Updated: Aug 25, 2021
Diversity & Inclusion is often in the spotlight in the company of big, life-defining issues of gender, race, disability, or sexual orientation. It may sometimes be assumed that if these issues are not relevant to your workplace at a given time that you don’t have to act. However, that’s not the way this works. If you make space and time for Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace before it becomes necessary, your business, workforce, and customer base will all benefit. Rather than being treated as merely a tool to avoid controversy, an effective diversity and inclusion program will lead to a new appreciation for the diversity of thinking, inclusive leadership models, and customer diversity.
Instead of looking at what has been done in diversity and inclusion, this post will look at what you can do. From research outlets, educational tools, starting points, and key personnel, this is designed to help you develop a clear understanding of diversity and inclusion, and their potential benefits to your business and employees. If you’d like to learn about the Diversity and Inclusion training we offer, please click here.
Why is diversity and inclusion important?
What is often overlooked is that the introduction of diversity and inclusion initiatives not only ticks legal boxes and avoids problems, but actually encourages the growth of your business in incredible ways. Increased employee retention; growth in productivity rates; increasingly satisfied customers; and a rise in online attention and positive reviews can all be traced back to real-life examples of diversity and inclusion success stories. More information on these can be found in the Deloitte Diversity and Inclusion Maturity Model, an excellent resource which we will talk more about below.
First, it is important to note that diversity and inclusion is not something that you can enforce, you have to build it up. Whilst demographic quotas can be a useful place to start, they will not encourage the personal and institutional growth that a truly diverse and inclusive workplace requires. Ultimately, the goal should be to look beyond the common – and yet sadly still very relevant – issues which are associated with Diversity and Inclusion (namely race, age, disability, gender, orientation) and to pursue Diversity of thinking, developing a business process and company model which is inclusive of all personality types. The freedom to pursue this style of operations of course relies on the company’s ability to meet the physical needs of employees first, and make sure they feel safe and valued in their workplace.
Who can encourage diversity and inclusion?
Obviously, anyone can and should strive to make their workplace more diverse and inclusive. However, as observed in the Deloitte report, it is vital that leaders – who are of course ideally from a range of demographic backgrounds themselves – are seen to be genuinely enthusiastic about fostering cultural diversity in their organisation. Additionally, it is vital that these leaders particularly include and work with middle management on this issue.
All too often, middle managers are left with responsibility for day-to-day events, but neglected or ignored when it comes to long-term planning and implementation of company policies. When it comes to creating a workplace that acknowledges, allows for, and encourages the inclusion of a diverse range of inputs, middle managers must be involved. Larger companies may hire or train a human resources diversity specialist, who will in turn be ultimately responsible for the development, implementation, and measuring of policies.
For those who may be intimidated by the thought of the process ahead – particularly if they are a member of a majority demographic group and cannot relate to the need for these measures – Diversity and Inclusion training is increasingly available and sought after by companies. There is also a wealth of information available online, and through a variety of different media, from TED talks to LinkedIn articles. If you’d like to learn more about Diversity and Inclusion training available from Professional Training Centre, please click here.
How do I promote Diversity and Inclusion?
Educating yourself and the key personnel is an excellent place to start. A number of tools are available online, including the Deloitte Diversity and Inclusion Maturity Model – an excellent resource for anyone investigating diversity and inclusion strategies.
In essence, the Deloitte Diversity and Inclusion Maturity Model report recommend designing diversity and inclusion solutions around their ‘Eight Powerful Truths’, which were developed based on the findings by seven major research studies. It appeals to readers to hold these Eight Powerful Truths in mind when developing their Diversity and Inclusion business strategy, allowing them to bridge the gap between aspiration and action.
(Image Courtesy: Deloitte)
In the case of smaller businesses, these Eight Powerful Truths are also a useful talking point, but for many, it will come down to a simpler question - How do you demonstrate diversity and inclusion?
Despite the variety of issues that come into play here, businesses and even individual employees can make a huge difference with small actions. Pay attention to the details, and you will create a space where momentum gathers and people start to re-evaluate and re-wire their behaviours.
What can I do today to start promoting diversity and inclusion?
There are a number of practical steps that workplaces can take towards becoming more diverse and inclusive without the need for a full diversity and inclusive plan or training. We’ve collected some of our favourites below, and we’d love to hear from you, so comment below with tips or tricks that your company already does, or could do, to encourage diversity and inclusion!
Review your company’s website and other materials and update the imagery so that all demographic groups are represented in some way. Many minority groups do not even feel like they are advertised to as potential customers, so imagine how intimidating it may feel to be applying as a potential employee.
Allow flexible work hours and location. Particularly in the post-Covid world, Work-From-Home should not be treated as a bonus, but as a fact of life. It is a game-changer for so many individuals with specific physical needs, family responsibilities, or neurodivergencies (such as Dyslexia or Autism Spectrum Disorder) who may otherwise be intimidated by the office environment. Not only are you giving them an opportunity to work, but their fresh and unique perspective will often make a huge impact on your team, and contribute to your workplace’s Diversity of thinking.
Make your workplace itself inclusive. The legal accessibility requirements should be treated as the bare minimum. Check the temperature (most buildings default to men’s comfort zone, not women’s); think about buying sanitary products for the bathroom; buying non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic beer for staff events; and providing milk alternatives in the canteen. This will not only be appreciated but also start a conversation.
Avoid using unnecessarily gendered language in any and all literature – from job descriptions to everyday communications. This goes beyond the use of pronouns and extends to language more generally. For example, the use of gender-coded words like ‘aggressive’ in a job description may dissuade women from applying. Instead, focus on results-oriented job descriptions.
Familiarise yourself with the world calendar, and bear in mind that employees, customers, and suppliers may belong to different cultures and observe different holidays. Include events such as ‘Pride month’ as well as holidays, and engage in a way that feels sincere and natural – not everybody needs or wants a parade, but customers and employees appreciate feeling ‘seen’ and valued.
Engage with your community and partner with non-profits or local organisations, particularly those which may mirror your existing business model. Are you a food company? Then look into working with a local food bank to reduce waste.