We have been forced into new ways of working over the past 18 months and employers have been forced to recognise that no one way of working fits all. Since the pandemic hit, it has become a time for authentic, inclusive and value-driven leadership to bring out the best in employees and create more, much-needed inclusive cultures where diversity and inclusion is taken into consideration.

In this blog, we share thoughts with Jodie Hill from Thrive Law about D&I and how her multi award-winning law firm are pioneering greater support for diversity, inclusion and social mobility with their clients nationwide. 

D&I builds engagement and trust between the employee and the organisation. In an uncertain world, trust will be invaluable in trying new ways of working and enabling organisations to stay flexible and agile in response to the unknown future.

Research revealed that over a quarter of employees at large companies do not feel that their direct manager is committed to D&I, which is a major challenge. As organisations seek to hire more members from underrepresented groups—women, people of colour, and people from the LGBTQ community, among others—and create a more inclusive workplace to support them, this is most effective when their direct managers are committed to D&I incentives.

Companies should ensure D&I is embedded into the culture and in their core values. To ensure all managers and leaders have the tools to support and commit to such incentives, organisations should offer training, development programs and people management tools. Although it is essentially that senior decision makers in an organisation are committed to the company’s D&I agendas, employees’ every day contact is with the management teams, therefore they need the training and tools and the confidence to be role models to all employees and set the D&I tone to the rest of the company and lead by example.

Why is diverse and inclusive leadership even more important now than it ever has been? 

report found that the most diverse and inclusive companies are more likely than ever to outperform the less diverse in terms of profitably. A recent survey highlighted the benefits of inclusive organisations in a time of crisis, with 96% of managers agreeing that D&I greatly underpins organisational resilience. However, there is a rising concern that as companies are recovering from the current pandemic, D&I may not be at the top of the agenda. 

Organisations should ensure they have a well elevated D&I strategy; it can also help to have an allocated budget for D&I for training and development so that it stays at the top of the agenda. 

But how do you start to build a thriving inclusive culture within your workforce?

  1. Educate Your Leaders

In order to be able to pioneer inclusivity across your organisation, you not only need buy-in from your leadership team, but for them to understand their role in driving positive change. If it is not on the board-room agenda, it will be incredibly difficult to inspire a change in culture, without the support of those leading.

Education initiatives, such as understanding D&I in the workplace, can offer a safe space for your leadership team to ask difficult questions and build greater awareness of the challenges within their own workforce. Training is incredibly empowering and could motivate plans for the organisation that promote greater diversity and inclusion, from recruitment and company values through to language use and team celebrations.

For example, at Thrive D&I is part of the DNA. Jodie and her team show open and inclusive leadership and all members of the team are involved in relevant decision processes as they value the diverse ideas each one of them can bring to the table.

  1. Form an Inclusion Committee

Leadership buy-in is essential, but with this in place you still need a team to cascade resources across the organisation. By building an inclusion committee, you not only ensure that everyone in the organisation can share their opinion and have a voice on diversity and inclusion initiatives, but you are putting a taskforce in place to bring the cultural shift to life. Activities could include employee outreach and surveys to ensure everyone’s contribution is heard. This committee should be diverse and representative of the organisation, with a passion for inclusivity, so they can collaborate to deliver the organisations inclusivity vision.

  1. Celebrate Employee Differences

Employee engagement is an ongoing challenge for many organisations and therefore it is commonplace to celebrate new business wins or operational milestones as recognition of employee achievements. However, this should not stop there. In driving a D&I strategy, it is important to celebrate other achievements, initiatives and the diversity amongst your organisation that has inspired such success. This could include celebrating new traditions or awareness days through events and team activities, such as a company Pride festival or Chinese New Year.

Some organisations have created frameworks to encourage peer-to-peer recognition, removing the hierarchical aspects of providing praise and enabling everyone at every level to give and receive feedback. Other businesses have taken this further and used tools to analyse feedback behaviour, to monitor their recognition practices and ensure it is reflective of the diversity within their workforce.  This is how you make your diverse workforce feel more inclusive.

  1. Hold More-Effective Meetings

When reviewing D&I in your organisation, it is important to reflect on all of the scenarios and challenges within your business that could be impacting how inclusive and supportive your culture is. Meetings can often be quite formal and daunting for people to speak out in, to ensure their voice is heard. 

Small changes, such as providing agendas and discussion points in advance of the meeting, introducing an interpreter at meetings where not everyone speaks the same language, understanding your communication style and modelling inclusive language, such as knowing the preferred pronouns for employees, can have a huge impact on how individuals feel when entering meetings. Not only will it aid inclusivity, but it will inspire greater debate and collaboration too.  

Think about the environment too – too loud, bright or cluttered could make it difficult for someone who is neurodiverse to focus.  Or in a pub or restaurant? This could make some people feel uncomfortable as it’s not a private setting and there is likely to be alcohol served. 

  1. Create a Discrimination Free Recruitment Process

Growing greater diversity in your workforce heavily relies on your recruitment practices and the positioning of your employee value proposition. For those looking at new roles, it is important your organisation stands out as a champion for D&I through your candidate attraction channels, including how you utilise recruitment marketing across your website and socials, from visual imagery to language use and company values. It is also important that your recruitment process is inclusive and tactics such as anonymised shortlisting and panel scoring can remove unconscious bias from the recruitment process to ensure you are securing talent based on skills and qualifications.

For organisations looking to identify the success of their discrimination free recruitment processes, using an intuitive applicant tracking platform you can further report on D&I. This insight can be useful to drive further changes or inspire training for hiring managers for future best practice.

Although we have all faced a challenging 18 months with Covid-19, it is incredibly important that D&I remains on the agenda for your organisation, to future-proof your business, ensure successful talent attraction and retention, and grow a successful and inclusive workforce. In taking small steps to educate managers, create an inclusion committee and celebrate differences, you will develop a more inclusive working environment for all.

For more information on the legal side of D&I, make sure to speak to Jodie Hill from Thrive Law, and if you are looking for support with inclusive recruitment, contact networx today.

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