Best practice for cultivating diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace

By Karima Green, Global Diversity, Inclusion and Employee Engagement Lead, Specialist Staffing Group (the US division of SThree)  

The world is focused on what the future of work looks like in a new normal. But how can businesses concentrate on building a better normal – one that has diversity and inclusion at the heart of it? During our recent virtual roundtable, we brought together a host of industry experts to discuss best practices when it comes to cultivating diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Take a look at some of the biggest takeaways that our panellists advised on…

Firstly, we have to understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Diversity and inclusion really are key to unleashing the true power of your workforce. People with the skills, talent, and mindset to build a better future aren’t going to think, look, and act exactly the same – it’s only through diversity of people that STEM can fulfill its potential and solve the complex problems our world is facing right now. And it’s only when people feel included and part of a community that they’re able to unleash their full potential. Diversity and inclusion are two separate components that must work together.

D&I shouldn’t be seen simply as a functional entity within your business or purely as a strategic element of your business model. It has to run authentically throughout the DNA of your organisation or else the impact simply won’t be felt. It must exist in all aspects of your organisations models – in process, policy and practice. Choosing – or in turn not choosing – to prioritise D&I is the difference between effective and ineffective leadership. D&I needs to be role modelled by senior leaders – they need to be vocal about their personal relationship with diversity to make it succeed with credibility and authenticity

Next, make sure you understand the challenges to D&I

Many employers and companies  don’t understand the actual problems they’re facing. Unwillingness from leaders to ask themselves the big, and sometimes difficult, questions can prevent positive change from being realised. For example, “Could our company culture be the real blocker here?”. If companies don’t solve these problems from the outset, they’re setting themselves up for a fall before they’ve even started.

Many companies approach D&I from the wrong angle and don’t equip themselves with the right tools or resources. You can’t just buy D&I training and think that the job has been done – it’s critical that leaders think about the status of their business, the impact they want to have, how this aligns to their values, and how it’s going to flow through their company. Creating a more diverse and inclusive workspace is about changing mindsets and there isn’t a quick fix for leaders if they want to get it right. Organisations need to be in it for the long haul, invest and be persistent with challenging the status quo.

Focus on retention, not just attraction

Leaders have to think about the full employee journey if they want to foster a more diverse and inclusive workspace. Often, businesses will acknowledge a problem that needs to be fixed and concentrate on recruitment. But this isn’t a comprehensive solution.

Businesses need to focus on the efforts required to keep a diverse pool of people in their organisation – and this goes back to company culture. Investing in programmes such as reverse mentoring programmes where senior leaders are mentored by those from different diverse backgrounds to give them insight into their experiences and more importantly to give those from diverse backgrounds a voice in the boardroom. It isn’t just about getting people through the door, it’s key that businesses create a culture that allows diversity to thrive in an authentic fashion if they want to keep these individuals. Take time to understand what their people want – they can do this through providing a safe space to hear the voices of their people and to understand their lived experiences to be able to change for a better future. Invest in Employee resource groups for support and ensure there is sponsorship and advocacy from senior leadership in those sessions.

Understanding the importance of data

Visibility is key – as Meme Styles, Founder and President at MEASURE Austin, said, “You can’t change what you can’t see.” It’s absolutely critical that businesses have a full overview of what’s going on in their organisation. There are multiple data points that can be assessed on a quantitative (e.g. leaver data) and qualitative level (e.g. focus groups or engagement surveys), but organisations can also use demographic data and social network analysis. If leaders assess how the information flows through an organisation, then they can control who has visibility over what’s actually going on and use this to create actionable change.

Our latest STEM Series event included insights from Morgan Kavanagh, Executive Vice President, Specialist Staffing Group, Karima Green, Global Diversity, Inclusion & Engagement Lead, SThree PLC, Mark Irvin, Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer, Best Buy Co. Inc., Meme Styles, Founder and President, MEASURE Austin, and Ngoc Nguyen, D&I Program Manager, Wintrust Financial Corporation.

Watch the event in full in our recording: