How to make inclusivity actually work for your business

Diversity and inclusion benefits businesses. All of the data and the research make it impossible to argue otherwise. It should, and for many does, actively shape the way you recruit people. Increasing diversity through your recruitment strategies can boost your financial performance, if nothing else.

Yet a month doesn’t go by without news of widespread failings when it comes to diversity and inclusive workplaces. It’s not enough that research by McKinsey pointed out that women have been disproportionately impacted in their careers by the pandemic, a recent YouGov survey has shown that we fail at equality when it comes to pay rises. Shockingly, fewer women even ask for a pay rise and of these, less are successful.

In data terms, only 33% of women ask for a pay rise compared with men, and while 31% of men are successful, only 21% of women are. It’s just yet another example of how we are insidiously failing to actually achieve true diversity and inclusion in our workplaces. It’s no wonder that the gender pay gap is widening.

The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace
Our collective failings are hindering us in many ways. There are so many benefits of diversity and inclusion that all employers should be eagerly jumping on the bandwagon. Read on to discover how, but first, let’s just cover the reasons why business leaders should take this so seriously.

Inclusive organisations boast many benefits including:

  • Greater staff retention and lower staff turnover, likely fuelled by higher job satisfaction and increased morale and loyalty.
  • Increased productivity. Those with above average levels of diversity actually outperform other companies by a staggering 46-58%.
  • Higher profits. Statistics vary, but some report that cash flow per employee is nearly 2.5 times higher in diverse workplaces.
  • Higher levels of innovation and problem solving. Diverse workforces are more creative workforces.
  • Improved organisational flexibility.
  • Better reputational standing and brand awareness allowing you to attract higher calibre candidates which is vital in an environment of candidate and skill shortages.

Succeeding with creating an inclusive workplace is clearly hugely important, but we’re still failing in so many ways. So, what can you actually do to harness these benefits and be an inclusive employer?

How to increase inclusivity in the workplace
There are multiple approaches to increasing inclusivity.

1. Raise awareness of and tackle unconscious bias

It’s impossible to improve inclusion if you are unaware of how it manifests within your organisation. You can be sure that it’s a fair amount of unconscious bias that sits behind the discrepancy in women being as successful as men with getting pay rises, for example.

Unconscious bias is important to be aware of and take steps to navigate, especially because our unconscious biases may not align with our conscious beliefs. Check it out for yourself by taking an Implicit Association Test. By accepting that unconscious bias likely plays a part in every interaction you engage in, you can begin to bring it into your conscious decision making.

2. Communicate across the organisation

Challenging bias won’t happen automatically. It’s important for everyone to actively be encouraged to learn more about their biases and how they impact the organisation. In many ways, it’s about teaching cultural competence knowing that it benefits the organisation.

Delivering bias training using technology (rather than in person) is the most beneficial way as it removes automatic defensiveness. Diversity training should be required for everyone, at every level.

3. Use recruitment specialists

Using a recruiter can help an organisation to tackle unconscious bias and discrimination from the beginning. Trained to combat bias in recruitment, the recruiter you choose can have a powerful impact on improving diversity, especially at the executive level. By building a more diverse board and senior leadership team, this feeds down to the rest of the organisation. It also prevents ongoing recruitment at the executive level being in the same image as before.

4. Achieve pay equity

Opportunities should be fair, regardless of the colour of someone’s skin, their sex, disability or other protected characteristic. Undertake research to see if there is pay disparity in your organisation and where. Identify patterns and make changes.

5. Take care to understand your people

It’s easy to make cultural assumptions about people, but it’s also easy to overlook what’s important to different people. As an employer, learning about the individuals in your employ and what matters to them can help them to feel included. For example, celebrating different cultural holidays or offering flexibility to allow for things such as childcare or prayers.

We can only truly address diversity when we learn more from other people who ‘aren’t like us’. Promote mixing across teams and this will help you harness the benefits of diverse workforces, for example greater innovation.

6. Use employee resources groups (ERGs)

ERGs benefit individuals and organisations, increasing social and business connections. Make it easy for employees to be part of ERGs. Make sure that senior leaders are involved in ERGs from the start, proving their importance.

7. Get and listen to feedback

Ask your employees for feedback and get them to share their experiences. Be prepared to truly listen to find out what’s going on under the surface of the organisation’s culture. Anonymous feedback, engagement surveys and regular check-ins help employees to share how they experience the workplace.

Understanding should then be reflected in updated company policies. For example, does your approach to flexible working make it easier or harder for people to succeed in your business?

8. Review and reassess

Improving organisational diversity and inclusion is never a one hit strategy. Instead, it’s important to review changes and assess improvements over time. It can be helpful to set targets and benchmarks allowing you to track the progress of the organisation over time. This will also help leadership to see how diversity and inclusion benefits their specific business.

Addressing diversity and inclusion challenges within an organisation isn’t easy but it is worth it. Those businesses that succeed in becoming truly diverse and inclusive are rewarded in multiple ways, from increased productivity and profit to easier and more successful recruitment and lower staff turnover.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next article:

My next article will be published in early May. In the meantime, keep abreast of industry news and discussion on LinkedIn with our short burst videos/posts. You can sign up to the First Executive Newsletter on our website to keep on top of the latest news, trends and talent planning within UK based Engineering & Manufacturing.

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