Despite much progress made across all facets of diversity and inclusion, there is still so much more to do. A recent report by the Irish Times revealed that the pandemic may erode years of progress for women, LGBTQ+, and those with disability. In the news, we also continue to see reports of harmful workplace behaviours, and as reported last month, even the arrival of division over vaccination status in Irish offices.
So what can you do to ensure positive action and significant progress in diversity & inclusion in your organisation? How can we bring this topic from discussion, to action?
What is diversity & inclusion?
Firstly, let’s start with the basics. The CIPD states that diversity is “about recognising difference. It’s acknowledging the benefit of having a range of perspectives in decision-making and the workforce being representative of the organisation’s customers.”
“Inclusion is where people’s differences are valued and used to enable everyone to thrive at work. An inclusive working environment is one in which everyone feels that they belong without having to conform, that their contribution matters and they are able to perform to their full potential, no matter their background, identity or circumstances.”
Why is it important?
Aside from the very clear importance of creating a working environment where all employees can feel welcomed, heard, and fairly recognised & rewarded, studies have shown that this positively affects productivity, morale and turnover. And in turn, guess what? It positively affects company performance.
“Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business statistically outperform their peers.”
– Josh Bersin. (Source – ideal.com)
And this sentiment is growing as we move through generations. Deloitte reports more than 80% of millennials feel that much more engaged with work when their employer provides a truly diverse workplace culture.
The legal basis
Although an effective diversity & inclusion strategy goes far beyond legal obligations, it is important to note the legal basis that provides the foundation for good practices.
Here in Ireland, the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 serve as they key legal foundation for diversity & inclusion in Irish workplaces, as they outlaw discrimination in a wide range of employment and employment related areas.
Some of the areas included are;
- recruitment and promotion
- equal pay
- working conditions
- training or experience
- harassment including sexual harassment
This legislation also highlights 9 grounds for discrimination, which are;
- Gender: this means man, woman or transgender
- Civil status: includes single, married, separated, divorced, widowed people, civil partners and former civil partners
- Family status: this refers to the parent of a person under 18 years or the resident primary carer or parent of a person with a disability
- Sexual orientation: includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual
- Religion: means religious belief, background, outlook or none
- Age: this does not apply to a person aged under 16
- Disability: includes people with physical, intellectual, learning, cognitive or emotional disabilities and a range of medical conditions
- Race: includes race, skin colour, nationality or ethnic origin
- Membership of the Traveller community.
Under this legislation, an employee is said to be discriminated against if they are treated less favourably than another employee is treated, has been treated or would be treated, in a comparable situation on any of the above 9 grounds.
This legislation also specifically covers topics such as reasonable accommodations for staff with disabilities, definitions around pregnancy-related discrimination, obligations under Gender Pay Gap reporting, and also outlines protections against victimisation.
So what can organisations do?
Any journey towards promoting, improving or embedding diversity & inclusion practices within an organisation must start with an holistic analysis of your company culture.
Our recommendation here is to set-up a cross-functional working group to drive your D&I agenda. Why a working group? Although HR can be the driver of these initiatives, for true success, this must be a project across all areas of the business. A cross-functional working group also allows for more diverse thought & insights (practice what you preach!)
When evaluating the current state of D&I in your organisation, consider asking yourself some of the following questions;
- Is our leadership team diverse & inclusive? Although inclusive practices are essential at every level of a business, leading by example should be a key priority. Take time to analyse diversity at senior level, how to improve this, and how to empower your senior leaders to champion the D&I agenda. Consider assigning one senior leader to sponsor the program.
- Are we focusing on demographic characteristics in our recruitment/promotion/reward processes? Consider rewriting job descriptions so they are gender-neutral and use words that strike a balance of gendered descriptors and verbs. Create a blind system of reviewing resumes so you don’t see “demographic characteristics.”
- Do we talk about a ‘right fit’ for our culture? If you’re company defines people by how they fit in to your culture, you’re potentially leaning in to a culture that excludes certain people. Focus more on helping those in your organisation flourish, and develop your ‘fit’ around this so that it reflects a positive culture.
- Do we use employee surveys effectively? Dig deeper when analysing employee surveys. Consider deep diving in to feedback, breaking it down by a number of respective factors (demographic, gender, ethnicity) as this may uncover issues which are felt by certain groups. This can help inform your efforts to tackle blind spots, that you may not have been aware of.
- Are we educating our leaders and employees on D&I? While one-off training can help inform practices, a culture of diversity & inclusion is ongoing. Consider focusing more on behaviour changes, and equipping employees with the skills to change habits and make improvements on a daily basis, for a more sustainable result.
- Are certain practices unconsciously exclusionary? Use your working group to identify possible blind spots in your usual business practice. For instance, is it possible to implement rolling holidays for those who don’t celebrate Christmas? Are your social events based around ‘nights-out’ and thereby excluding those who don’t/cannot consume alcohol due to religious beliefs or medical conditions?
- Is our employee base reflective of our customer base? If you have a hugely diverse customer base across various demographics, nationalities, and so on, take a minute to assess if that is reflected in your employee base. How can you better understand the needs of diverse audiences, if your own workplace culture isn’t diverse?
- Do we even have specific diversity goals? By goals, we don’t necessarily mean quotas. What we mean here is setting goals that can allow you evaluate if your culture encourages people to feel welcomed, heard, and fairly recognised & rewarded. Consider KPIs right across the employee experience such as NPS, communication channel usage, and even explicit D&I related questions in employee surveys. And of course, analyse longer term effects on turnover, retention, and company performance.
If you’re having trouble developing an effective D&I strategy in your organisation, the good news is, help is out there. Consider researching things like Business in the Community’s Elevate Pledge, or even getting started by taking some time to complete the CIPD’s Inclusion Health Checker tool.
Or why not join this month’s free webinar by Insight HR! Our webinar ‘What are you doing about diversity & inclusion?’ takes place on November 24th at 11.15am, and registration is now open!
After this webinar, you will be equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence to build an effective diversity & inclusion strategy for your business.
And as always, for further guidance and discussion about this, and many other topics, check out the resources below, or speak to our team today at 0567701060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.