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How to foster a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace

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Anyone who is anyone in business can no longer ignore calls from stakeholders for their organisations to be more diverse.

Typically talked about in terms of firms needing to be more reflective of wider society – be that of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability – to not have a DE&I (diversity, equality and inclusion) policy is to be corporately remiss. Shocking statistics still showing only 7% go to private school, yet from this tiny pool comes 71% of all senior judges [plus many other similar social discrepancies], so it’s no surprise 96% of CEOs recently surveyed by Fortune/Deloitte said DE&I had become a “personal strategic priority” for them. Amongst their response to this is to have plans for better outreach, and initiatives to attract, for instance, more women or the socially disadvantaged.

The good news is that not only do DE&I programmes make good employer branding sense from an attraction and retention of talent point of view [almost four out of five employees say companies that are diverse, equitable and inclusive have a better shot at attracting high-quality talent], but attention to it has the power to make big societal changes – such as rectifying gender pay discrepancies (by improving female ratios in top tier jobs). 

One of the biggest wins is the business sense it can make too. Gender-diverse companies perform 21% better than the national average according to McKinsey. How? When organisations have a full spectrum of diverse viewpoints, or different collective backgrounds to draw upon, groupthink is averted, leading to better and more inclusive decision-making. Research finds racially diverse executive teams generate 35% higher EBIT and 33% more long-term value creation, while McKinsey again finds companies with the most ethnically/culturally diverse boards are 43% more likely to have higher profits.

A problem, however, is that inclusion involves correcting longstanding and entrenched procedural and operational biases – and even creating entirely new management and working cultures. But fostering a greater sense of inclusion doesn’t have to be the mammoth task it can often be thought to be. According to Google, which has numerous diversity champions, networks and diversity training resources, it is upfront in saying diversity is simply about “fostering a sense of belonging throughout the company, even while many of us are working from home.” It adds that this is all about “ensuring parity in performance reviews, promotions, and retention.” And that’s how simple interventions can start to have a significant impact. When inclusion is about how employees ‘feel’, then enhancing it is all about knowing which levers can be used to affect it. 

For instance, if employees are not being regularly communicated to about their goals, then technology that can automate regular check-in calls with managers become hugely symbolic. Research suggests that 72% of employees who have managers that help them to set goals are fully engaged, and those rates increase by 2.5 times when managers hold employees accountable for their performance goals. Appraisal systems – which ask for 360-degree feedback – also foster inclusion because they inculcate a feeling that everyone’s opinion matters. Gartner finds a ‘sense of belonging, and a feeling people have that they are being listened to is a vital ingredient to inclusion [It argues giving feedback makes everyone responsible for achieving D&I goals day-to-day]. 

Sharing is also what brings people together, which is why having central and easily accessed repositories of information, on things like gender balances, training opportunities, LGBT+ support, processes, DE&I statements, and more will all help an employers’ cause. The best DE&I policy is one that is well known, shared and understood. Those that are even better, allow people to contribute and add their own thoughts to it.

The point is, DE&I may be a difficult concept to get your head around, but it needn’t be a difficult concept to try and influence and impact from the ground up. HR technology can be beneficial in assisting this, and it can take some of the barriers to involving people away. Do this and over time diversity and inclusion will soon become just part of the way a company does business.

Government Social Mobility Commission