This month, we ran a highly successful virtual panel discussion entitled Diversity & Inclusion: Time for Positive Change. It was an engaging session with lots of ideas, debate and positive engagement on how to encourage workplace diversity.
You can access the recording here, but for those who want the highlights, I thought it would be helpful to also share my ten practical take-away points for employers:
Don’t be in too much of a hurry to understand the 'what' and the 'how'. Take time to stop, properly understand and invest in your 'why' first. Don't let it be a meaningless tick box exercise. Why haven’t you done it? Why isn't it working? Why is there a problem? Why now? People buy into a 'why', but it takes time to discover. If your 'why' is not strong enough you will fail. If it is powerful enough people will do anything to achieve it and change their approach until they get it right. Once you have your 'why' the 'what' and the 'how' will fall into place.
Get over the fear of what you may find. You will need to learn, accept and work with uncomfortable truths and if you want to do this properly you must accept it's going to get messy; anger, frustration, fear, defensiveness are all part of the journey. Learn to work with these rather than avoid them. It's only then that you'll get a greater understanding of where you are and how you can engage meaningfully.
Always be authentic and accountable for your impact on others. Intent is key. Don’t pretend you want to help people if you don’t.
Recognise less visible kinds of diversity
Take time to recognise the diversity in the room. Diversity often exists even where you think it doesn't; it may be an all-white, male board, but are they all straight? Do any of them have a hidden disability? Diversity isn't always visible and comes in all forms, shapes and sizes. Embrace it.
Don't stop learning
Enrich your own life experience to understand others more by expanding your circle of friends, your business network, meeting people who are different to you and embracing their terminology and language. Get to know these people and understand the language they prefer to use. Leaders are readers; watch documentaries, TED Talks, YouTube videos etc. and read around the subject.
Explore the impact of language
Remember, language is fluid, what might be acceptable today, might not be tomorrow and may not be acceptable in different situations/contexts. Take time to understand the impact your language could have on someone. Engage with the individual, seeing the person in front of you not the label. If you're not sure what the appropriate language to use is don't be afraid to ask. Be respectful, not fearful: "Would you like to be referred to as a disabled person or a person with a disability?" Open up those conversations further by asking "Would you mind explaining why you prefer it". It shows you're thinking and interested and want to learn.
When it comes to recruitment (scrap everything that you know already!) and again think about your 'why'. Why do you want to attract a certain type of candidate? Once you have the 'why' it will be easier to come up with the 'how'. What do you really want from this person? Do they really need to be able to drive or can they still get to where you want them to go without being able to? Is the application process inclusive? If not, then the applicant will see straight away that you're not thinking about them and aren’t genuinely inclusive.
Be smart in your advertising
If you want a diverse workforce advertise in a diverse way. Check out the market, do the research to understand if what you're proposing will make the difference you think it will and if it doesn’t work, find out why and try a different approach. Don't change your goal, change your approach.
Involve your colleagues
Approach the whole organisation and seek their opinion. "We are proposing to do this because of [reason]". These are the outcomes we would like but we want to engage, involve, collaborate and co-produce the outcomes, strategy and implementation with you. These are the ways we think would work, but what do you think? Would this work for you?"
Let them get behind the vision and support people to feel confident to be part of that journey. Ask questions and seek to understand making sure everybody has a voice and listening for feedback at every stage. What is the data telling you? Who are the 15% and who are the 85%? You’ve got to know and include demographics to get any actionable insights out of your data. Remember, if you ask for an opinion you must act on what you hear and share with all what you've done.
Focus on your workforce before policies
Try dropping 'D&I'. If you're inclusive you will become diverse and will attract more diverse people. People buy into the emotion of it not the policies. What does it mean to feel included and be able to be myself at work? Empower your workforce and they will want to work for you.
Do you need support?
Examples of how we have helped clients in this space and how we could help you:
- Drafting policies/procedures, for example, a Gender Identity Protocol for a client with a pupil transitioning from female to male in an all-female work environment
- Preparing for and engaging with stakeholders in order to be awarded the UK National Equality Standard
- Culture change programmes: translating our legal knowledge into practical, pragmatic, innovative and enjoyable training programmes to upskill workforces, reduce risk, build resilience and contribute to making organisations the employer of choice.