Noun – ‘The state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities’.
‘Equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents. It is also the belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of the way they were born, where they came from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability’ – Equality and Human Rights Commission.
If we look back through history we’ll see endless examples of individuals who have experienced discrimination based on protected characteristics such as race, disability, sex and sexual orientation.
How do we currently manage Equality?
Starting in the 1970’s a number of acts of parliament were passed to protect everyone from discrimination on the grounds of their protected characteristcs. All of these acts of parliament were then combined in 2010 to become The Equality Act 2010.
In it’s essence The Equality Act 2010 prevents organisations as employers, education and service providers from discriminating against individuals protected characteristics.
Noun – ‘The state of being diverse’.
Diversity means more than just acknowledging and tolerating differences. To truly practice Diversity we need to:
- Build alliances across differences so that we can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination.
- Practice mutual respect for an individuals proclivities and experiences that are different from our own
- Understand that diversity includes not only ways of being but also ways of knowing
- Recognising that personal, cultural and institutionalised discrimination creates and sustains privileges for some while creating and sustaining disadvantages for others
- Understand and appreciate interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment
We all, as individuals, bring a diverse set of energies, perspectives, work and life experiences, as well as religious and cultural differences. By recognising these differences and learning to respect and value each individual we can unlock and benefit from the rewards.
Noun – ‘The action or state of including or being included within a group or structure’.
Inclusion is not a one-way street. It works two ways. Organisations need to make sure they instil an inclusive culture facilitating people to proactively engage. Feeling included is a sense of being a part of a community or organisation.
We now live in an era where innovation is the driving force behind beating the competitor and organisations now understand that they need to attract the best talent to succeed. Now we understand what Equality, Diversity and Inclusion mean where do we start in terms of ensuring that we as individuals as well as our organisations start to live by their meanings and reap the benefits?
Companies are now starting to wake up to the fact that in order to be innovative, and competitive they need to attract the best talent. To do that the environment needs to be set up with an inclusive culture, one that allows everyone to reach their full potential.
Research from the likes of McKinsey tells us that:
‘Diverse and inclusive teams are not just more innovative, companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns. And diversity is probably a competitive differentiator that shifts market share toward more diverse companies over time.’
Diversity is more than just about gender. Creating environments where different voices are not only heard, but encouraged is, today, becoming even more significant.
These voices may come from people who are not of the same gender, ethnicity or race Diversity in the workplace includes:
- Sexual orientation
- Socio economic background
- Religious affiliation
- Thinking style
The new way of thinking is more about the individual rather than the HR initiative. It needs to be taken into the wider business strategy, to become the innovation strategy and not just a tick in the box.
It has become very important to build an environment where every individual can bring their whole self to work, and to encourage them to draw upon their own unique experiences, thoughts and perspectives to help deliver business goals to and to build products and services that reflect the full markets organisations are trying to serve.
So what are some of the actions that a company should take to build inclusive work places that work for all?
Build an inclusive corporate culture where these different voices can be heard. Educate your leaders and celebrate employee differences. Remember what gets measured gets done, so goals need to be communicated and progress measured.
Commit with purpose and cascade. What does inclusion look like in your organisation. Communicate the what, the how and the why and engage and educate all employees on the purpose.
Change the meetings. If the same people are in the same room all the time – you will always get the same outcomes. Include a diverse group of people in the meetings and inspire new approaches and ideas.
And we need to engage men. When we strive for equality it is not about taking a slice from one person to give to another. Diversity is not a pie. Men can help to advocate real change and there are many excellent role models. Take Marc Benioff at Salesforce who assessed the gender pay gap across the company and then implemented the correction and change.
So leadership does of course matter and every single leader should model inclusive behaviour. We need to acknowledge the biases because we all have them whether conscious or unconscious. If they are acknowledged then the behavioural tendencies can be recognised and changes put in place.
Diversity is a mentality and not just a strategic imperative. It is a cultural movement and although it cannot be measured in the same way as most business metrics the key is in keeping the momentum going every day. As Neil Lenane tells us, ‘If you do not intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude”.
The challenge of getting a more diverse and inclusive workforce usually begins by asking how the playing field can be levelled, so that female employees get equal opportunities and comparable pay to their male counterparts. But this thinking makes a huge assumption and one that ultimately, takes us on the wrong path. It assumes that the ‘male counterparts’ are in an optimal position, where their working environment is as good as it can be. But thanks to employee surveys, Glassdoor reviews and employee engagement insights, we know that there is still a lot wrong with the current situation and so that begs the question – do we really want to give women the same experience?
The current people management strategies are systemically flawed – they continue to use lazy definitions of what is ‘fair’ and ‘equitable’ to the point where even those who are supposed to benefit most from the systems rarely do so.
Recruitment is the first main area that needs to be redefined – it is believed that the fairest way of finding and hiring talent is to cast your net as wide as possible, but this in turn creates the problem of having way too many candidates. From there, you follow a process of filtration and elimination based on the flimsiest of reasons – lack of certain keywords, too many pages on the CV, random luck of which ones get picked, gaps on the career history. This last one negatively impacts women to a large degree, who will have a clear gap on their history during periods of maternity leave and bringing up their children. In this format, the CV can never be truly ‘blind’ because things such as those listed above will be unconsciously and instinctively seen by hiring managers and will affect their decision, with all the best intentions in play.
None of the above examples of sorting through the applicants allow you to truly find the people who are going to bring the most value and future profitability to your organisation because in reality, the pool that has been used is far too broad and deep and the best you can hope for is to find someone who sort of fits the profile you are looking for in the small sample you skim from the long list of applicants, simply because there is no way to adequately assess every single applicant. If you receive 1000 applications, after the keyword searches and filtering is done, you may still have several hundred CVs that match all of your requirements, but the likelihood is that you are only reading and assessing a tiny proportion of that, maybe 20-30 CVs. In that smaller group, unless one of your search criteria is for women, the likelihood of you selecting a diverse group of candidates is extremely rare.
Your search and filtering criteria may also have a major design fault – you are searching for the same characteristics as the people who already work in your organisation … and so you get similar type of people. It might sound obvious, but if certain demographics are the majority in a workplace, then it is likely that you are going to inadvertently search for the same people – and then wonder why you are not attracting diverse talent.
For example, a 2018 study showed that the number of female law partners had not increased in the last 12 years and many organisations then began to try to attract female talent into senior positions. However, the criteria used included needing experience at senior level of several years, because that is what the (male) partners had to demonstrate for their progression to Partner. In this vicious cycle, there is an obvious problem – how can women break into senior roles for the first time if the pre-requisite is that they have done it before?
A broader point is that companies are focused on bringing in or developing more innovation and creativity, and yet because of this need for significant experience, end up hiring the people who have been in the industry for a long time, and who are used to the status quo. Whilst you may find the odd person able to think more innovatively, disruptors in every industry are showing that the real power comes from a lack of experience which allows you to ask the more basic questions that have stopped being asked. If you are only fishing in the same pond time and time again, eventually, you are going to stop catching any new fish and with it, potential new ideas.
If you are fortunate enough to attract in a diverse range of people to join your organisation, how do you keep them engaged and performing? There are some fantastic initiatives designed to help support diverse demographics, but they are usually managed as a separate workstream from the general employee engagement and talent management strategies. This leads to a lack of cohesion in goals, objectives and strategies, and it can lead to the assumption that the overall working environment simply needs a few tweaks, but diversity and inclusion requires a different focus and approach. Whilst there are obviously concerns that are specific to those demographics, it is also obvious that many people outside those groups also feel unhappy, disempowered and quite their jobs. The ‘otherness’ created by a separate diversity and inclusion strategy fails to acknowledge that everybody in the organisation have things they are unhappy about that are all valid concerns or worries, although possibly over different specifics.
We don’t solve diversity and inclusion issues by dealing with them separately to other engagement issues. We solve the other engagement issues and embed diverse and inclusive requirements directly into them, so that once resolved, there is no further work needed to cater for the diverse communities.
We need to picture people management differently in the future and part of that includes absorbing the diversity and inclusion agenda into the overarching vision for all of the workforce. By doing so, it forces us to consider different ways of finding, attracting, hiring and then managing the individuals that are the future of our businesses. We won’t find them in the same way that we do right now, and we won’t keep them the way we do now. The role of your teams going forward is going to inevitably and dramatically change, but this is an opportunity to find a truly equitable solution to how you show you value them.
To find out how The GC Index works with organisations to ensure the right culture is in place to support equality, diversity & inclusion you can see more from our CEO and Chief Polisher, Nathan Ott. In this keynote speech at The GSMA’s Women4Tech conference Nathan explains how The GC Index eradicates conscious and unconscious bias.