It has almost been two years since COVID-19 first pushed most of the Western world into lockdowns. The world of work has not been the same since.
Remote work has gone from being an exception to the norm. It is looking unlikely that knowledge workers will return to the office five days a week – instead hybrid working is the future.
How an inclusive workplace benefits your organization
A major reason why diversity, equity and inclusion has become more important to employers is that they have been called out by their employees for not doing enough to have diverse and inclusive workplaces, particularly in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.
However, there has also been more recognition that there is a strong business case for being a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Having a range of backgrounds and perspectives is good for business; it leads to better ideas, better products and makes it easier for companies to tap into new markets.
The stats speak for themselves. Research suggests that gender equal companies achieve up to 41% higher revenue, while companies with racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to see higher returns on investment.
In 2022, there is another business reason why companies should focus on diversity. The ‘Great Resignation’ is seeing workers vote with their feet and quit jobs at record pace. A major reason, particularly for younger generations, is because these jobs don’t fit their values.
In a recent US study by Lever, 16% of workers said diversity, equity and inclusion should be a major priority in 2022. This role to 17% for millennials. While 42% of Gen Z employees said they would rather have a sense of purpose at work than have a higher paying job.
Defining inclusion – what does inclusion mean?
It is important to remember that the reason why diversity is so good for business is because these employers are also inclusive of their diverse employee population.
Being a diverse and inclusive business involves more than just hiring diverse groups of employees. It also involves focusing on workplace inclusion and having an equitable company culture.
So what does an inclusive workplace look like?
An inclusive workplace is one where every employee – no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religion – feels empowered and valued.
Importantly, workplace inclusion is not about being blind to people’s diversity and differences. Instead, it embraces those differences and sees them as benefitting the company’s culture, as well as the business bottom lines.
Rather than treating everyone’s experience in the workplace as equal, diverse and inclusive companies and teams are those that implement policies and practices that ensure that everyone can thrive at work. LINKS
Teresa Boughey, founder of Inclusion 247 told UNLEASH: “Many organizations now need to translate what may be seen by some as a tick-box approach to inclusion to one which moves beyond the boundaries of HR and becomes part of an organization’s DNA, embedding inclusion into all the organizations activities so that it can really become culturally transformative”.
Four best practices to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Of course, having an inclusive workplace and teams is must easier said than done. So what types of inclusive workplaces policies and practices do companies need to implement?
Here are four examples of how to ensure you have an inclusive company culture.
Celebrate employee differences
As mentioned previously, diverse, inclusive and equitable companies do not overlook differences. Instead they embrace those differences of opinion and perspective; this is because they know that this was why
“We believe that diversity of thought is what makes a business competitive innovation; it achieves this through its 8,000 employees speaking more than 26 languages across 50 locations,” Guest tells UNLEASH.
Make sure everyone in the company has a voice
Having a diverse workforce is not sufficient, employees also need to feel they have a voice and be able to actually share their different perspectives and views.
Giving employees a voice makes them feel valued, and it also makes them feel like they belong in that workplace.
Belongingness at work “ensures that all unique voices across organizations can contribute to overall growth by enabling individuals to feel comfortable speaking up and supported by colleagues when they do so”, writes Templafy’s Anne-Marie Finch in an UNLEASH OpEd.
“Belongingness is the ultimate key to scaling businesses since it allows for every individual to be their most authentic selves and do their best work”, adds Finch.
This explains why many organizations are introducing belonging as a fourth pillar of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Ultimately, happy, valued employees are productive employees, which is a boom for businesses’ bottom lines.
Make sure hiring is fair and balanced
Of course, embracing those differences requires companies to actually hire diverse employees into their organization. It is widely known that recruitment processes are tainted by bias that often unconscious.
UK workers from Black or ethnic minority backgrounds sent 60% more CVs, compared to their white counterparts with the same skills, experience and qualifications. And BrightTalk found that 79% of HR professionals admitted that unconscious bias plagues recruitment decisions.
These exclusive workplace statistics are show how pervasive bias against certain individuals and groups, and towards others, is still affecting the whole of recruitment.
Therefore it is no surprise that a range of HR tech tools have emerged that can help companies crack down on unconscious bias in the hiring process. Examples include Applied, Alva Labs and TestGorilla.
She explains that with Applied’s process you don’t have to apply with a CV or talk about your past experience – it just relies on skills-based tests.
It has never been easier for employers to debias their hiring process. not only is this morally the right thing to do, but it also means that they are hiring the person who is actually best for the job, not who the hiring manager believes is the best candidate because of unconscious bias.
Rethink your career development strategies
While it is important for companies to rethink their hiring strategies to be more fair and unbiased, this is not sufficient alone to drive genuine workplace inclusion.
Companies also need to rethink their career development and internal mobility strategies. They need to ensure that they are promoting the best person for the job – based on skills – rather than unconscious bias.
While there has been a lot of progress around gender inequality (for example) at lower levels of organizations, there has been less improvement at executive level.
A report by The Pipeline found that only 4% of FTSE 350 boards had reached gender parity and other research shows that there is a much larger gender pay gap at director level than across the board.
The UK’s gender pay gap is 15.5%, but New Street Consulting Group found that female board members at FTSE 100 companies were paid 40% less than their male counterparts.
The main reason for the discrepancy was that the vast majority of female directors and board members didn’t hold executive jobs, which come with the higher salaries.
Breaking the ‘boys club’ at the top of many FTSE 100 companies will require women on boards receive adequate training and “are prepared properly for taking on that responsibility”, as well as inclusivity training for managers at all levels of organizations.
How to implement merit-based inclusion
On the topic of learning and development, it is generally important that workplace inclusion also involves equal opportunities for all.
Therefore, employers need to embrace merit-based inclusion – not promoting or hiring women (for example) over men because they think it is the right thing to do – this is about hiring or promoting the best person for the job irrespective of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability.
The best person for the job is the person with the best quality of work, the right sills and experience.
So how should companies go about focusing on merit-based workplace inclusion?
“It’s our job to make sure our workforce reflects the communities we serve, and that our colleagues are inspired to be themselves and ready to perform at their best”, wrote Badren.
“We’re intentional about the way we work to recruit diverse, exceptional talent. Importantly, we back that excitement up with measurement.”
Of course, these metrics should be linked with skills, and shouldn’t cause positive discrimination. Psychometric assessments can help here, according to Howard Grosvenor, cut-e’s UK director of professional services. These types of assessments can help predict candidates’ potential to perform in a role, rather than focus on their experience.
Badren continued that a merit-based inclusion really embraces the idea that employees have a voice – and that conversations and action around promotion and career development are two way.
“Managers are not the only ones tasked with the heavy lifting. All team members need to do their part. Work harder and more strategically than everyone else. Deliver the best-possible results. Demonstrate the value you bring to the table.”
Merit-based inclusion is not promoting based on privilege
Achieving merit-based workplace inclusion involves rethinking the idea of meritocracy. In the past it was easy for merit to be confused with privilege, as argued by London School of Economics (LSE)’s Paris Will and Cecily Josten in a blogpost.
A focus on merit seems to let to some organizations turning a blind eye to discrimination or privilege at work. This is the exact opposite of what merit-based inclusion wants to achieve.
To overcome this, Josten and Will argue that there needs to be an awareness of the privilege that certain groups experience at work; it is not only white men that experience privilege in the workplace. For instance, Black women are more likely to struggle with promotions than white women.
The next step is translate that awareness into real change. The LSE authors argue this involves really focused on equal opportunities for all at work and realizing the clear link between privilege and bias in company culture.