Updated: Feb 18
Opportunities for diversity and inclusion are plentiful. The implementation of inclusive processes, through committed resources and structured activities, can result in whole organisation benefits.
This means that a recognition for, and delivery of activities to support diversity and inclusion is important. It will support best practice people development, customer service and increased business growth.
Planning for organisational development around diversity and inclusion can, in some cases, mean making changes to current processes.
It can help to enable the development of a focused and authentic strategy.
Rethinking diversity and inclusion, as an organisational improvement strategy, is useful for any development initiative.
By rethinking and reinventing the way leaders perceive diversity, an organisation can develop processes, both internally and externally focused.
These will help to understand the needs of diverse groups, whilst embedding diversity to achieve elevated business results.
Lets be clear... a supportive workplace environment is key to providing employees with the kind of policies, processes and initiatives that enable them to develop new skills, and achieve outstanding results. Diversity and inclusion is a key fundamental in creating such an environment.
The key to developing diversity and inclusion, lies in understanding.
Acceptance and respect for one another is fundamental, not only across society in general, but also within a competent and confident workplace environment.
The ability to embed diversity and accommodate difference in a workplace, operational framework, is crucial to employee and customer satisfaction.
A well developed understanding of different cultural backgrounds, religion, spiritual and political beliefs is necessary for the effective people management. in an effective workplace environment.
It helps to build confidence and competence around diversity and inclusion, whilst supporting and the development of highly efficient and well engaged individuals and workplace teams.
Increasing understanding develops knowledge and skills to engage competent and inclusive behaviours amongst staff and stakeholders. It also helps to develop a workplace environment that is fluid and receptive to competing ideas.
Developing knowledge of the complex needs of gender, families, people of differing abilities, cultures etc, helps to develop and promote an inclusive workplace. Diversity is complex and includes practically every difference one can imagine.
Differences, however, can be the precursor of challenges within the workplace, and can lead to the inability to effectively manage multiple teams of diverse individuals. This can present challenges for managers, within some organisations.
Many leaders still feel that diversity and inclusion is a 'nice to have' and fail to understand the ways that it impacts on key business results and promotes a positive and engaging business image.
Here are 6 points of focus for leading and rethinking diversity and inclusion as a 'whole organisation' opportunity.
1. Diversity and inclusion is NOT the sole responsibility of HR
Diversity must become a 'whole organisation' operational process. The tendency to place the responsibility for diversity and inclusion within the HR function, has been tried and tested. In many instances, it fails.
Many diversity and inclusion initiatives focus on recruitment and learning and development. They are largely initiated to solve a problem, as part of a risk management strategy or to manage reputation when an organisation has fallen foul of diversity and inclusion…. Or when they have acted erroneously.
Sadly, many leaders do not fully appreciate the importance of diversity and inclusion, and are only pushed into action when the business has acted in a discriminatory manner and they find themselves in an employment tribunal.
What is limiting to diversity and inclusion strategies within most organisations is the placement of the function solely within HR or corporate social responsibility activities.
By giving over responsibility for equality, diversity and inclusion solely to the HR function, leaders effectively negating full accountability for diversity and inclusion within your business.
Diversity and inclusion is a whole organisation activity and responsibility. It should not be viewed as just another HR function. Certainly, this does not negate the usefulness of HR, as an important function in the development and purposeful action in developing diversity and inclusion.
HR is a very relevant and functional department of any business. However, the habit of of assigning the diversity and inclusion portfolio solely within HR, nullifies its significance as a 'whole organisation' business and people process.
A commitment for diversity and inclusion should be an accountability for every business function and each individual employee. It should be based on verifiable actions, rather than policy alone.
Companies want to be seen as embracing diversity and inclusion. This however, is very different to actually BEING diverse and inclusive.
2. Create opportunities for diversity and Inclusion
Creating opportunities to embed diversity and inclusion rather than merely to solve problems is the way to go!
By recognising diversity, and beginning to think in an inclusive way, companies are more likely to grow and attract positive attention towards their business brand.
Creating opportunities for diversity starts from within. It begins with a commitment to review your organisation and make the necessary changes to build inclusion.
This process will require an evaluation of your organisation, its values, its employees and its processes.
Many companies appear to be diverse. They employee diverse groups of people and ensure that this is a visible element of their marketing and public image. However, this does not mean that they are truly diverse. Nor does it mean that they are inclusive.!
Employing people from a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds is favourable in any business. However, the need to create and embed inclusive processes is the pinnacle of the process.
There are a multitude of opportunities that can be created to embed and promote diversity and inclusion.
Companies that utilise every opportunity to support the building of inclusion to workplace activities are more likely to increase competitively.
Additionally, an inclusive workplace is more likely to attract and retain talent.
Knowing the business and workplace challenges that diversity and inclusion solve, must be the starting point for business leaders. This, however, often poses a challenge.
Many leaders are not aware of the gaps that diversity and inclusive practice can fill, so are unaware of the opportunity that it creates.
This can be helped by undertaking a diversity audit of the policies, processes across your business to gain a better understanding of the ways in which you are currently implementing diversity and inclusion.
You can employ the services of a diversity advisory firm to help you in this process.
3. Diversity and Inclusion is about respect.
Workplace diversity and inclusion is about dignity and respect. It is about allowing all everyone, regardless of any background, religion or physical ability to operate and achieve within the workplace.
It is about being supported and included in a way that is enabling, as opposed to being confined within a biased and unsupported environment.
By investing in diversity and inclusion, an organisation is investing in its people. We are talking about fairness and respect.
Solving the challenges of diversity and inclusion within businesses is primarily about respect. It is about being inclusive and generating trust and transparency.
Organisations must not make diversity and inclusion plans based primarily on the accolades that they will receive from it. Earning the respect of employees, customers and clients is the correct way to develop diversity and inclusion. It is the only way that true recognition will be gained.
Simply put, your employees, customers and clients invest in respect. Their respect for your company will be shown in the increased output of your employees, the sustained loyalty of your customers and the increased commitment of your stakeholders to your objectives, and to your brand.
By understanding the needs of your employees and stakeholders, your business is better able to learn to value and support their unique differences.
Once this is achieved, your business will be rewarded by respect, innovation and positive brand image.
Start to gain the respect of those people who you employ and those that you market your products and services to. Seek first to understand their different needs, then and act to fulfil them!
This is one of the most important aspects of securing a diverse and inclusive workplace environment. It requires leaders to work together to maximise talent engagement, advancement, workplace performance and employee and customer satisfaction, through well developed strategies for diversity and inclusion.
4. Think inclusion as well as equality
Equality of opportunity relates to affording everyone equality when it comes to opportunity. Diversity relates to recognising, and taking account of, the differences amongst people, whether individually or within groups.
Inclusion goes a step further, and is about ensuring that everyone is valued and included within the workplace .
It requires the full integration of inclusive processes within the organisational structure and groups within it.
Inclusion embraces people of all backgrounds, and is supportive of diverse needs. It can only be achieved through the effective planning and design of diversity strategies to procure it.
We are all different and should be treated fairly and according to our identified need. The ‘diversity and inclusion’ approach supports this, as it includes the recognition of diversity as applicable to all people, regardless of background, in different ways.
By listening to employees and gaining an understanding of particular need, organisations are better able to understand and support the needs of employees, customers and clients.
This helps to engage a wide range of stakeholders who can help support your brand and promote its inclusiveness.
Diversity networks provide a useful opportunity to help to understand the needs and concerns of diverse employees.
Staff surveys and other qualitative research analysis can provide managers with a wealth of information on current concerns.
These networks support organisations to better enable an increase in employee workplace satisfaction.
The goal of leaders should be to convert the melting pot ideology of equality, to one of embracing diversity by truly recognising differences. A diversity and inclusion approach will fuel strategies that are well placed to support growth and innovation.
Adopting an inclusive company ideology, will generate and a wealth of opportunities to create and add value to your brand and your business.
5. Ensure cultural competency protects group identity
When developing inclusive processes, the significance of the maintaining of group identity and values must not be understated.
Diversity and inclusion is about not only recognising personal identity, but also the identity and experiences of others.
By extracting value from differences and creating and developing an inclusive business environment, employees and other stakeholders will feel valued and included.
Cultural competency is an important tool for achieving inclusion. Leadership must include people of all backgrounds, to work together to create a culture that embraces diversity of thought.
This will require a firm understanding of cultures to ensure that full recognition of the nature of 'culture' is included within planning processes.
It is useful to gain an understanding of how culture impacts understanding and workplace inclusion. To truly develop fit for purpose initiatives that support the needs of employees and customers, managers require skills for understanding, supporting and effectively managing diverse staff teams.
6. Ensure people are central to growth
Human capital is the most important resource that your business can possess. Your employees are the lifeblood of your business. The support your deliverable with their time, skills and knowledge.
When your employees are not adequately supported by robust diversity and inclusion strategies and initiatives, your overall performance will suffer.
Developing weak or one-off tactical initiatives to solve an immediate problem, only limited, short term results will be achieved.
This will ultimately be followed by a flat line and regression to business as usual.
In short, no tangible achievement will be realised,,,, only a waste of time and important resources. Although many strategies are started with the very best of intentions, they end up being tick box exercises.
The problem with this is that these initiatives are designed to solve a short term problem. They are not part of a wider plan to embed diversity and inclusion across the whole business in a meaningful way.
Leadership must leverage the full potential of its human capital by placing diversity and inclusion at the heart of the organisations growth strategy. It must support diverse employee populations and truly integrate diversity and inclusion across whole organisation processes.
This is much more than delivering training sessions and updating policies. It is a committed, ongoing process, that results in best in class, innovative organisations. The need to develop understanding of cultural, gender and other differences, cannot be understated, and is key to developing diverse and inclusive work environments.
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LEARN MORE: Read our blog post on 'why diversity training is not effective when delivered in isolation'. It provides useful analysis of why your learning and development team should focus diversity training design as part of a whole organisation diversity and inclusion improvement strategy.
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Kenroi Consulting is a diversity consulting business providing advice and tailor made solutions across the UK.
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