The murder of George Floyd earlier this year sparked a new wave of discussions on race; shining a much needed light on how organisations can better practice diversity & inclusion, not just for Black people and People of Colour (POC) but across the spectrum of diverse identities.
Rightly, recent discussions have focused on equity and how to ensure marginalised groups in the workplace have equal access to opportunities and resources, but the broader business case for diversity and inclusion (D&I) has been present for a while, with lots of research that points to improved business performance, creativity and innovation and ultimately a healthier culture and engaged employees. Who doesn’t want to do good, create good and also perform better as a business?
Imagine a workplace where:
- Your people are actively involved in and participate in generating novel, creative ideas
- Different perspectives are truly listened to and heard, leading to better ‘stress testing’ of key decisions that affect your people and your consumers
- Inclusive design runs through the way you deliver products and services, helping you tap into new markets and consumer groups
Previously, many smaller businesses have taken a fairly passive approach to their own D&I agenda due to having limited resources and urgent pressures including hiring & training. However, it’s now well understood that a coherent D&I approach actually helps to improve hiring and development, rather than be seen as a distraction or add-on. More and more smaller businesses recognise that integrating D&I at the outset will help to build the types of business and cultures we all want to be a part of.
- But where to start?
- How much should you attempt and how quickly?
- How do you know it’s working?
We enlisted the help of Dee Jas, Founder of colourfull, a D&I consultancy and media platform that aims to create inclusion in the workplace and beyond for the LGBTQ community, People of Colour and those that sit at the intersection of two. They do this through a combination of data, storytelling and design thinking and work with a range of clients, including creative, tech and smaller businesses.
Q: Dee, for context, how would you broadly categorise the key considerations for a business looking to benefit from greater diversity and inclusivity?
A: Jumping straight into it, there are 5 things smaller businesses can start doing to begin their D&I journey or to further the work they already do.
Hiring: Improving Representation
If you look around and can see a ‘type’ of person that your company hires, chances are unconscious bias and stereotyping are rearing their ugly heads. This is the moment to really review your hiring process end to end – all the way from attraction and how you find people to the decision making processes along the way. Simple things can include transparency on what your selection process will look like to standardised criteria to enable structured decision-making. These simple things can go a long way in making hiring processes more equitable.
There are brilliant platforms to help you do this, but a simple survey monkey with key questions can help you get a better sense of how inclusive your workplace actually is. CultureAmp and Survey Monkey actually have templates you can use to run an Inclusion survey. Top tip is to ask people to declare their demographic data to better understand how different groups feel about their experiences in the workplace. If you can change the experience for those who feel least included, by definition you’ll be making things better for all – so prioritise your energy and action carefully.
Equity over equality
We can’t achieve true inclusion if we’re not willing to ‘right’ some of the imbalances in the system which hold certain demographic groups back. An example is the gender pay gap legislation and how that’s forcing businesses to look at disparities and take action. This is a useful lens to apply to reward to understand if your pay systems and decisions are truly fair and objective – and the methodology is freely available to help you get started and take a look. Other forms of equitable practice may include offering targeted development for underrepresented groups such as mentoring or sponsorship to ensure they are seen, heard and valued.
Conversations make a difference
Conversation, shared language and connection facilitate inclusion. As we saw this year, the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement forced uncomfortable conversations about race. Holding space for conversations on all things diversity, equity and inclusion is a free, yet powerful way of sending signals to your people about the organisation you are and the importance of D&I to your business. By not talking about it, you’re missing an opportunity to connect with your organisation more deeply and instill that D&I is everyone’s business – not just the HR team.
Data & Measurement
Identify 3 – 5 things that you’ll track and measure to understand your progress. Data is your friend, my friend! In the absence of it, what are you aiming for and how do you know if you’re doing well? Reflect on what things to track that are relevant to your business, its size and your strategy. If you’re in growth mode, it makes sense to look at hiring data and so forth. Finding relevant measures is what’s key here rather than overwhelming yourself with a dashboard that no-one looks at.
Q: Many business leaders struggle with the idea of communicating about D&I given the sensitivity of it. What are the basic principles behind kicking-off an effective D&I plan and enrolling the whole team in the process?
A: Firstly, establish your ‘why’ – why do you care about D&I? Why is it important to your business? You have to be honest and authentic before beginning work in this area, be ready to embrace some discomfort in the knowledge that it’s to create positive change. It’s also important to be data driven – what is your data telling you and how are you using that to shape action. Finally, keep the energy alive through updates, celebration and being honest when things haven’t gone well. This is about progress, not perfection.
Q: You mention the value of data, should leaders collate this data before implementing any changes or are there some things they should be actioning right away?
A: Short answer is no, they can happen concurrently. As an example, if you look around your workplace and can see that Black people and POC underrepresented, then get started in taking action. Most leaders tend to know where they’re not doing well and/or where best practice and some experimentation may be worth testing in the absence of a data set. The key is to have an honest conversation with your Head of HR and/or the Leadership Team on this subject because trust me, everyone has a point of view! That will highlight where you can be stronger and where to begin your efforts with this meaningful work.
Q: Is the foundation of a good D&I agenda in diverse hiring or in inclusion? Which is a better starting point and why?
A: The foundation is equity. Equity will lead to everyone feeling truly included and equitable hiring processes will increase diversity. But it’s also tough and requires us to apply a user centred approach (much like product teams) in understanding the needs of marginalised groups and how existing policies, processes and systems impact them. Equity is the key, so work hard to de-bias the workplace and experiment in making your people processes more equitable – listening to your people is a great start.
Q: If a small business got in touch with colourfull looking to invest 3% of their 2021 HR budget in D&I, what would you recommend to them?
- Gather some meaningful data that helps you differentiate how different groups of people experience your workplace. In the absence of that, your efforts will be generic.
- Invest in learning and education on subjects relating to D&I beyond unconscious bias training. Help people understand concepts such as power and privilege, facilitate conversations and embed this learning throughout the employee journey. Specifically, work with managers in how to create psychological safety and build diverse teams.
- Experiment with your obvious challenges – doing something is better than doing nothing. There is no silver bullet for this type of work nor a single ‘right’ answer. Try new things, be that using new systems, redesigning processes, etc.
- Hire colourfull …… just kidding!
Q: What is a sensible point in time to actively consider the success of their efforts, and how would they know if they’re working?
A: To truly see the impact of D&I efforts, you need a minimum of 6 months and realistically a year to measure any meaningful change. D&I work is culture change work, it’s about creating a shift in the way people think, feel and act towards others so we have to (paradoxically) be both patient and bold, to course correct if things are not working well and to focus the mind on the right measures to assess progress. I’d advise a small company to pick 2-3 big things that are obvious D&I challenges to solve and to simply go for it – it’s about creating a ripple effect that leads to wider change.