What does diversity mean to you and your organisation? Is it a tick box exercise to ensure that you meet the legal requirements? Or is it embedded in your culture with an appreciation that it’s wider than the protected characteristics?

Diversity and inclusion seem to feature in most organisations’ strategy and goals but how many organisations actually ‘walk the walk’?  Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) conducted a benchmark study on diversity and inclusion and whilst they found three quarters of the responders identified ‘greater diversity and inclusion’ as one of the top goals of the organisation, only one third had specific programmes dedicated to overcoming unconscious bias. Only a quarter actively trained leaders in managing and leading diverse populations.

Not only is it morally the right thing to do, there’s also a strong business case. A 2018 McKinsey study ‘Delivering through diversity’ found that gender diversity is correlated with both profitability and value creation, and companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.

To retain talent, most organisations offer things like free tea and coffee, competitive benefits and bonuses, but none of these work to retain employees who don’t feel like they are included and feel they can’t be their authentic selves at work.  Imagine worrying about bringing your same sex partner to the company function, or a mother not wanting to put photos up of her children at work, in case she is questioned about her commitment to her job!  Employees who differ from their co workers in religion, sexual orientation, or socio-economic background, amongst many other differentials, often hide important parts of themselves at work – this is also called “covering”.

Unless you take the time to understand your employees you will never be an inclusive organisation. There are lots of ways to do this, including surveys, 121 conversations and focus groups – but remember if you’re in a minority group you will need to feel psychologically safe to speak up.

One of the key factors in creating a diverse organisation is having a diverse and inclusive recruitment and selection process.

Have you thought about describing the job and the work rather than the type of person that you are looking for?

Have you got checks and measures in place to ensure that unconscious bias is not being used in the recruitment process? Don’t hire only those that you feel will fit within the culture of the organisation and in line with the preestablished philosophy – that culture fit serves as a huge barrier to diversity and inclusion because we’re likely to hire people already similar to the people we employ, and to us!

Have you got a truly diverse hiring recruitment team?

So, what happens if we don’t change?

  • We remain with group think, rather than creative, innovative thinking and ideas, to enable growth.
  • We miss out on top talent from currently unrepresentative groups.
  • We won’t appeal to a wide range of consumers as they can’t relate to us
  • We have increased staff turnover

Remember diversity is a fact, inclusion is an action. So consider how you make yourself an employer of choice, one who creates an environment where people feel able to be their authentic selves, and valued for their unique talents and perspectives.

“When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become a wiser, more inclusive, and better organisation.”

– Pat Wadors, Chief Talent Officer at LinkedIn