It’s not unusual for diversity and inclusion initiatives to rise to the top of the leadership agenda particularly when deadlines loom on the horizon, especially those that involve a level of external scrutiny.However, creating a workplace environment which is inclusive for its employees isn’t synonymous with large companies but is as relevant to companies of all sizes and at all growth stages from start up to scale up. Policies and procedures can be beneficial for raising awareness, however these alone are not enough for embedding diversity and inclusion across all aspects of your business.
If you’re now taking the leap into business ownership, ensure D&I is at the core of your business strategy from the outset. If you’re an established organisation, there are many ways you can implement reforms that embed D&I for generations to come.
Take time to take stock
Before embarking on your D&I journey it is essential to take stock of your current position. Without your ‘as is’ position you won’t really know the current flaws in your approach. If you spend time delving into the root causes of any issues, or any potential problem areas, you are much more likely to embed fairer policies in the future.
At a minimum this practice should be taking place annually however it is more effective to conduct an audit more frequently, so nothing slips through the cracks. Look at all areas of the employee lifecycle such as recruitment, talent planning, remuneration, engagement and mentoring to see which require development. The data that you find may not be pleasing but this does not mean you should bury or shy away from it. Be honest and ensure that you don’t fall into the trap of continuously admiring the problem. Use the data to create a plan and then start taking action.
Company values form the building blocks upon which the rest of the strategy is built and provide a great reference point for customers and prospective employees to know exactly what you stand for. It is very beneficial to involve employees in the creation of these because they will then understand exactly what is required from them and it will help to ensure that they are cemented into the company culture. Similarly, if someone is not acting in line with expected behaviors, you then have a guideline which you are able to refer to. The process of taking stock can help you to refine these values as they are likely to change as your business develops or if you are a new business, be sure to spend time working out exactly what it is you want to stand for.
Forums and networks
Creating forums and networks is a great way to build relationships, and often provide safe spaces for individuals to come together to support each other and educate others on difference.
It can also be highly beneficial to work with D&I networks in other businesses. These can provide a great platform for sharing best practice and learning from others as well as coming together to celebrate successes.
Equality, Diversity & Inclusion groups provide an important forum for those in underrepresented groups to share their invaluable experiences and ideas thereby increasing engagement. When setting up such groups consider practical aspects that enable these groups to remain accessible such as accessibility and the time and day that you choose to meet. It’s also important to be clear about agreeing metrics for measurements so that the members of the group can measure and recognise the impact that they are having on the organisation.
A common problem faced by contemporary businesses is knowing how to effectively communicate with employees however this is an essential facet of embedding diversity and inclusion. You’re unlikely to create an inclusive workplace culture without an effective communication strategy in place. Communication should be two way and multi-channeled in order to support as many people as possible. Keep your messages clear, consistent and human but also remember to listen to the feedback provided and be prepared to amend your style accordingly.
Along your journey it is essential to celebrate the successes. Whilst diversity provides you with the rich ingredients, it is inclusion that creates a true sense of belonging and this can be achieved through shared celebration of the successes of each individual. When these are celebrated, the unity and motivation that follows establishes a loyal, engaged and effective workforce. For example, display the successes of where people have been ambassadors or allies to others, or where your mentoring program has helped someone to progress their career.
Embedding diversity and inclusivity strategies and ensuring they function effectively should always be the priority, not just simply ticking the box to say that you have them in place. By following, consistently, the above steps you’ll set the tone so you can reap the benefits for generations to come.