With the current HR spotlight on Gender Pay Gap Reporting and diversity and inclusion to attract and retain talent, we could assume that all business leaders are fully engaged with the diversity and inclusion agenda.
To think this way means that diversity and inclusion is at best a recruitment tool, or a compliance issue that can be dealt with by people policies and procedures. We all know that this isn’t accurate, and expectantly leads organisations to place diversity and inclusion solely as the HR departments responsibility.
Before we nod and groan, let’s consider what a great opportunity this is for HR! Diversity and Inclusion at its best pervades through all business activities, and HR can take the first steps, by influencing business leaders and getting the buy in for change.
Build a Compelling Case
You will know your leadership team better than anyone, including what makes them tick. Take a step back and think carefully about your method. Is your organisation about managing risk? The best approach might be to gather the facts about the potential risks; and that could work well, although today we’d like to think about another approach. Consider drawing on all the information about business benefits, ethics and social responsibility relevant to your organisation. After all, every business leader is looking for a sustainable differential advantage, and this can be delivered through diversity and inclusion. Have the facts and figures available, even if you don’t end up using them. Use information about good competitor or client practices in this area. Align these with particular interests in the room to engage each member of the team fully in the conversation. After all this is a conversation, right? If you’re asking a leadership team to take the lead on diversity and inclusion, then a best practice lecture isn’t going to take them where you want them to get to.
Next, ask your leadership team what is on their agenda now and in the future. Do your research. Show them how D&I can support their own goals and demonstrate why D&I is vital to everything the business does. You can do this by finding and communicating some strong relevant case studies that don’t just focus on the usual HR D&I recruitment and retention stuff. Unless of course that is THE big strategic issue for your business!
Good things come in small packages
For almost all organisations, there is a lot to do to achieve a truly diverse and inclusive workforce, so choose e your suggested priority activities carefully. You can’t change everything in the organisation immediately, and if your proposal is too big this might act as a barrier to success. However, if you’ve done a great job in engaging your leadership team, they may want everything to happen in a short space of time! It’s important to be realistic and keep their eyes on the prize. Create a vision and recognise the steps that need to be taken and create a sense of belief within each step. Starting to make changes, however small, means that they can see that a difference is being made. Keep it simple and look for creative ways that D&I can naturally fit into and support your business activities and processes. Aiming for an accreditation, such as the British Standard for Diversity & Inclusion may be appealing to your leadership team if they value recognition and are keen to display an external verification of the business culture.
Be forward thinking and passionate
Our final and most important tip is to be forward thinking. Make it easy for your leadership team to see the vision for a diverse and inclusive organisation, and want a piece of it. Too much press activity is focussed on the ‘bad stuff’ that’s happening in organisations across the world and not enough on how we can make our workplaces a better place for all.
Ultimately, if HR teams can engage in this ‘buy in’ process they will take a significant step towards achieving a more diverse and inclusive organisation, but it doesn’t stop there. Diversity and Inclusion doesn’t, and shouldn’t, just lie within your leadership team but across all levels of an organisation, but that’s a conversation for another day!