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Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: How to Move Beyond Compliance

Updated: Feb 1

a large group of diverse people

You know you need to have diversity and inclusion policies to meet compliance standards, but are you really fostering an inclusive culture in your organisation? Having the policies in place is one thing, truly embedding diversity and inclusion into your company culture is another. If you want to move beyond box-ticking and token gestures and see the real benefits of a diverse, inclusive workforce, it’s time to walk the walk.

Promoting diversity and inclusion isn’t just a matter of avoiding legal trouble or filling quotas, it's about creating a culture where people feel respected, valued and heard, which leads to greater creativity, innovation and productivity. Your people will be more engaged and motivated, and your company reputation will get a boost too, all of which impacts your bottom line.

For small businesses in particular, building an inclusive culture where diverse talents can thrive is crucial to success. The good news is, you don’t need huge resources or budgets to make a big difference. With meaningful policies, open conversations and leading by example, any organisation can take steps towards building an inclusive culture where everyone can do their best work.

Why Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Matters for Your Business

As an employer, promoting Equality, Diversity and inclusion (EDI) in your workplace isn’t just a box-ticking exercise. EDI initiatives can have real benefits for your business.

● Attract and retain top talent. People want to work for companies that share their values. By fostering an inclusive culture, you’ll appeal to a wider range of candidates.

● With a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, your employees can bring different perspectives to problem solving and decision making. This boosts creativity and innovation.

● Better understanding of customers. A diverse workforce that reflects your customer base will help you gain valuable insights into their needs and priorities. You can tailor your products and services accordingly.

● Increased productivity. When employees feel respected and valued, they are happier and more motivated. This leads to higher job satisfaction, less absenteeism, and increased productivity.

● Avoid legal issues. Promoting equal opportunities and protecting employees from discrimination will help ensure you operate legally and ethically. This minimises the risk of legal action from employees or regulatory bodies.

In summary, EDI isn’t just a moral issue, it’s a business imperative. Valuing diversity and fostering an inclusive culture where everyone can achieve their full potential will benefit both your employees and your company’s bottom line. The rewards of getting EDI right far outweigh the resources required.

Conducting a Diversity Audit to Assess Where You Are

To build a truly inclusive culture, you need to know where you currently stand. Conducting a diversity audit will uncover any problem areas and help set priorities for improvement.

A diversity audit analyses your existing policies and procedures to identify barriers to inclusiveness. Are your job ads gender-biassed? Do your parental leave policies disadvantage same-sex couples? Are advancement opportunities equally available to all? Reviewing hiring, compensation, promotion, and retention data by gender, ethnicity, disability status, and other factors can reveal hidden inequities.

Once you understand where the gaps are, you can develop strategies to close them. This may include:

● Revising policies and procedures to avoid discrimination

● Implementing unconscious bias training for hiring managers and interviewers

● Setting diversity targets and holding managers accountable for progress

● Improving work-life balance and flexibility to accommodate diverse needs

● Sponsoring networking and mentoring programmes for underrepresented groups

● Ensuring an inclusive company culture where people feel respected and valued

A diversity audit and action plan signals your commitment to building an equitable workplace. It can boost employee satisfaction and retention, especially among marginalised groups. And in today’s social climate, inclusive policies and practices are increasingly expected by customers, clients and business partners.

Your customers

50% of customers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by an organisation’s support for equality. Diverse companies have the ability to build more authentic customer relationships, which can have a positive impact on sales and revenue. (Deloitte 2018).

Your investors

Studies by McKinsey & Company find that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially, with a direct correlation identified between a diverse workforce and higher profits.

Your people

3 in 4 job seekers value EDI as top priority. Nearly a third of employees and job seekers (32%) would not apply to a job at a company where there is a lack of diversity among its workforce. (Glassdoor 2020).

By 2023, millennials will be the biggest cohort in the global workforce and will occupy the majority of leadership roles. According to Deloitte, 75% of millennials 'believe their organisation is more innovative when it has a culture of inclusion', and 47% actively look for diversity and inclusion when seeking employment.

Moving beyond compliance and tokenism means fostering an environment where people of all backgrounds can contribute and advance. The diversity audit is a pivotal first step on that journey toward inclusion. With an evidence-based strategy and the will for real change, you can get there.

Setting Diversity and Inclusion Goals Aligned With Your Values

To set effective diversity and inclusion goals, you need to align them with your company values. Think about what diversity and inclusion really mean to your organisation. Are you simply aiming to meet compliance standards or do you want to foster an equitable and inclusive work environment?

Your goals should reflect your key values and priorities. For example:

● If equality is a top value, set goals around recruiting and promoting underrepresented groups. Track metrics like the diversity of candidate pools and internal promotions.

● If inclusiveness is key, focus on initiatives that promote allyship and stamping out microaggressions. You could set goals around mandatory inclusive leadership training and anonymous employee engagement surveys.

● If innovation is a priority, leverage diverse perspectives and experiences. Set goals for diverse interview panels and project teams. Measure outcomes like increases in creativity or problem solving.

To determine the right goals for your company, examine your current challenges and opportunities. Talk to employees from underrepresented groups about their experiences and what they need to feel supported. Their insight can help shape meaningful and impactful goals.

Review your goals regularly to ensure they remain aligned with your values as they evolve. Meeting compliance should never be the end goal. Keep striving to build a truly inclusive culture where all employees feel they belong.

With the right goals in place, you'll be well on your way to real progress on diversity and inclusion. But remember, it's an ongoing process that requires continuous effort and commitment. Keep listening, learning and improving to make your workplace a place where people's differences are celebrated and valued.

Implementing Impactful EDI Policies and Programmes

To move beyond basic compliance, you need to implement impactful EDI policies and programmes. As a business owner, manager or HR professional, it’s crucial that you understand why these policies matter and how they benefit both your people and the business.

Hiring and Recruitment

Your hiring process sets the foundation for a diverse, inclusive workforce. Review job postings for biased language and make sure they explicitly welcome candidates from underrepresented groups. Use a diverse range of channels to source candidates. Train hiring managers on inclusive interviewing and make sure interview panels themselves are diverse. Implement a fair, objective process for screening and evaluating candidates.

Career Development

Once you have a diverse range of talent, focus on retaining and developing those employees. Provide leadership and professional development opportunities for underrepresented groups. Set up mentorship programmes that specifically support and encourage diversity. Review your promotion and succession planning processes to make sure opportunities are being offered equitably across all groups. Your people need to see a path forward for their careers, so make sure underrepresented groups have the same access to upward mobility.

Policies and Procedures

Examine all your people policies and procedures to identify and remove systemic barriers. For example, your flexible working policy should accommodate needs around childcare, eldercare, disability, and religious observance. Your dress code policy should respect cultural and religious attire. Harassment and discrimination policies must be clearly communicated, with proper reporting and investigation procedures. Employees from all groups should feel respected and supported.

Understanding the needs of each individual employee is important

An article in People Management, explains that " Typically, most workplaces are designed with a neurotypical society in mind, which can make it very difficult for neurodivergent employees to thrive at work, as a traditional environment can be more challenging or uncomfortable."

"Neurodivergent employees can bring unique skills and talents to the workplace – such as creativity, problem solving, innovation, attention to detail, seeing things outside the box – provided they are in a workplace they find comfortable. It is therefore essential for employers to recognise their skills and talents and ensure they are supported.

Making diversity and inclusion a priority at your company is not just a compliance issue, it’s a business and people issue. With thoughtful policies and programmes in place, you'll build a culture where employees from all backgrounds can contribute, develop and advance their careers. That is how you move beyond compliance to real impact."

Leadership Styles

A blog by the charity Diversity and Ability explain that "your leadership style doesn’t just dictate how you lead your team. It also has a direct impact on how diverse and inclusive your organisation is. Some leadership styles may end up undermining and conflicting with your diversity and inclusion measures. But, with the right leadership style, you’ll naturally foster a workplace that feels inclusive for all."

Measuring Progress and Staying Accountable Over Time

To truly move the needle on diversity and inclusion, you need to measure your progress and hold yourself accountable. As a business owner or HR leader, you've put in the work to develop robust policies and programmes, but now it's time to determine if they're actually making a difference.

Track Key Metrics

Look at data, for example:

● The diversity of your workforce over time. Are you maintaining or increasing representation of women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and other groups?

● Promotion and pay rates across demographics. Are people from underrepresented groups advancing and being compensated fairly?

● Retention rates. Are people from minority backgrounds staying with your company at similar rates? High turnover may indicate problems.

● Survey results. Regularly survey your employees on their experiences with diversity, inclusion and company culture. Look for trends that show improvement or highlight ongoing issues.

Review and Revise

Once you have data, review your policies and initiatives to determine what's working and what needs refinement. Some questions to ask:

● Do our hiring practises truly give candidates who are neurodivergent or from all backgrounds a fair chance?

● Are there gaps in our inclusion programmes? Do we need to provide more mentoring, education or community outreach?

● Are there ways we can improve accessibility and accommodation for employees and customers with disabilities?

● Do any teams or departments continue to lack diversity? If so, how can we address it?

Making progress on diversity and inclusion is a journey, not a destination. Regular

measurement and review will help ensure you stay on the right path over the long run. While it may feel uncomfortable at times, maintaining accountability will lead to meaningful, long-term change. Stay committed, make adjustments as needed, and keep striving to build a truly inclusive culture.

Walk the Walk

So there you have it. Making real progress on diversity and inclusion is about walking the walk, not just talking the talk. It's time to move beyond ticking the compliance boxes and token gestures and get serious about building an inclusive culture where everyone feels respected, valued and belong.

Review your policies, revisit your hiring and promotion practices, start listening to your employees, and be willing to make meaningful changes based on what you hear. The effort will be well worth it. An inclusive, equitable work environment where people from all backgrounds can thrive and advance will lead to greater creativity, innovation, and business success.

The future is diverse - make sure your company is ready for it.

For HR resources that will help support your people, whilst protecting the organisation, take a look at our resource page:

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