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People | Aug 25

Building a diverse, equitable, and Inclusive workplace

People | Aug 25

Creating a welcoming workplace isn’t just the right thing to do for your employees, it is vital in a competitive environment as it can help your business to thrive in the long term.

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Embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) into a company’s culture is increasingly important in today’s business landscape. DE&I frameworks promote fair treatment and full participation of all people in an organisation – particularly groups that have historically been under-represented or subject to discrimination.

And although there may be some challenges, taking the first steps towards improving your business’s DE&I credentials needn’t be overwhelming.

Some types of diversity to consider

  • Ethnic and cultural diversity
  • LGBTQ+ inclusion
  • Gender and age diversity
  • Disability inclusion
  • Intersectional diversity (where there are multiple protected characteristics, such as a gay man with a disability)
  • Social mobility (where individuals have had different opportunities in life, for example growing up in an affluent or deprived area)

Ways to promote workforce equity

  • Educational equity
  • Fair hiring and recruitment processes
  • Training and development
  • Pay parity for all employees
  • Supporting minority groups and opportunities for them

Examples of inclusiveness

  • Top-down representation at senior levels (‘like me’ role models).
  • Using objective tools to understand how different team members think and contribute from different perspectives.
  • Inclusive leadership.
  • Tailored mentorship and sponsorship programmes.
  • Inclusive decision-making.
  • Employee engagement and feedback.

Head of litigation and management team sponsor of DE&I at NatWest, Mentor, Paul Rae, says: ‘Societal attitudes to DE&I have completely changed and all businesses need to keep up. There’s so much going on in the diversity landscape that sometimes it can be difficult to stay on top of it all, but the key is to make a start. Keeping all the plates spinning is a challenge, but being inclusive and diverse means not just focusing on one area at the expense of another.’

Ways to get started

  1. Review your current position – identify areas that can be improved by assessing your existing business processes and methods of recruitment and staffing. Use employee engagement surveys to produce diversity data.
  2. Communicate – speak to staff members who may have lived experiences of inequality or non-inclusion and learn from them. Make clear to your employees that creating a DE&I workplace is a genuine business concern and include staff when deciding upon which campaigns to support.  Show colleagues that members of management come from diverse backgrounds and create ‘like me’ opportunities.
  3. Establish best practices – if your business isn’t big enough to have employee-led networks, actively promote advocacy action groups such as Race Equality Matters, Disability Rights UK and Stonewall who guide employers on what to do, and how to do it well. The Arbitration, Advisory and Conciliation Service (ACAS) is also a great source of free materials for employers.
  4. Practice what you preach – always be genuine when getting behind individual causes like LGBTQ+ or disability rights. If you’re doing it for purely commercial reasons, be prepared to be called out on social media and elsewhere.
  5. Aim beyond legal minimums – many businesses believe it’s enough to simply comply with legal requirements when deciding on a DE&I strategy but going beyond these minimums is where it really makes a difference. Minimum compliance is not going to make your business an employer of choice.
  6. Open your mind to different ways of working – does your vacant role really need to be filled by someone working Monday to Friday, 9–5?  Demonstrating flexibility is a real selling point to candidates and a great tool for retaining talent.

Where to go for help

Charities and advocacy groups are a good source of information and guidance when establishing a DE&I strategy.

‘It’s worth remembering that laws encourage a minimum standard, but best practices are often well beyond these benchmarks,’ says Paul.

‘Learn from what other businesses are doing too to get an idea of what’s possible. You don’t have to start the journey from scratch, lots of charities and businesses want to help you, it’s just knowing where to look.’

It’s a good idea to consult the usually free best-practice guidelines laid out by organisations such as:

Building for the future

‘Having a diverse and inclusive workforce not only creates a better environment to work in, but it also presents a positive business case’, says Paul.

‘People are a lot more aware of inequality now and having a diverse workforce that reflects our customer base makes for a more productive, engaged workforce which serves customers and communities better.

‘You’ll be able to attract the very best talent by demonstrating that you’re a diverse business. As a result, you’ll get your pick of the talent pool, helping your business flourish in the long term.’

This article was originally published on the NatWest Business Insights website here

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