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What more can business do to achieve real diversity and inclusion?

Jen Smith, Circle Housing, answers our 10-minute interview questions on the challenges for business in achieving diversity and inclusion.

What is the biggest challenge for business around diversity and inclusion?

For Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) to deliver for business, it needs to a strategy that is not merely a bolt on to an existing HR policy. Everyone benefits from being in an inclusive workplace and it’s crucial that everyone gets to play a part in any D&I initiatives. Freedom to be yourself at work and be an authentic leader are important elements to modern, successful businesses.

Done well, D&I can be a dynamic, fresh and empowering way to truly engage with your employees and reap the rewards, as well as a bold and powerful statement about the type of employer you are and the people you employ.

What will a diverse and inclusive workplace look like in the future?

Future generations will probably wonder why.… things like the pay gap ever existed

In 100 years time, future generations will probably wonder why commutes were so stressful and why things like the pay gap ever existed. Some of the more recent agendas such as understanding unconscious bias and how technology can drive ‘agile working’ are making impact now.

With the right momentum these will continue enabling businesses to have a blend of working practices that help support and nurture a diverse workforce.

How can a business change cultural attitudes and values within their organisation?

The D&I world moves quickly, business must stay up to date, not doing so can really dent your reputation. Valuing diversity of thought, or cognitive diversity, is an important element of making teams and businesses cohesive. A productive and a successful D&I agenda should empower people to be inclusive leaders and value the potential of all employees. It’s also important to time things well, have integrity in what you deliver and be transparent.

A productive and a successful D&I agenda should empower people to be inclusive leaders and value the potential of all employees

As far as networks are concerned, if the business does not or will not value diversity network groups, they won’t work. Networks need to have structure and credibility, so finding the right people to lead them and having clear objectives for them is key. They should not just be a talking shop.

Be open and transparent about your D&I agenda, if there is a problem, say so. After all, why wouldn’t you want to be tackling the problems in your boardroom, that are being talked about at the water cooler?

Do share success and tell your employees what has been achieved. If having a prominent place in the PRIDE parade has increased your brand awareness with double the hits on your website — as is truly the case for us, then say so. Anchoring your D&I strategy to your overall business objectives and talking about why you are doing what you are doing helps bring people with you.

What can businesses do to broaden the diverse base from which they recruit?

You will have talented people all over your workplace, do you know who and where they are?

Improving diversity amongst suppliers and particularly in recruitment is a hot topic right now. There are a number of brilliant smaller organisations like Working Chance for ex-offenders, Transitions for highly skilled refugee professionals and Evenbreak supporting people with disabilities into work. Partnerships with these organisations where the proper time is taken to establish the relationship are fruitful for all parties.

Equally, grow your own. You will have talented people all over your workplace, do you know who and where they are? Does the bottom of your organisation look the same as the top, or different? Where are your role models and who is nurturing and developing your high potentials? Do you invest in mentoring or coaching? Sometimes with D&I work, answers are more closely within our grasp than we realise.

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