A recent McKinsey report stated, “companies pulling back on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) now may be placing themselves at a disadvantage: they could not only face a backlash from customers and talent now but also, down the line, fail to better position themselves for growth and renewal.”
As the public’s appetite for equality grows, diversity and inclusion are something that employers can no longer ignore.
If substantial progress is to be made, sentiment needs to be replaced with fresh and collaborative approaches. Here are the key ways employers can do better.
1. Create a Culture of Respect
An employer can be legally above board in terms of discrimination, and yet there can still be a culture where there is a lack of respect between employees. This facilitates toxic work environments and can hinder the progression of EDI.
- Do your management employ ‘old school’ work ethics, such as being overly harsh or critical in an effort to improve standards?
- Is bad language tolerated in your workplace?
- What well-known cliques operate in your company?
Acceptance and tolerance, high emotional intelligence, kindness and consideration are all necessary for forward-thinking organisations.
Disrespectful behaviour should not be tolerated, and it’s a necessity that this message permeates down through the organisation from the leadership team.
Appropriate internal training can be provided in areas where organisations need help in identifying the barriers present for underrepresented groups, so significant changes can be made in how they operate. External training can also be highly effective. An internal trainer will sell the company perspective, whereas an external trainer is impartial.
2. Genuinely Listen
Treating employees inclusively means giving them a voice and listening to that voice. It’s through conversation and communication that employers can gain true enlightenment.
This means listening to everybody at all levels and making organisational changes based on your team’s ideas.
Multinational Virgin is known for instigating debates among staff to drive innovation and create a better workplace.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. When was the last time someone in an entry-level position was asked for their input on a significant decision?
2. How did you demonstrate their opinion was valued?
3. When did you last act on an idea put forward by a junior staff member or someone new to your business?
3. Fair Career Progression Structures
Have structures in place which allow people to progress no matter what their background. It’s easy to assume certain demographics wouldn’t be interested in employment within certain industries but, regardless, the opportunity should always be there.
Offer the same development opportunities to everyone; don’t be swayed into thinking someone will do well over another based solely on demographic factors, previous employment history and current skill-set.
At the highest level of your career progression strategy, make sure succession plans also represent your EDI policy. You can then use this as an opportunity to promote diversity of success within your workplace at different levels, provide role models and make everyone feel like they can participate.
There are a few ways you can build EDI into your performance management:
- Base performance on facts – sometimes factors such as gender or age can affect a manager’s ability to be objective in performance reviews.
- Use inclusive language – avoid using words or phrases which perpetuate stereotypes.
- Ask for feedback, and listen – ask your team ‘what more could I be doing to help you be your authentic self at work’ and put into practice their suggestions.
Appraisals are often overlooked in terms of EDI, so it’s a good idea to re-evaluate them through the EDI lens.
Accountability is something that many businesses lack, which means it’s always an area for improvement if your company wants to embrace EDI.
There needs to be a recognition among all employees, from new starters to the CEO, that EDI is not an isolated construct but is baked into your company’s infrastructure, with every member having a part to play.
One way this can be implemented within your company is through making EDI a requirement for career progression, ensuring employees are held accountable.
6. Marketing and Communications
Beth Dunn, UX Operations Lead at HubSpot in a Medium article, states, “Try not to present the privileged, tech-savvy, wealthy, able-bodied, white, cis-gendered, anglo-centric male experience as ‘standard’ and everything else as ‘other’ or ‘diverse.’ Seek ways to place the ‘other’ in the centre of things instead.”
Many marketing images are still laden with white, male business-like figures. Think about the language changes you can make in your internal communications and everyday language, as well as external marketing material.
Often companies will arbitrarily include a woman or someone from an ethnic minority background into their images to appear more diverse; if you’re trying to appear more diverse than you are, you are engaging in performative EDI.
How We Can Support
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