Under UK law (Equality Act 2010) organisations must not discriminate against the following protected characteristics, either in their hiring practices or during employment. These are:
It is increasingly important, both legally and morally, to ensure that your organisational practices and culture are inclusive. As an example, it is estimated 3.1% of the population identify as LGBTQ+. That’s almost twice the size of the community back in 2014 (1.6%). With that number only growing every year, society continues to evolve to be more inclusive, and it’s therefore only fitting that organisations worldwide do the same.
Building a house made of bricks
Let’s compare organisations adapting to societal changes to the three little pigs and their houses. Those that have rewritten their policies, updated their systems and taken steps to ‘outwardly’ show their support for diversity and inclusion, have built their houses out of sticks and straw. But, if the people within those organisations don’t acclimate to societal evolution and get on board, the house will eventually be blown over.
To build your house out of bricks and ensure your organisation is truly being supportive of all types of diversity, the employee culture itself must evolve. Very often the operational side of change is mastered but less effort and focus are given to the people side.
So what can organisations do to ensure that all stakeholders are treated equally and what is the role of leaders to affect culture change?
Here are four ways you can transform your employee culture and lay a secure foundation perfect for your future-proof ‘brick house’.
1. Develop a clear mission statement for supporting diversity
Of course, changing policies, and updating digital systems is one way to start building a more inclusive environment. But those changes must be loud to truly show support. By developing a clear mission statement for supporting diversity in and out of the workplace and communicating it on a company-wide level, employees at all levels of the organisation will become aware of the direction you’re going in and the inclusion strategies and practices that will be coming down the pipeline.
2. Elect leaders of change
Organisations will need to have representatives that understand and embody the change they want to happen internally. This will help weather the internal storm as when an organisation goes through change, employees will see it as either positive or negative, exciting or frightening, essential or unnecessary, and in most cases a varied combination of all the above.
These leaders are essential in helping your employees people process and embrace change; helping them understand why it’s needed and what this means for them, their colleagues, customers and the business.
3. Employee development & coaching
Naturally individuals in your organisation will have their own levels of lived experience with diversity and understanding of differences. For example, those with little to no experience of LGBTQ+ may inadvertently have the lens of everyone being heterosexual.
Mindsets must first be opened from within and begins with making time for conversations and blended learning courses. These help to create an inclusive working environment; teaching employees simple tips like not assuming someone’s identity, using inclusive language like ‘partner’ instead of ‘husband’ or ‘wife’, and using the correct pronouns in communications too.
By ensuring your teams are armed with the skills necessary to address, empathise and handle difficult conversations around diversity effectively, your teams will be better able to connect with each other and your customers.
4. Be firm in dealing with employee discrimination
When developing new policies to show support for inclusivity, there’s no policy more important than your anti-discrimination policy. From the beginning you will need to ensure that there is a clear outline on what constitutes as harassment and that harassment of any kind will not be tolerated in your workplace.
The policies should be clear about the types of behaviour that constitute harassment, showing commitment that harassment complaints will be seriously investigated. Through diversity training programmes and coaching, line managers and HR advisers will be prepared and skilled to handle harassment complaints swiftly, effectively and with care, recognise the problem and prevent victimisation.
Inclusion that runs deep
Showing only a superficial level of support for inclusion runs the risk of damaging your business in the long run. Support for diversity must be embodied through behaviours at scale at all levels of your organisation, and only then can a truly inclusive working environment be created.
Those changes won’t come quickly, but the positive effects of that atmosphere will affect a positive culture change that benefits your talent attraction and retention as well as the service your customers receive.
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