Enabling authenticity

Belton Flournoy explains why confidence of employees is linked to business success

For an organisation to effectively support authenticity, they must first understand “the why”. Why are women’s networks needed? What does an LGBT+ group do for my company? We have a diverse office, is a multicultural network truly needed? What are the business drivers my organisation will achieve through the family network?

These questions are typical for most organisations, and while important, they do miss a bigger issue: culture. Does the culture within your organisation enable people to be their authentic selves? Are we asking our employees how they feel while working within our organisation to confirm they feel supported?

The Confidence at Work survey conducted by Protiviti in September 2017 looks at what factors impact our confidence at work, and included factors across age, gender, race and orientation.

Among the key highlights of the findings include 47 per cent of non-LGBT respondents indicating gender as being the greatest factor impacting their confidence at work (this number increases to 94 per cent among female respondents).

This was then followed by age, which was mentioned by 42 per cent of the non-LGBT respondents. Among LGBT respondents, both sexuality (40 per cent) and age (40 per cent) topped the list.

What is probably most surprising from these results is the fact that age was such a pervasive factor across the respondents impacting their confidence levels at work.

Confidence at work impacts us all and it is an important part of career progression, both in terms of rank and pay. It may feel unnatural for some, however with the right support network, many people can find ways to enhance their confidence and ability to command at the workplace. Success is often seen by individuals who act self-assured and display high levels of confidence at work.

A survey conducted by Feel Good Contact Lenses indicated that 14 per cent of their respondents indicated they had missed out on a promotion due to a lack of faith in their own ability and 35 per cent said they lack the confidence to ask for a pay rise at work. When looking at these surveys in combination, it is easy to see that some people, due to their gender or sexuality, might naturally start at different places due to lack of confidence.

“Every single person has a role to play within their organisations”

The Protiviti Confidence at Work results also indicated that almost 90 per cent of respondents are currently aware of diversity initiatives within their firm, with 75 per cent of them feeling there is adequate training or support around equality and diversity within the firm. While it is clear that there is more room to provide better support through training within companies, it is good to see such a high number of people who are “aware” of these initiatives.

Further, new diversity initiatives, such as the United Nations “HeForShe” campaign, and the rise of diversity companies, such as OUTstanding, HERoes and EMpower, seem to be responding to a growing industry trend – the need for increased diversity within business.

London is taking notice as well. In July of 2017, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched what he called
the “Good Work Standard” – and he is encouraging companies across London to sign up. He believes businesses and employers of all shapes and sizes should become more diverse to reflect the ethnic make-up of the city. Currently, half of FTSE 100 companies do not have any BAME (Black, Asian, Minority or Ethnic) directors and fewer than ten per cent of these company directors are women.

The Mayor has asked London business leaders what goals the Standard should aim for, and it is believed that a pledge to encouraging diversity in the workplace will be included.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive of Virgin Money and a member of the Mayor’s Business Advisory Board, said: “I am passionate about the potential of business as a force for good and welcome the Mayor’s Good Work Standard. We cannot and must not build the success
of a few by exploiting the many. Business leaders have a responsibility to society and good business creates a virtuous circle for everyone. Strong business ethics, improved diversity and paying the living wage are just some of the ways in which we can restore trust in business, drive the economy and bring growing prosperity to everyone.”

Authenticity enables you to make more of an impact on your team, which benefits the organisation as a whole. Alessandro Ascani, Co-founder and COO of Emily Crisps, said: “Being true to myself and coming out as bisexual has not only led to greater productivity in me, but increased productivity and increased faith from my staff and employees. I want to make my business an organisation where people not only feel supported, but know they are.”

More than 80 per cent of the Confidence at Work respondents also felt supported by their peers and direct managers. However, this number dropped to less than 65 per cent when it comes to HR or upper management.

This means that every single person has a role to play within their organisations. Networks can help to be a catalyst for change, as too can providing the impacted groups with the ability to collaborate and have a voice. However only you as an individual has the ability to support a peer.

A simple way to effectively drive change is to show your support. If you are reading this article, and remember only one thing, let it be to visibly show your support for those around you. Leaders, show your support for the diversity groups within your organisation. Let that supporter be you.

Belton Flournoy is Senior Partnership Manager at Pride in London

This article first appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of LEAD.