In my recent TEDx Talk, ‘The exclusive nature of inclusion’ I referenced the ways organisations are attempting to become more diverse in the ways they recruit and the support groups they have within them for minority groups. I make the point that this is not inclusion.
Despite the fact that Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) strategies are featuring on the agenda of many forward-thinking organisations, there remains a level of uncertainty about how to truly become an inclusive organisation. The fact that a level of change needs to occur adds another barrier to progress. As the political landscape evolves in the United Kingdom, it becomes more important than ever to adapt the way in which we attract, develop and retain a talented, creative and engaged workforce.
So where can organisations begin?
1. Start from the present
First look at what’s happening now. Not just at diversity in the workforce – although that’s useful. But at engagement and attrition, career progression records and productivity and output. There is a distinct connection between inclusion and engagement in businesses, ignore at your peril!
2. Consider your results
We’ve all heard the saying, ‘begin with the end in mind’. What tangible differences do you anticipate your business will see from the changes you will make. More applications from external talent perhaps? Higher satisfaction scores from your workforce? Increased profit? Once you can create a clear picture of what the business will look like following a more robust D&I focus, you’ll have a great platform to work from.
3. Truly understand what diversity and inclusion means
As the saying goes, ‘diversity is inviting different people to your party, inclusion teaches those people to dance together’. Consider how your business can attract diverse talent, the provisions you can make for those with differing beliefs, those with physical or mental health issues and so on. Engage with people from different parts of society to really get under the skin of what they need and desire from an employer of choice and what processes and procedures you intend to build upon or create to be truly inclusive
4. Be clear on your communication strategy
One of the biggest reasons organisational change fails is due to a lack of, or ineffective, communication. Who will champion the rollout? Who needs to be involved? How will you filter the communication across the business? For global organisations, what cross-cultural implications might there be? Discrimination laws for example, differ from country to country. How will this impact your overall strategy and how can you champion your work to be embraced globally? Start with why the changes are happening and the benefits of change, as this will maximise engagement and buy-in. Then follow on with how changes will happen and what is needed by everyone involved.
5. Aligning your D&I strategy with your organisational values
If you have defined organisational values (and I’m sure you do), consider how you see them coming to life through your D&I strategy. Successful organisations don’t just identify their values, they live and breathe them. Honesty for example, is a value I see used a lot in business. How could that link to D&I? Perhaps you wish to create a forum for people to openly ask questions about areas of D&I that they don’t understand. Perhaps you will run a survey will your staff to understand their personal needs in relation to a diverse and inclusive culture. How you bring your strategy to life through your values is up to you, but alignment is not only congruent, it will support further engagement and buy-in to change.
6. Give your people the tools to be successful
Just because your communication strategy makes sense to you and your people, that doesn’t take the place of upskilling and educating your workforce to ensure change happens and happens successfully. Learning & development plays a vital role in bringing strategy to life and engaging with an expert, internally or externally is an investment well made.
7. Execute consistently
Once you’ve decided upon why, how and what you want to change to promote inclusion, be sure to review and be flexible to refining on an ongoing basis. Add D&I to your monthly strategy meeting agenda, regularly take feedback from your internal and external stakeholders and have a system in place to measure the results you are looking to achieve. Feedback is the gift, feed forward is the wrapping paper!
Inclusion is a journey we must all take together and these steps can help you take your first steps to real inclusion in your business. I’d love to hear any add-ons you may have which have worked in your organisation. When we all do a little, the world changes a lot.