Five ways to promote diversity and inclusion

a year ago   •   3 min read

By Dawn Leane

 

Top level commitment, appropriate language and a culture of idea sharing are among the vital ingredients in a diverse and inclusive workplace, says coach Dawn Leane 

 

A lot has been written about diversity and inclusion.

And now, with the inequalities laid bare in terms of how the pandemic has affected different segments of the global population, a new light is being shone on this vital topic.

Apart from being the fair and equal thing to do, executive boards and management teams are also waking up to the fact that diversity and inclusion is now a business imperative.

Firstly, a diverse workforce with representation across gender (including gender identity), age, ethnicity, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientations and nationality brings new viewpoints and perspectives to an organisation. In no small way, this allows a firm to reach new markets and communicate effectively with them.

If you’re not paying attention to addressing imbalances in your organisation, and truly focusing on diversity and inclusion, you’ll lose access to top talent.

Secondly, a recent PWC study highlights how 85% of female millennials say that an organisation’s policy on diversity, inclusion and equality impacts their perception of an employer brand.

And thirdly, regulation is increasing in this area, for example gender pay gap reporting.

If you’re not paying attention to addressing imbalances in your organisation, and truly focusing on diversity and inclusion, you’ll lose access to top talent.

With all of this to consider, how do you create a workplace that promotes diversity, inclusion and equity?

These five steps could help you.

  • Consider whether your executive team speaks of your organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion

The members who make up your executive team will be a huge signal to onlookers as to the priority you place on diversity and inclusion. Make no mistake, your top management team sends very loud messages about your culture.

Actively hire to ensure you have a diverse executive team. Executive leaders have to walk the talk.

  • Be conscious of how your organisation uses language

Words matter, and make a big impression on how your employees and the potential talent pool you want to hire from view your brand.

Examine the language you use on your website, social media channels and company documents. Is it inclusive and equitable?

This is not just a point to consider in the context of obvious discriminatory language.

Often organisations can mean well, but still use language that positions a group of people in an unequal way. For example, the language around “nurturing female talent” can be well intentioned, but using the word “nurturing” implies a weakness in female talent that needs to be looked after. “Championing” would be a much better word to use, both for its meaning and the signal it sends about your company.

  • Create a culture that encourages the sharing of ideas

Peter Drucker’s legendary statement that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” rings as true today as it ever did.

Of course, “culture” is a big topic – too big to cover in one post.

However, one of the ways you build a culture that allows for the sharing of ideas and alternative viewpoints is by having different voices be heard. For example:

  • Encourage speaking up in town hall meetings.
  • Arrange one to one meetings between team members and senior leaders.
  • Highlight contributions of individual team members in company newsletters and via other communication channels.
  • Create a diverse panel to discuss industry issues.
  • Acknowledge significant days in other cultures.

Ultimately, it is about creating a psychologically safe environment for people to contribute. This also involves making space for neuro diversity in teams.

  • Examine how your remote work policy may add or detract from your diversity initiatives

Remote work is another big topic and I believe we’ll be having this conversation for years to come.

Amidst all the discussion about whether we should allow employees to work from home or ask them to head to the office, we have lost a lot of nuance about remote working.

One of these is how remote working can enable a fairer work schedule for different members of your team.

Explore the topic beyond the lens of the physical location of your employees, and see what a remote work policy can do for your diversity and inclusion plans. And remember, there is no one size fits all remote work policy. You can create a policy that balances both the requirements of your business and your team members.

  • Take responsibility to learn more and do better

Adopt an approach to constantly learn more about diversity and inclusion.

There are many aspects to this conversation that you won’t know and you will need to listen to others to learn. We all have biases. Recognising this and actively taking a stand to identify them and correct them is the work you’re required to do.

Coaching and mentoring can help you in this area. In turn, you will be able to lead your team effectively and create a culture of equality in your workplace.

 

 

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