It can be easy to think diversity and inclusion (D&I) as only an element you need to bring into an enterprise.
For instance, you may place a lot of focus on making sure your hiring processes are as equitable as possible. As a result, you may end up employing more individuals of a different gender, culture, disability and sexual orientation.
And you may think, “that’s it – I’ve done my part to improve D&I in my organisation”.
Well, you’ve definitely helped.
Many of those individuals may have been struggling to get hired because of reasons not associated to their competency.
You’ve given them a chance to be seen, heard, prove themselves and hopefully succeed.
But what happens after recruitment? What happens once these individuals enter environments where they’re still a minority? What’s in place to prevent these individuals from still feeling isolated or maligned and at the whim of unconscious biases?
Even well-intentioned commitments to D&I can end up coming across as mere lip service. Without a comprehensive D&I strategy embedded in your organisation, many of the individuals you sought to empower may end up having the negative experiences you were trying to prevent.
So, in this blog post, I will go through what makes a D&I strategy effective yet compassionate for those already in your business and give you some tips for what you can do today to begin moving in the right direction.
Inclusive workplaces need inclusive voices
Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is one of the smartest moves a business can make. As the World Economic Forum phrased it, “the case for diversity is overwhelming” – and there’s a plethora of evidence pointing to the fact that D&I makes workplaces more productive, creative and profitable.
This isn’t news to anyone. Many businesses are aware of these benefits and diversity in the workforce is certainly a lot better than it was 20 years ago.
However, so much of the energy is focused on getting the wider business team to adapt that often, the team leading D&I within the business is overlooked.
This is why It’s also incredibly important to create a diverse and inclusive culture within the organisation. And the only way to make sure all the amazing, diverse, unique individuals in your workforce are heard, is to listen to them.
Diverse culture must be designed collaboratively – just like you’d conduct research with your customers for a new product.
You need to allow input from your employees because where else are you going to find more accurate insights into how you can change?
For example, we worked with a range of neuro-diverse individuals to create an app, BuddyConnect, capable of capturing their changing moods and emotions in the workplace in real time. This means we can provide the best support possible.
If you apply this method to a business seeking to better include everyone, it essentially means everyone in the organisation needs to be included in the design process.
A network of support
Last year it came out that The Bank of England had noticed a disproportionate number of their BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) employees were leaving the organisation.
This was despite the executive director for HR, Lea Paterson, saying “diversity and inclusion had been a major focus for the organisation”.
In certain sectors like finance or tech, which are predominantly male or white (often both), there can be an underestimation by colleagues and leadership as to how stressful it can be for minorities to enter that environment.
The culture in a company doesn’t have to be toxic for it to still make many feel uncomfortable or outcast. This alone can lead minorities to feel undue stress or isolation simply because the company hasn’t proactively thought about ways to make different individuals feel welcome and accepted.
At Fujitsu, much of our diversity originated from employee networks that were formed across the enterprise. We have a UK women’s network, SEED (Supporting & engaging employees with disability), Cultural Diversity Network, Fujitsu Pride and the Next Generation Network, and the total number of members are between 600-700 people.
These groups are open to anyone who wants to join and have incredibly diverse boards. Individuals are also encouraged to join as allies and learn more about the challenges these individuals face.
This builds greater levels of empathy and drives the wider cultural change we need.
Building an inclusive future
With the current pandemic sweeping the globe, having a network of support has never been more crucial to the wellbeing of workers. Inclusivity and wellbeing reinforce each other, and at times like these, conscious inclusion is especially important.
Conscious inclusion is all about understanding everybody’s unique circumstances. And with many either experiencing a steep increase or reduction in their workloads, networks are key source of support through this.
But along with support, we also believe it’s important to measure the success of our initiatives. As an example: this is why we’re still releasing our gender pay gap this year, despite the government not making its publishing mandatory until next year.
In this context, addressing gender imbalance in the workplace has become part of our ethos. We recognise that our sector is still male dominated, and we want to even that out.
That means setting targets and measuring as much as we can to ensure we’re making progress. And as well as getting more women into male majority roles, we’re also trying to get men into roles where they’re usually a minority. We also intend to place more emphasis on the ethnicity pay gap, as a means of driving progress on racial equality.
Ultimately, it’s more than businesses being ‘active in the conversation’. It’s about using all the platforms and tools available at your disposal to do the right thing – this is what we mean by ‘tech for good’.
Because at the end of the day, actions will always speak louder than words.