What is the secret formula for being great at diversity in the workplace? Well if we are being honest there isn’t a one size fits all, but here’s a positive starting point.
We should say, if you want us to talk about the reasons why you should aspire to be an inclusive and diverse organisation, this isn’t the blog for you. The evidence is overwhelming – you will do better and have a better place to work if you get good at this stuff. So let’s get to it…
By achieving a diverse and inclusive organisation we want to do two things: get the right people in to your organisation and keep them. By ‘keep them’ we don’t mean ‘just keeping them for positive retention figures’ but keeping them in a meaningful way. In way where they can enjoy their work, add value by being fully included and bring their authentic self to work every single day. We also have an opportunity to influence beyond our organisations and engage with our customers, clients, suppliers and communities in an inclusive way.
There are 3 basic approaches to success:
1. Be authentic
If you are doing this for some kind of corporate tick box or PR exercise – then you are doing it for the wrong reasons. For that reason alone – it’s just not going to work. People can sense the difference. We know when people (or organisations) mean what they say, and when they are just doing something for show. It’s been said that diversity without inclusion is like the energiser bunny without a battery – it looks good but it doesn’t actually do what it was meant to.
It’s vital to get the buy in from all the right people in your business. Make it easy for your leadership team and lower levels of your organisation to see the vision for a diverse and inclusive organisation, and want a piece of it.
2. Be realistic
We regularly see employers promising the world. They paint a picture that each new initiative is going to achieve ‘amazing things’ and that going forwards they ‘will never put a foot wrong’. But let’s be realistic. We will do things wrong. People will always say, do and believe things you wish they didn’t.
Set yourself realistic and achievable goals. Create a vision, recognise the steps that need to be taken to achieve that, and create a sense of belief within each step. Starting to make changes, however small they might seem means that employees can see that a difference is being made and behaviours will shift.
3. Be optimistic
It’s important to remember that diversity in the workplace is a good news story. We’re not just trying to fix all the bad things in our organisations, or all the things that are going wrong. We’re building a great organisation, where people can comfortably bring their qualities, abilities and talents to work, adding diverse contributions which take the organisation forwards.
So celebrate the steps you are taking – people will start to feel the drumbeat of how things are changing and importantly, how they can be a part of that.
Oh…and there is a fourth. Don’t wait!
Don’t wait until things are perfect or the time is ‘right’. No matter how good or bad you think your organisation is at this stuff right now – there is something you can do tomorrow (even a small change) which will create the continuous improvement, year after year and decade after decade that we are all looking to achieve.
What are the tools which help create tangible steps towards achieving diversity in the workplace?
So, you believe in this stuff.
Here’s what we did…
Whilst our policies are purposefully very open and we have a focus on creating a workplace culture without barriers, the launch of the new British Standard for Diversity and Inclusion sparked an internal review for Vista. We set ourselves the challenge of truly embedding inclusion into our business strategy – and it had a significant impact on our colleagues, clients and suppliers alike.
The standard gives a clear and practical approach: positive about the impacts of diversity in the workplace and practical regarding how to go about it. It’s great for those employers looking to make a start, and great for those who are already good – but want to be great. Watch this video for more information on the standard and how it could help your organisation:
We know that a standard might not be for everyone, and there are other steps you can take to kick start the journey.
Try communicating your objectives for diversity and inclusion before you do anything else. It’s really tempting to jump in to a diversity survey or monitoring to try to get an idea of where you are currently, but questions are likely to be sensitive and if you want to achieve a good response – ensure your employees fully understand and trust with what your organisation is trying to achieve first.
Training your managers in diversity and inclusion, dignity at work and unconscious bias ensures they have the tools to manage these issues on a day to day basis. Training your employees enables them to become more self-aware and comfortable with the conversation.
Engaging with your wider community demonstrates an understanding that your organisation doesn’t operate in isolation – because it doesn’t! Think about what your opportunities might be here.
And finally, start talking about diversity and inclusion at every opportunity. Gradually changing your approach can make a big difference to absorbing diversity and inclusion organically.
Remember – don’t wait for perfection simply make a start, however small it may be.