The face of the UK is changing, and fast. To embrace this within the professional environment, businesses have worked hard over the last decade to create diversity within their workforce. However, while many organizations have taken big steps towards creating diversity, many have either ignored or not yet figured out how to make the business environment inclusive.
Part of the problem is that “diversity” and “inclusion” are so often lumped together that they’re assumed to be the same thing and when diversity is achieved, their job is done. But that’s just not the case. Policies alone are not enough to build an inclusive workplace, and inclusion shouldn’t be a box-ticking exercise.
Diversity is about being open to people who are different, who come from different places, who have different life experiences and different perspectives whether that’s because of their age, disability, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation or other factors.
Inclusivity on the other hand, at its most basic level, is about ensuring no one feels left out because of those differences. It’s about retention, loyalty, growth and ultimately an inclusive working environment that fosters collaborative working as one team, no matter who you are.
Diversity without inclusion is a massively missed opportunity and is the main driver stopping employees sharing ideas, innovation and thriving for career progression and promotion. But diversity with inclusion provides a potent mix of talent retention and engagement.
So what steps can be taken to ensure you have not only a diverse but an inclusive working environment?
Learn – Leaders need to walk the talk and set a standard for the rest of the organisation, including, and potentially most importantly, to line managers. The all-important middle manager needs to be not only aware of diversity and inclusivity, but they need to be trained and equipped with the right knowledge and tools to make it a reality amongst the wider workforce.
Talk – Talking about diversity and inclusivity is never going to land well, as employees think they’ve heard it all before. Find ‘champions’ within the business and create forums, focus groups or feedback processes to give your employees the platform to talk.
Listen – Listening to your workforce is the most powerful way of assessing how employees feel, but don’t just say your listening, the important part is acting on what is being said. This will make employees feel valued and that their voice is being heard.
Measure – It’s easy to measure diversity: It’s a simple matter of headcount. But quantifying feelings of inclusion is slightly more challenging. You need milestones, not abstract goals. Whilst it’s hard to measure how people feel, which essentially is what inclusivity is, the route to achieve this is the staff survey. Make sure it includes questions that allow you to index diversity and inclusion to build a richer picture.
So whilst many companies have made strides forward in achieving a diverse workforce, it’s time to talk about inclusivity.