Diverse organisations are successful organisations. This was the key takeaway for many business leaders following the publication of evidence to suggest that diverse workplaces see higher levels of innovation and even financial growth.
But a diverse workplace is more than just a money-making tool. An effective approach to DEI, or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, fosters a positive environment for employees where each member of the community feels acknowledged and empowered. This contributes to enhanced employee satisfaction, improved talent retention and better decision making.
So, a DEI initiative is a vital tool for the modern organisation to leverage — but it’s not something that can be put together overnight. Instead, it requires careful planning, consultation, and monitoring. Here are some of the most important considerations to make when implementing your DEI scheme.
1. Does it target both equality and diversity?
Firstly, you’ll want to get acquainted with some of the key concepts integral to a comprehensive DEI scheme. Namely, these are equality and diversity. On paper, they have similar connotations — but while they often go hand in hand, they are “not exactly the same”, so say DEI training consultants from EW Group.
They continue, “diversity training is all about understanding the positive nature of the differences between social groups, cultures and people, while equality training is about removing barriers to opportunity based on individuals’ characteristics.” Taking this one step further, the concept of equity recognises that not everyone has the same starting point and therefore removing barriers requires an anti-oppressive approach.
This is a vital distinction to understand if you’re going to implement a robust DEI initiative that incorporates both diversity and equality training.
Together, these training components help to build a workplace culture that puts acceptance and equitable practices first, eliminates discriminatory practices, and promotes equal access to opportunities for all members of staff.
2. Does it address the entire hierarchy of staff?
We are all subject to our own biases, whether conscious or not. So, one of the key elements of an effective DEI initiative is that it targets staff across every level across your organisation. While it may be tempting to push out blanket mandatory training, true inclusivity demands a different approach for stakeholders at each level of your business.
This is especially important as a good deal of hiring bias still exists at a managerial level — in fact, 96% of recruiters think that unconscious bias is a problem in recruitment, according to Agency Central. As a result, addressing every member of staff from entry-level positions to top decision-making executives is pivotal.
Plus, when executives champion diversity, it signals a top-down commitment that influences the organisation’s culture and ensures that diversity and inclusion are embedded in day-to-day operations.
3. Does it promote communication when remote working?
In 2023, the ONS reports that 44% of workers have home or hybrid working schedules. Following the pandemic and significant digital transformation efforts, more workplaces than ever before have pushed to go remote — but in turn, this could be making it more challenging to communicate effectively.
While remote working offers better flexibility, and some argue a superior work-life balance, it can inadvertently create communication gaps that can impede the exchange of diverse viewpoints or establishing of an inclusive work culture.
For example, remote work might impact access to opportunities for career advancement or participation in key projects. If certain individuals are not consistently included in discussions or are not part of the informal networks that often form in physical offices, they may miss out on career-enhancing opportunities. Organisations must implement strategies to prioritise intentional, open communication in the ‘digital workplace’ to support all employees in being heard and valued.
4. Do you review your policies regularly?
Implementing a thought-out DEI initiative that will stand the test of time is not a one-and-done effort. Like any company policy, you’ll need to revisit, reassess and refine your DEI efforts on an ongoing basis. This will ensure that your approach keeps abreast of changing workplace dynamics and your ambitions as an organisation.
Taking this approach will also demonstrate to your workforce that diversity and inclusion are no mere buzzwords for your organisation, but an integral part of your philosophy. Very often, we hear businesses shouting from the rooftops about their inclusive organisation culture, awards they’ve won, and policies they’ve enacted. But unless these are conducive to real, material change for the most affected employees at your business, they are hollow.
To measure the success of your policies, we recommend equality monitoring for protected characteristics like race, gender, faith, and sexuality in your hiring process, inspecting pay gap and promotion rates between different groups, and distributing regular employee surveys to gauge opinion.
This way, you can leverage insights about successes and areas for improvement to cultivate a genuinely diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture.