How can we promote diversity and inclusion?
Over the last year, diversity and inclusion seem to have taken a back seat as a strategic priority for many companies. The focus has been on threats to continuity and recovery, but with an end in sight, how will businesses refocus their diversity and inclusion efforts?
A workforce that has undergone a profound transformational change, maybe worked remotely for a year or more, will no doubt suffer to some extent, reduced employee engagement and productivity. But by bringing diversity and inclusion back to the fore, you may find new solutions. By listening to differing perspectives, alternative solutions to problems may be found that offer alternative ways to come back to work.
The complexity required to put together a comprehensive D&I framework frequently makes the most determined organisations baulk at its enormity, and success is often a trial and error affair. So how can we promote diversity and inclusion, and what results can we expect?
Recruitment is usually the first and most straightforward part of the puzzle to attempt, and there are several great ways D&I can be promoted at this stage of a candidates journey with your company. Initially, look at the viability of blind screening candidates selected for interview. Although it's easy to see in others, identifying our own biases is hard for most of us. Whether it's innate or learned, bias is created and reinforced through our cultural background, environment and personal experiences.
Once the screening process has produced a list of interviewees, another useful tool to promote your diversity & inclusion efforts is to ensure you include varied roles within the interview process. Inviting someone from a non-related team to join the interview and later asking for their feedback on candidates will ensure different perspectives are given a voice. Any unconscious biases are counterbalanced.
A subsequent step when thinking about promoting D&I may be to think about your company culture. One way to build awareness and foster greater inclusivity is to recognise the variety of upcoming religious and cultural holidays by creating a diversity company calendar. Be aware of these days when scheduling meetings and appreciate that employees with different needs may need flexibility from either the business or their department.
Another option when teams start returning to offices could be a 'guys jar'. An evolution of the 'swear box' that provides a friendly reminder against unnecessarily gendered language; whenever someone unintentionally gives a gender to something gender-neutral, they put money in the jar. When they reach £50, they donate it to a chosen charity.
The ever-popular office 'bake-off' can be repurposed in the form of international foods potluck, a brilliant way of highlighting the different cultures present in the company and opening up an organic discussion. Complementary to these are company photo snapshot boards. A board full of memories related to your employees' important personal life events can help co-workers see others' perspectives, create conversational ice-breakers, and may eventually lead to mutual respect and understanding.
The final and most crucial step in ensuring diversity and inclusion are adequately promoted is, without doubt, addressing company policies and procedures. Perhaps where possible, start by including it in the business plan. Building a robust D&I strategy into your business plan is one of the best ways to ensure that you identify the company goals and construct a plan to achieve them.
Next, look at the boardroom. Ensuring your company leaders, who are the most visible part of your business (internally at least), are fully immersed in the D&I strategy can significantly influence other employees. Where possible, aim for a leadership team of diverse individuals from a variety of backgrounds. This will ensure that people with diverse perspectives will all feel supported to speak up on all business issues.
Another vital element to ensuring diversity and inclusion across the business is to examine your learning and development framework. Offering a handful of courses on diversity and inclusion and ending it there is a short-term fix. Extend the key concepts and best practices into all staff training courses, management training, and team building programmes to increase awareness of the need to handle different views, perceptions, and ideas positively.
Finally, make sure you monitor your companies progress, evaluate it's a success or otherwise by running employee quizzes or surveys to discover the effect the programme is having across the business.
Above all, to comprehensively promote diversity & inclusion across your company, make it clear that everything you include in the framework is not merely a box-ticking exercise. Still, they are now the business's life-blood, with the entire company required to live and breathe these behaviours.
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