The importance of improving diversity – now!
It has been over 2 months since the killing of George Floyd in the US, and the impact continues to be felt worldwide.
I’m sure we’ve all seen or heard news of the solidarity marches and gatherings that have taken place from Sydney to Beirut to Istanbul to London to Berlin.
And I’m sure you can’t fail to have noticed how Black Lives Matter, a slogan and hashtag coined some seven years ago in the United States to draw attention to police abuses against African Americans, has been trending globally on social media networks and among protesters on the streets.
Statues have been taken down, programmes with ‘racially sensitive’ content have been removed from streaming services, and the pressure is mounting on organisations across the globe to take a long hard look at their diversity and inclusion policies.
Inequality and a lack of diversity in the workplace are certainly not new topics, but the recent protests have prompted companies to speak out, condemning racism, and recommitting to doing better when it comes to fostering inclusive work environments.
I am fortunate to work with a number of clients within my recruitment business who are very tuned into how diversity in the workplace is essential to create a thriving business, especially when it comes to employee engagement. Workplace diversity encourages creativity and innovation because every team member, from leadership to frontline employees and mobile workers, brings a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to the table. Those unique viewpoints have a huge effect on every aspect of a company.
From a purely personal perspective, and as a recruiter, I only want to work with organisations that embrace this philosophy. As such, those that I work with are progressive and mindful, as they continually work to improve upon the great practices that they already have in place. In doing so, they create a culture whereby they can attract the best talent into their business. Those who choose not to change and encourage their leaders to do the same will fall behind, and in time their businesses will naturally miss out on great talent and fall by the wayside themselves.
So what needs to be done to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
I work with a number of clients who are really forward-thinking; they have been championing greater diversity in the workplace for a long time. They are organisations that are a pleasure to recruit for, and it makes my role so much easier to authentically promote them as fabulous companies to work for. That said, throughout the course of my 30+ years’ experience in recruitment, there have been times that I have walked away from business where I know that diversity and inclusion is not being adhered to. There is still plenty of work to be done.
We can all do more to ensure that our workplaces have no racial barriers to entry and are welcoming and inclusive environments.
I spoke to Han, an HRBP who works for one of my key clients, a global organisation and market leader in their field, as I was keen to dig a little deeper into the ways my clients are working to promote diversity and inclusion in their organisations. Han was kind enough to share insights on a number of topics (more of which I will share in future blog posts); for now, here’s what she said about how as an already progressive environment they are looking to embrace further improvements around diversity.
“I think the culture of an organisation is a big factor when candidates are looking for roles – it’s no longer just about the financial package available and the benefits, they want an environment where they can thrive, one that’s diverse and full of opportunities for development, a place that the younger workforce in particular can talk about on social media, a place where they feel welcomed and at home.
Diversity and inclusion plays a very strong role in our business. One of the ways in which we promote this is via our ethics helpline – if anyone feels as though there is something unethical happening from a diversity and inclusion perspective, they can contact the helpline anonymously.
On a larger scale, we’re implementing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which function like committees, that will be specifically for diversity and inclusion, made up of a mix of employees from different backgrounds and cultures. As well as looking at what is happening around us externally in our communities, the groups will be able to dive much deeper into the business and examine the diversity across various departments, question why some areas are less diverse than others, and look at ways to change that so that we become a more attractive place to work for people from BAME backgrounds.”
A great example of a company that is already very diverse but still working to improve upon that so that they can all learn from each other by sharing viewpoints and perspectives that reflect the different cultures, races and nationalities that make up their workforce.
How to adopt a more proactive approach to bring about diversity and inclusion in the workplace
- We must refuse to be silent on social movements such as Black Lives Matter and continue to do all we can to create working environments that make all races feel comfortable.
- Be open to understanding new experiences by making an effort to interact with people who don’t necessarily look like you; it is all too easy to find comfort in familiarity.
- When you listen to different perspectives, don’t listen to add your opinion; listen to understand and learn about the multifaceted experiences of those from different ethnicities. We are all human at the end of the day, with different backgrounds, classes, sexualities and so on, even within our races.
- If we want to see change, we have to be willing to discuss these issues to create a level playing field and a progressive environment.
- Ultimately, the real change starts internally. If a company does not have a diversity of employees in its team, there is not enough room for differing perspectives.
- There needs to be an understanding that diversity is a necessity rather than a trend and if we’re going to see meaningful change, it’s going to take a long-term commitment to self-reflection, education and some uncomfortable conversations.
- Regardless of our identity, background or circumstance, we all deserve the opportunity to develop our skills and talents to our full potential, work in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment, be fairly rewarded and recognised for our work and have a meaningful voice on matters that affect us.
Blog co-authored by Sarah J Naylor and Emma Sasai