DE&I’s role as a fundamental and essential part of business has been much acknowledged in recent years and there is a general goodwill desire for diversity and inclusion amongst most leaders and workers who want the best for all of their colleagues. However, individuals are still being marginalised and their talents lie wasted. Businesses are still far from meaningful change and effective strategies, and are yet to see and reap the benefits of DE&I. This is despite DE&I being widely recognised as a competitive differentiator and indeed vital for a healthy, productive workforce, according to CEO of Serenity in Leadership, Thom Dennis.
Thom asked global DE&I experts what they believe is the single most important component needed to unlock diverse talent and generate inclusivity, going forwards in 2022.
- Understand that diversity without inclusion is ineffective. Racial justice facilitator Raggi Kotak says: “Come from an intersectional perspective so that you recognise the complexities. Be willing to challenge the traditional power structures to create more equitable solutions. Focus on what it really means for different groups to feel like they belong and show everyone that they are welcome and valued. Diversity in terms of numbers without inclusion, is ineffective and potentially damaging.”
- Don’t decide on behalf of other people about what they might need says Jane Hatton, CEO of Evenbreak, which helps employers attract and retain talented disabled candidates: “Involve the groups of people you want to include in the decision-making process. Don’t ‘silo’ different protected characteristics, base the DE&I strategy on intersectionality. People aren’t box-shaped, and don’t fit neatly into just one box. Also ensure the DE&I strategy carries as much weight as the business and financial plans. It needs to be embedded in the overall business strategy, not just a ‘bolt-on’ afterthought.”
- Shift inclusion from a compliance agenda to a business strategic agenda. Suzie Lewis, Founder and MD of Transform for Value agrees and says: “Look at the holistic system & processes – are the processes designed to reflect your ambition to be inclusive, or not? Make it tangible: what you are measuring, why are you measuring it and how you are making it visible to all employees so that they can take responsibility for nudging the system towards inclusion too. It is about changing the culture and the environment, not the people.”
- Clarity and purposeful measurement. Executive coach and co-founder of Lanellsohn, Edward Nelson says: “Do an equity audit so you actually know where the problems lie in your organisation so you can seek and activate profoundly effective solutions. C-suite buy-in, clarity on what DE&I means to that organisation and how you measure it are vital.”
- Self-awareness, self-awareness, self-awareness, according to COO of Serenity in Leadership, Roxy Finlayson. “Self-awareness needs to start with the most senior and influential in the business. We all have biases, unconscious and conscious, but without self-awareness we are the slaves to these biases. Self-awareness means knowing our strengths and weaknesses and values, which are needed for focused and intentional change on an individual level. After understanding that we can become more effective at tackling inequalities or discrimination as a collective.”
- Leaders need to role model to set the tone of a work environment according to Linda Crockett from The Canadian Institute of Workplace Bullying Resources who said: “Every business must have a confident, competent, cohesive leadership team that follows through consistently on policies and procedures to address prevention, intervention, and repair options in all areas of DE&I. Leaders need to consistently role-model their commitment to ethical practises and to building a psychologically safe work environment.”
- DE&I must be embedded into the company’s processes, values, and management according to Leadership and Organisational Development specialist, James Peal: “In order to embed, we must be continually communicating with under-represented groups to validate and adjust action plans. We must hold leaders accountable to living the DE&I vision and ask for evidence that they are making progress and changes. We must create the environment for every leader to be profoundly touched & transformed by DE&I so they can be a sustaining beacon for their organization.”
- We need openness and transparency. DE&I facilitator, speaker and coach, Gamal Turawa, agrees and says: “The most important components for a successful DE&I strategy are openness and transparency, regular evaluation and external scrutiny and support and a clear vision of the path to follow and why.”
- We need to recognise that we bring our whole selves to the workplace. Stacy Moore, Chartered Educational Psychologist and Director of Inner Circles Educational Psychology, says “Organisations need to stop assuming that because employees have a parent/carer role that they are incapable or unlikely to want to excel professionally, and to stop penalising them for having children. We need to work to create a culture of healthy respect for employees’ family choices, providing practical and psychological support where necessary, to enable and support them during one of the toughest life transitions, parenthood.”