In this post we are going to be addressing key elements around diversity in the workplace, and how to actually implement diversity and inclusion programmes that work.
Despite over 70% of UK Employers stating that they have some form of Diversity and Inclusion training, but the statistics fail to back this up as making any sort of lasting impact. Less than 10% of women make up the CEO spots in the FTSE 100, only 6% of top management positions in the UK are held by BAME individuals, and more than 32% of LGBTQ employees hide their sexual orientation at work.
Before we dig into how you can drive real change in your diversity efforts, let’s look at the three buzzwords – diversity, equality and inclusion. Although often used interchangeably, they are very different notions that are often joined together into the term DEI.
Diversity is used to describe different groups of people – diversity in the workplace is all focussed around the respect and appreciation of what makes different team members different in relation to gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, social class and background.
Every person in a business brings perspectives, views, thoughts and beliefs that are based on their own individual background and experiences. When you have more diversity, you have more differentiation in views that can contribute to how you see business challenges, and opportunities.
In our post Great Minds Think Differently – Creating Cognitive Diversity we talk about the concept of diversity.
“The old saying goes “great minds think alike”, but for real business impact you should be focussing on “great minds think differently.”
How closely those in your senior leadership look and think alike, will impact how diverse your leadership thinking is. Take for example a room full of people that are mostly white, mostly male and mostly middle class – how much diversity of thinking happens in that room? We can only expand our thinking so far – if something never occurs to you – you can’t change it.
A homogenous team will tend to focus hard on the same things, and be blind to the same opportunities. Diverse teams miss less because each individual has different blind spots, so collectively they see more.
More diverse workplace with more varied opinions, backgrounds, decision making processes and experience can ultimately make your business more successful, as well as a more interesting and inclusive place to work.”
Inclusion is all around the different efforts you make in your organisation to recognise the benefits of differences, respect each individual and make team members from all backgrounds feel equally respected and considered. True inclusion creates a welcoming work environment for all, and provides opportunities for all team members to feel a sense of belonging.
When you have an inclusive culture, everyone in the business feels valued, appreciated and welcomed for who they are as an individual and their contribution.
True inclusion happens at every level – through people’s voices, in the powerful roles in your business, and at every level of your culture. It can include:
Ultimately, equality is the end goal we are striving for with diversity and inclusion efforts.
While diversity is all about taking into account the differences in people, and valuing the difference in those inputs, equality is all about ensuring that everyone has equal opportunities, and is not treated differently or discriminated against because of any protected class, different characteristics or backgrounds.
There have been many pivotal points in history where society has driven real diversity change, and recently, the summer of 2020 has presented a real opportunity for change. Unprecedented seems to be the keyword of 2020, and it certainly applies with diversity too. We are experiencing three crisis in one – the health crisis, ensuing economic crisis, and then a racial injustice crisis with the high profile killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other which have brought these conversations both to the forefront of the dinner table and the office.
This has created a level of awakening with leaders, even with those who haven’t engaged directly with diversity challenges before. Two of the key trends we are seeing emerging around diversity that is driving some real change:
One of the key differences we are seeing with the clients we work with is in the different generational make up of many businesses in 2020. Generation Z is solidly in the workplace now and driving passionate conversation and debate about diversity where previous generations did not at such a mass level. The reality is with Gen Z, the intention is not enough: they want to see results, and they want to see action to back it up.
We have seen this evidenced with many clients over the last year where team members have been demanding action, versus just sharing passive concerns as has been more of the trend over the last couple of years.
Everything from movements like #metoo to increased conversation and visibility of men’s mental health challenges has brought the concept of toxic masculinity to the forefront and we’re seeing a shift in the way this is dealt with in the workplace by both women and men alike.
In our post Why Gender Diversity In Leadership Is Still An Issue, we discuss the concept of the successful leader prototype having masculine qualities including of dominance and aggression in many industries and businesses, and how toxic masculinity seeps into leadership but rewarding those that shout the loudest.
Toxic masculinity refers to the harmful beliefs and attitudes about how “real men” should behave. It drives the notion that men should suppress emotions and vulnerability in favour of more “masculine” traits of hyper competitiveness, dominance and posturing. Essentially, anyone who doesn’t fit the depiction of a strong man is less valuable, and anyone who displays more emotional intelligence or stereotypical female traits will be less successful. It sounds like:
We’re seeing a shift in businesses starting to ask – at what cost though? And embracing techniques like leadership vulnerability, emotional intelligence and team connection.
Despite a gap globally in impactful diversity in the workplace programmes, there are some great examples of company’s doing this right.
L’Oréal has a presence in over 130 countries, across five continents, and their respect for multicultural diversity is at their core. They have recently been named one of the world’s top 10 companies by the 2020 Refinitiv Diversity & Inclusion Index that ranks the top 100 organisations globally on a wide ranging set of Diversity & Inclusion metrics among over 9,000 international organiations.
L’Oréal has so many global Diversity and Inclusion initiatives with just some examples incluing:
More than any of their initiative – L’Oreal can evidence the true impact on diversity in the workplace, and the company tops the list for gender equality with women at L’Oreal accounting for almost 70% of the workforce and over 50% of key positions.
Another great example of a company championing diversity and inclusion at the deepest level is IBM and their Be Diverse campaign. Not only does the Be Equal campaign run internally in the business, but it also champions diversity and inclusion for everyone in driving systemic, sustainable improvement for people in every community.
The campaign challenges at every layer, as IBM’s Global Chief of Diversity and Inclusion Carla Grant-Pickins says:
“It is more important than ever for allies to stand together and use their privilege to actively champion and promote equality and inclusion.”
You can only achieve true diversity in your workplace if you integrate it all the way at the beginning of your people processes – at recruitment stage. Businesses are starting to move away from tick box, compliance driven diversity hiring that has been the norm over the last 10 year, to more of a holistic, inclusive recruitment strategy that includes techniques like:
There are lots of examples of technology trends in hiring including tools such as Applied and Headstart help to hire for talent without bias; Jopwell, a platform meant to help “black, Latinx, and Native American” job seekers to advance their careers; and Equiv, that brings the power of AI to help organisations prioritise diversity and inclusion.
Although the benefits of a well executed DEI strategy are huge, there are a lot of challenges in navigating this.
A lot of larger corporates are publishing free diversity resources that you can access as a smaller business which can be a great starting point. In addition to some of the examples we have already talked about like IBM’s Be Diverse, the below are some useful resources:
Before we can look at promoting diversity in the workplace, it is important to look at how you can challenge any pre-existing diversity issues.
So how do you practically promote diversity, inclusion and equality? The key with this to drive measurable change, not just put a tick in a box. There are several steps to promoting a real shift:
We have looked at the breakdown of DEI – and the real differences between diversity, equality and inclusion. We have looked at some of the workplace trends that have caused some of the shifts around diversity, some amazing examples of diversity done right, and the true impact a good diversity strategy can have on your business. To wrap all of this up we looked at some practical ways you can challenge diversity issues, and promote inclusion and equality across your business.
We hope that this post has provided some really thought provoking topics, great examples you can learn from and some practical takeaways to implement into your own business.
The only question that remains – how diverse is your workplace? What key actions do you need to takeaway to make your culture more inclusive?