1491 414 010.

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