Updated: May 16
Diversity and inclusion agendas are at their best, when they are supported by a strategic vision. 2023 is here and we’ve all heard about 2020 vision, but how does this play out with regard to diversity and inclusion?
Diversity and inclusion agendas operate on the premise that they support inclusion of people from all backgrounds.
These agendas are supposed to develop and maintain the processes through which employees, and other stakeholders, can develop within organisations.
D&I programmes and agendas are meant to support diverse groups to excel within organisations, in the absence of any discriminatory process.
But how far are these initiatives really going to support inclusion for all members of the employee community?
Recent reports seem to cast doubt on the ability, and indeed willingness of organisations to cement diversity and inclusion as a key component of developmental activity.
In many cases, the recruitment of women and members of Black and Minority Ethnic community is actually falling, with notable decreases at leadership level.
What then, is wrong with the diversity and inclusion agenda, and how can a new vision for diversity and inclusion be built to cement real and authentic inclusion into workplace environments?
Vision for Diversity and Inclusion Without True Inclusion - Equals Failure
There is no point of having diversity without inclusion... that is a given. Yet, that is the mindset that many organisations have adopted.
Many organisations have made strides when it comes to increasing the diversity within the workplace but fail miserably when it comes to inclusion. A host of visible diversity so that they 'look' inclusive, yet not a jot around inclusion and equity.
This method of delivering a diversity and agenda, is not only a straight road to failure, but can also damage relations between employees within the workplace.
You see, diversity and inclusion can be hard for many for understand. I'll set it out here:
It's about hiring diversely and attracting talent from across backgrounds to develop your products or services...
Ensuring that all members of staff, regardless of background, are able to exist within the workplace in a fair and equitable environment.
Now, this may seem like a simple definition (and it is), but its a great place to start. Many still believe that by hiring a diverse staff, they are doing their bit for promoting diversity and inclusion.
They are wrong.
Inclusion is the hard part. Most people would believe that their systems are fair and do not discriminate against anyone, on any grounds. Focusing on the promotion of visible diversity, without concrete, strategic actions to build an inclusive environment, fails both employer and employee.
This is where many organisations fail. Becoming a diverse environment does not mean that an organisation is inclusive.
Now, we will look at some areas where organisations can improve on the diversity and inclusion agenda. We will provide some insights on areas of focus that will assist organisations to develop a more strategic vision for inclusion.
Go easy on HR... they are not experts in Diversity and Inclusion
Many organisations still utilise talent from an HR background to develop the diversity and inclusion agenda. It would appear as though Human Resources is the function via which they think diversity and inclusion can excel, and become an exemplar of best practice.
Whilst HR is indeed important in the D&I space, it does not negate the responsibility of all other business functions.
Just because someone has a background in HR does not mean that they are experts in diversity and inclusion.
Leaders must also wake up to the fact that diversity and inclusion benefits from experience in people management, business, psychology, change management, policy, political and finance and a host of other skills and abilities to be able to deliver lasting change.
The benefits of this are huge. Firstly, it will prioritise diversity and inclusion and secondly, it will be at the forefront of people and business functioning. This will ensure that people with the right skills are employed to get the job done.
In 2023, leaders should endeavour to refocus the diversity and inclusion remit, considering key functions within the leadership, learning and development, business management and development functions.
Whilst diversity and inclusion is important to the HR function, many feel that it is the preserve of HR, and make a mistake in acting on this assumption.
Diversity and inclusion is an organisational wide concern and must be part of the strategic focus, for all business functions.
All areas of a business have a responsibility for diversity and inclusion, just as all projects within the business should include diversity and inclusion within its business objectives.
It's not just HR.
Change is Hard... but Necessary
Change is hard, yet it is a must. Unless, organisations prioritise diversity and inclusion, inequalities will prevail. Diversity and inclusion must be managed on a personal and professional level, if we are to reap the rewards of inclusion.
The business case for diversity has been a veritable chant of business for many years, yet the results do not echo the rhetoric of leaders.
Whilst we cannot deny that some progress has been made in the area of D&I, there remains much work to be done, to dismantle the structures than institutionalise inequity within organisations.
Huge disparities remain between people of different backgrounds, yet at the top of organisations, we see an embedded status quo, that refuses to accept change.
There has been a lack of fundamental change, that has promoted a crisis of inaction that serves only to further marginalise individuals and groups.
A cultural re-frame of organisational values, to include an authentic realisation of diversity and inclusion, will support real vision across the agenda.
Crucially, diversity and inclusion is a hot topic. With a new generation of workers demanding change, the future of organisations will be measured by how diverse and inclusive they become.
Transforming the Diversity and Inclusion Agenda
Whilst some organisations have built activity around D&I, there is overall, a lack of action to support real change in the status quo within the C-Suite.
Piecemeal activity around D&I has promoted difference, but not on a level that effects structural, psychological and behavioural change to rid organisations of bias, often reinforced by leadership.
If leadership is not accountable, and does not change to promote diversity and inclusion, as a business culture value, there is little hope of an effective diversity and inclusion strategy.
The diversity and inclusion agenda must be transformed to ensure that leadership takes responsibility of the agenda.
It must take accountability for its own actions, and not rely on delivering events around the agenda, for example around Black History Month, National Disability Week or Pride.
Don't get me wrong... these events are good for promoting diversity, but what happens in relation to inclusion is the real test.... and this is where leadership often falls down.
Diversity and inclusion is a strategic enabler. It supports people development and enhances business results across the board. It must be seen as a priority function of business, and not a 'nice to have' option.
Moving forward with a Strategic Vision.
Business leaders and boards must make a commitment to change. Authenticity and strategic vision around diversity and inclusion are the order of the day. No more can face value, piecemeal activity around diversity and inclusion, be allowed to reign supreme in this area.
A strategic vision for diversity and inclusion is necessary, if we are to make progress on the agenda in 2020. As the new decade awakens, we have 2 choices, keep things are they are and maintain the status quo, or develop robust strategies to create real opportunities for change.
As with any function that has a bottom line impact on organisations, diversity and inclusion must be taken seriously.
People, whoever they are, are the lifeblood of business. Without people, regardless of background or diversity, businesses will fail.
Leaders know this. It is not new news! Let's go a little further and seek to prioritise the diversity and inclusion of employees and stakeholders in 2020. Happy and included people deliver the best results for your business!
Courageous leaders are required. Those who are unafraid to have the difficult conversations and are willing to challenge the status quo.
Practitioners with expertise in diversity and inclusion, not HR, are required to move the agenda forward in a way that tackles the root issues of indifference.
These practitioners must be highly skilled in engaging staff, listening to concerns and collaborating widely across business functions, to manage change.
Leaders must understand that this is a change management process, not a role to deliver training and speak about unconscious bias! It is a business and people management process.
Leadership must do more to increase commitment to, and support increased involvement with, a holistic diversity and inclusion agenda.
Your role as a leader is to play your part and be authentically accountable around diversity and inclusion. Its 2020... let's have the vision to get this right.
Further Reading: Learn how to optimise your business with diversity and inclusion.
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