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12 October 2023

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An effective equality, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDI&B) strategy is proven to make your company stronger, bringing in a greater variety of opinions and cultivating innovation.

For an organisation to be successful, it must treat every member of its workforce fairly and equally regardless of their personal characteristics. To achieve this, EDI&B should be at the heart of everything your organisation does, allowing companies to embed an inclusive culture into their workforce.

In this article, Reed Talent Solutions’ Inclusion Ambassador, Iain MacLeod, reveals why continually evaluating your inclusion and diversity strategy will enable you to futureproof it for continued success.

Q: What does an inclusive and diverse employer look like?

A: To be honest, it’s going to look different for every single business. Being inclusive is really all about making sure that everybody feels welcome and comfortable, and free to be themselves.

Being diverse, just being different, having different people within your organisation and not just one homogeneous block of people.

Q: How can companies embed an inclusive and diverse culture into their workplace?

A: To embed it, you need to make sure that inclusion is at the heart of everything you do, right the way through the employee lifecycle.

Have those questions at every point – am I being inclusive, am I doing anything to exclude anybody, and are there any areas where we are ignoring or not paying any attention to? And make sure those are put in.

By doing it consciously, you will make sure that you don’t unconsciously exclude.

Q: What can an employer do to make things more inclusive at their organisation?

A: Starting off with the recruitment process, ensure that your adverts are worded correctly. Make sure you are not using any gendered language where you don’t need to, and make sure you can utilise tools such as gender decoders so you can analyse the language used in your adverts, and make sure that it is not leaning towards one gender or another.

Put open statements into your job adverts to say, ‘we do encourage people to apply from ethnic minorities, from the LGBTQ+ community, and from any genders’. Make sure that statement is in there and you will appeal to people who often feel that maybe they don’t belong.

Throughout the time where you have your employees within the business, it’s always great to be getting feedback and make sure that your feedback is getting information from everybody. Make it as anonymous as it is possible to make it, so people can feel free to say what they want without fear of any reprisals, and make sure that you respond and acknowledge that feedback. It is all very well gathering it, but if people don’t see you do anything with it, they won’t feel included.

In any offboarding, or with people leaving the organisation, make sure that you capture reasons why and their experiences. If people have something great to say about the business and they are leaving for other reasons, that’s brilliant, you can get all that wonderful feedback. But, if there are any areas for improvement, you can get it straight from the people who are leaving your organisation and address any issues that may arise.

Q: Why is it important for companies to not just pay lip service to inclusive and diversity?

A: People who have faced any kind of barriers - whether it is due to race, religion, ethnicity, whether it is to do with your sexuality, your gender identity - we know how to spot when someone isn’t being genuine. We’ve seen it many times before.

As a queer man, I have seen people say, ‘I haven’t got a problem with gay people’ and then say very, very homophobic things because it is just ‘banter’, it is just a ‘laugh’. I can tell when you’re not being genuine.

To be honest, that is what will actively discourage me from wanting to be part of an organisation.

If on the other hand, I can see that you are living those values, that you are genuinely wanting to empower people, that you absolutely 100% are behind all of your employees, I’m more likely to want to engage with you as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Q: What top tips would you give to an organisation at the start of their inclusion and diversity journey?

A: Number one, you’re at the start, be honest with it, be open. Say, ‘we’re at the start’. You’re not where you want to be and you are acknowledging that, and that’s brilliant. Because anyone who is saying they’ve got it nailed from day one is not going to make any improvement because they think they’ve got it nailed.

One hundred per cent own the areas that you need to grow in, and you want to grow in because you are making progress, and progress over perfection is what we are looking for.

Number two, listen to the people around you, whether it is experts in all things ED&I, whether it’s the people in your organisation who you are wanting to appeal to, or whether it is those you are trying to attract in. Listen to what people are looking for and act accordingly.

Number three, don’t try to go all hard, all fast and bam, say, ‘I want to get everything done now’ because change doesn’t happen overnight. You’ve got to work on it, you’ve got to take every step because every little step that you are taking is important and vital, and that’s what makes it authentic.

Q. How can organisations assess the effectiveness of their equality, diversity and inclusion efforts?

A: This is quite a difficult one because there are two main ways you can do it. One is often liked by data experts and statisticians. The other one is not liked by them but is just as important.

The first is you can look at the make-up of your workforce, so having inclusion questions in censuses of your workforce can really reflect who you have in the business which then can be compared to things like census data, Office of National Statistics statistics, etc.

In that data gathering, you will always need to make sure you give an option of do not wish to respond. That is one of your key areas that you need to look at.

You can have a really good, high level of disclosure and that shows that people are comfortable in telling you who they are. The higher your level of non-disclosure, the more uncomfortable someone is in telling you who they are.

Your non-disclosure rates are a great way to identify what your workforce looks like, but we cannot ignore the one that data scientists don’t particularly like which is experience data. Reaching out to your workforce to find out their experience of being within your organisation - and that takes time. You have to build the trust of your organisation, which when you are starting out can be tough to do.

But continually taking those tiny little steps, those small steps to show I care, I’m invested and I’m putting my time in, will get that trust to let people feed back to you openly and honestly.

Q: How can companies ensure they are futureproofing their inclusion and diversity strategy for continued success?

A: You need to continuously view it. There is no end point, right, we’re done, we’ve got equity, diversity and inclusion.

You will always need to have focus on it. Know that you are in it for the long haul, and you will always want to improve.

Secondly, when you are looking at the future, you also need to be looking at the past because that is where your lessons are coming from.

And that doesn’t just necessarily just mean look at what’s happened and plan for the future. Look at your future workforce, look at your existing workforce. Things have changed a lot in people’s lives.

If you are wanting to court the up and coming, incoming generation z, as well as generation alpha who will be entering the workforce sooner than any of us are prepared for, you also need to make sure you are not alienating your older generation of workforce.

If you want to court up-and-coming generations, such as generation z or even generation alpha, who will be entering the workforce sooner than any of us anticipate, you need to make sure you don’t alienate the older generation of your workforce in the process.

Because people are staying in work for a lot longer. You need to be able to make sure that you can include everyone. You don’t need to exclude one generation to include another.

For help with your organisations’ equality, diversity, inclusion & belonging (EDI&B) strategy learn more on our dedicated page.

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