Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) – practical ways to reap the benefits

EDI is no longer something just the big companies do to tick boxes. A company of all available talents delivers better performance. Here’s why, and some practical steps that smaller companies can take.

First, the terminology. In short, the Chartered Institute for People Development (CIPD) says that:

  • Equality ensures everyone has equal opportunities, regardless of their background, identity or experience.
  • Diversity recognises that, though people have things in common with each other, they are also different in many ways.
  • Inclusion is where those differences are seen as a benefit and where perspectives are shared, leading to better decisions.

Why is a focus on Inclusion important?

Striving for social justice is a cause that is being openly supported by more and more companies, in support of their ESG agenda (Environment, Social and Governance). Studies have shown for some time however that diversity and inclusion also correlate with better financial performance, widen access to the best talent and deliver enhanced innovation, creativity, productivity and wellbeing. See Workplace EDI – Research and Catalyst for examples. It also helps to widen, attract and retain talent.

What does an ‘inclusive’ workplace look like?

It’s when people of all backgrounds, identities, needs and experiences feel valued and accepted in their team and the wider organisation, without having to ‘conform’. That’s worth thinking about for a moment. It’s where difference is not just tolerated, or understood, or even celebrated, but harnessed as part of the company’s collective culture and experience. The effect on people is that they feel valued and trusted, authentic and psychologically safe. 

What can you do?

Action needs to extend beyond just a fair and open recruitment process and equal opportunities policies – as important as they are. Real inclusion will probably require a culture shift and some fundamental changes of approach.

You might feel daunted, but don’t be put off. There are simple, practical steps that you can take to  bring about positive and encouraging change. This has been our experience here at Menzies, so here are our suggestions:

Sponsor it from the top – but don’t run it ‘top down’

It’s important that the top managers lend weight to these activities by reinforcing their importance, sharing their own experiences or perspectives and providing time, sponsorship and resources for people to pursue initiatives that will develop inclusion. Then allow and trust the enthusiasts in the business to coordinate and pursue a plan.

Be aware of unconscious bias

As an early activity, a simple on-line session on unconscious bias was a seminal moment for us.  It was a collective ‘lightbulb’ moment in how people can experience everyday bias on the basis of their difference e.g. their race, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, and that we don’t have unconscious biases because we are bad people, but because we are people!

Recognise holidays and events of a range of groups and cultures

This year, through a calendar of talks, events and awareness campaigns we are recognising world religion day, international women’s day, age awareness month, LGBTQ pride month, south Asian heritage month, black history month, international men’s day and the international day of persons with disability.

Involve interested parties

Use the experience of your people to educate and enlighten colleagues.  For example we have had talks and articles from employees about their religion, cultural heritage, neurodiversity and experiences as senior women in business. This has developed into the introduction of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).ERGs help focus feedback from specific communities and help guide us all along the path to increased equity for all within the business. People have volunteered to lead on women, men, age, disability, neurodiversity, LGBTQ+, race, religion and menopause.

Use training

Line managers are crucial to ensuring inclusive practices are developed.  Pay particular attention to this group and help them in what can feel like a sensitive topic. Also, build regular reminders and awareness-raising into your general training. Short (30-60 minutes), online awareness courses can be useful here. Our courses on EDI, autism, disability, menopause, mental health for example have all been well attended.

Collect some data

Many companies carry out employee surveys of various kinds.  It is useful to gather some data on your employees’ awareness, attitudes and experiences of diversity and inclusion at work to help guide your initiatives and measure progress over time. Measurement does not have to be overly cumbersome but will also reinforce your commitment to creating an inclusive culture.

People in the business today are reporting a more positive experience and, importantly, the ability to be themselves. The business is also learning how to ensure that it respects the diverse needs of employees, for example through our flexible working arrangements or the timing and nature of in-house events.

It is work in progress of course, and always will be, but the journey so far has created a positive spirit and an openness. It has also helped us reflect and respect the needs of our clients which is good for business and is a significant part of our ESG agenda.

If you want to know more about our approach and how we can help you, please contact Ed Hussey on +44 1483 755 000 or in the People Solutions team, or contact us via the form below:

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