It’s no secret that having a diverse, equal and inclusive workforce can reap business benefits and directly impact the bottom line of an organisation.
Studies point to greater business productivity, success and growth, the increased opportunity to innovate and the advantages of capability, knowledge, skills, networks, experiences, attitudes and insights that such a workforce brings.
Inclusion – The Cinderella of Diversity and Equality
Organisations frequently focus on the diversity of their workforce and their activities around equality. However, inclusion seems to be the Cinderella of the diversity and equality story, for reasons which are understandable. An organisation may have a very diverse workforce, who are treated equally and fairly – but does that necessarily mean that each employee feels included? How would you know if they do?
Organisations love data, and for diversity and equality measures are relatively easy to pull together, articulate and act upon. But how do you articulate inclusion without it coming down to how someone ‘feels’ and therefore being a fairly subjective measure? Some might say that if you get the diversity and equality right then inclusion will
follow, but will it?
As American Lawyer/Entrepreneur/Author and TED Talker, Verna Myers, eloquently puts it, diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.
Organisations need to sit up and ask the question – how can we make sure all employees have the opportunity to ‘dance’?
The answer to this question runs deeper than implementing reasonable adjustments, flexible working and great facilities; it requires a focus on less visible differences and the needs of individuals. To ask their employees to dance, employers can acknowledge the value of different perspectives, support their workforce and make sure everyone feels part of the organisation.
Here’s our top three ways you can move towards a more inclusive workforce
1. Move inclusion from existing exclusively under the HR domain
The whole organisation must take responsibility for developing and maintaining an inclusive mindset. The best way to achieve this is by educating everyone from the top to the bottom, encouraging inclusive behaviours and being open enough to accept that human nature comes with unconscious biases, the effects of which can be modified through behaviour changes.
2. Challenge employees thinking through effective training
Bringing some lightness and fun into training and communications will help enormously to engage with everyone, particularly those who are not yet bought into the concept of diversity and inclusion. Training employees increases awareness and enables individuals to challenge their own thinking and change their behaviours.
We know – changing behaviour isn’t easy, particularly where the unconscious human is involved, so organisations also need to accept that sometimes people will get this wrong and look for proactive and positive approaches to move forward where misjudgments do occur.
3. Measure, measure, measure!
If employers ask the right questions and employees feel there will be credible outputs, organisations can capture the employee experience of inclusiveness through a number of means. We’ve found opinion surveys, focus groups and exit interviews provide valuable and measurable data.
But it doesn’t stop there, consider the interactions beyond an organisations walls. If being a truly inclusive workforce makes such good business sense, then organisations should be considering their influence on sub-contractors, consultants, customers, suppliers and the wider community.
Experts from a variety of business groups together with the CIPD and ACAS clearly thought so when they worked with the British Standards Institute to develop the new BS 76005 Diversity and Inclusion standard, which was launched in May 2017. The fact that inclusion has made it into a British Standard demonstrates that it is moving out of the shadows and will soon be headlining with the Gender Pay Gap and Corporate Social Responsibility as a priority on organisational agendas.
At Vista, we are extremely proud to be the first private sector organisation to achieve the BSI Diversity and Inclusion standard. Our first-hand experience of truly embedding inclusion into the business strategy has had a significant impact on our colleagues, and as discussed in this blog – made a difference beyond our own organisation.