In our latest people agenda forum, Maddie Wollerton Blanks was joined by Addison Barnett from Inclusive Employers and an expert panel to explain how you can approach it.
There's been a big societal shift around inclusion and diversity (I&D) in the past five years: it's moved from a 'nice to have' to a key strategic objective that's central to attracting and retaining talent. Inclusion is for everyone. Businesses understand that, and in the conversations we're having with leaders we're hearing a strong commitment to taking their organisations on this journey – but there’s also a lot of fear around their responsibility for showing the way.
Leaders are used to being the person who knows what to say and do about issues where they're the expert. With I&D, silence isn't an acceptable response, but the solution isn't a list of tasks. It's a set of principles that will help you know how to decide what to do.
If you're moving everyone forward then you're going in the right direction.
Use data to make decisions
Data is still really poor in I&D. It's probably the only business area where we don't use data to make decisions.
What you need to decide is ‘what data are we going to capture’ and ‘how are we going to use it to make those decisions’. There's no silver bullet and it's not going to grab the headlines, but building that basic data infrastructure can be a great enabler.
Start with the baseline
You need to capture your baseline data. If you haven't done anything related to I&D yet then it's the perfect time to do it because in a year, when you have made changes, and you measure it again you can say 'oh, look, we've moved'. If you don't have that initial baseline it's so hard to show your progress.
There can be a nervousness around data and I&D because it may require a different skillset from what we traditionally associate with working in the culture or people space, but you do need to get a handle on it. We readily assume decisions in finance and other functions are based on 'hard numbers', but I&D can be measured, and should be, regularly. You can legitimise I&D across the business if you show that you are making decisions based on data.
When you combine data around diversity, with responses on inclusion and engagement you can get some actionable results. The key is trust though. In our own experience of analysing and feeding back on data collected for other organisations we've found that people are more comfortable to disclose externally than to their own employer.
When you ask your people for their data related to I&D, you're asking for their trust, so you need to make the best use of it. Be clear about your top priorities and how to use the data to tweak what you're doing to deliver them. It's about building the evidence base to align your business to the vision.
Celebrating what you are doing right
I&D is an area where it can feel hard to celebrate. But it's a journey and there's a lot of value in saying this is the road and we're happy about the steps we're taking along it.
What did the panel say?
Laurie Eggleston, Employee benefits
"Benefits can play a key part of a wider I&D strategy. Benefits packages need to be designed for people at different life stages, for instance, assisting older employees with things like retirement options, menopause support or healthcare. Does your company’s benefits reflect the needs of diverse family types? A benefits portal allows employees to choose from a much broader range of the benefits, selecting those that are right for them at their current lifestage. It also allows them to access wellbeing help confidentially and anonymously."
Adil Hafidi, Talent Solutions
"There are many misconceptions around apprenticeships. Firstly, that they're just for early careers or associated with certain trades, but there are around 600 qualifications available for every stage, including leadership. They may be seen as a lesser alternative to traditional higher education, but degree apprenticeships are getting a lot of traction with employers now, and are a great way to find, attract and develop talent. You may also assume that if you don't have them in place already, new apprenticeship schemes are really hard to get off the ground, but there are some fantastic providers in the market and Grant Thornton has extensive experience to help you navigate this space."
Kayla Thwaite, Management development trainer (Inclusive Employers)
"Leaders are nervous that they're going to say the wrong thing, but what's worse is saying nothing. Employees will fill the silence with their own stories, or their own truth, and the conclusion they come to may be that you don't care. There are three things that leaders need to do: the starting point is yourselves – you need to know where you are before you can do anything else. But you also need to ensure that everyone, from your most junior people to middle managers, who uphold the culture of your organisation, have the right skills to navigate it themselves. Finally, it's about shifting your approach: from siloing I&D as a separate function to something that's baked into your entire organisation."
Katy Bond, Global mobility
"Mobility and diversity is really interesting, but it does depend on what type of business you are. There are international businesses who may have the opportunity to bring employees from other countries into their UK organisation. That can be a great way to bring people in who have a different experience of working for your business and can bring diversity of thinking, but these placements tend to be for quite a short time. We're also seeing more and more businesses that aren't international, who are looking to expand their talent pool by recruiting people from overseas. You do need to think about how these feed into your data; how inclusive was their experience?
Whether a business is international or not, you are likely to have remote working and we do know that inclusion is harder for these people: do they get the same access to leadership and skills training? There are definitely ways you can utilise mobility to enhance your diversity agenda, but you have to think carefully about how you can make the most of these benefits on a long term basis."
Watch the webinar recording
Watch the webinar recording on demand to listen to everything that Maddie, Addison, and the panel had to say about building an inclusive workplace.