How to put diversity top of the agenda

Five ways to implement a successful D&I strategy

Only a collective effort will enable diversity policy to be successful in practice, says Dr Jill Miller.

Promoting and supporting diversity, and creating a culture of inclusion in the workplace, is an important aspect of good people management.

Overcoming prejudice and challenging traditional workplace cultures can be difficult, but we can’t shy away from these conversations. While UK legislation sets minimum standards, an effective diversity and inclusion strategy goes beyond legal compliance and seeks to add value to an organisation, enabling everyone to achieve their potential at work.

A holistic approach is needed to ensure that all policies and working practices across the business are aligned with your D&I strategy. Screening your people management policies for bias and underpinning them with the principles of fairness, transparency and equal opportunity, they can help to foster an inclusive working environment at all levels that celebrates and encouraging difference.

HR is in a unique position to lead the design and roll out of a diversity and inclusion policy, but only a collective effort with the rest of the organisation will enable it to be successful in practice. Senior level support and role modelling of inclusive behaviours is essential, and line managers need to feel confident and capable to manage diverse teams.

A successful diversity and inclusion policy will be underpinned by the principles of equal opportunity, fairness and transparency; will ensure that merit, competence and potential are the basis for all decisions about recruitment and development, and be alert to the influence of conscious and unconscious biases.

It is also important to keep up-to-date with the law and review policies through checks, audits and consultation. The organisation should also be focused on the longer term, understanding that managing diversity is a continuous process of improvement, not a one-off initiative.

It isn’t difficult to implement a successful D&I strategy in your organisation:

1. Measure and improve. In order to understand the structural and cultural barriers to equal access and opportunities at play in your specific organisation, you must first understand the workforce. Working across the business, you can then use your people insight to drive change at a much quicker pace.

2. Get sponsorship. Ensure that initiatives and policies have the support of the board and senior management. However, it’s also important to recruit diversity and inclusion advocates from across all levels of the organisation.

3. Communicate effectively. Policies need to be supported with a well-communicated value system reflecting the importance of diversity and inclusion. It’s also important to encourage employee voice to help to shape and inform your diversity approaches.

4. Train those at the front. Design guidelines and provide training for line managers to help them respond appropriately to the diverse needs of your workforce. They are vital change agents, but also need scope for flexible decision-making.

5. Be inclusive. It’s important not just to focus on inclusion of your existing workforce, but of the diverse workforce you want to have and customer base you hope to reach. In addition, we all have multiple identities and they overlap – it’s therefore important to be aware of this intersectionality and examine progression barriers through multiple lenses.

Diversity of perspective can improve decision-making, support innovation, and enable businesses to better understand and meet the needs of a diverse customer base. If we enable all of our people to reach their full potential, then everyone stands to benefit.

Dr Jill Miller is Diversity and Inclusion Adviser at the CIPD.

For more on the business benefits of a diverse workforce, see the launch issue of LEAD.

 

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