These days, most organisations understand why they should support diversity and inclusion, and they have a coherent agenda that works towards this.
However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take our own personal responsibility for making our workplaces more inclusive. After all, our individual behaviours, attitudes and mindsets have an impact on the lives of others and help shape both our workplace and society.
So, what can each of us do to drive forward diversity and inclusion at work?
1. Small steps can make a big difference
During a stressful day at work, with deadlines looming and issues that require urgent responses, it can feel hard to prioritise diversity and inclusion. However, the more you make a conscious effort to be inclusive in your everyday actions, the more it will become second nature.
Inclusive behaviours often seem small and inconsequential, but they can have a huge impact. For example, have conversations outside your usual work clique and make meaningful connections. Be aware of your own biases and reconsider stereotypes. Be an ally to communities that are different to your own and learn how to challenge biased language – from yourself and from others. Welcome newcomers and respect everyone from the newest joiner to the most senior leadership. Try to ensure that your actions and reactions are considered, thoughtful, conscientious and kind.
2. Learn WHY, WHAT and HOW
Do you know WHY diversity and inclusion is so important? Are you familiar with WHAT your organisation’s diversity and inclusion agenda looks like, and HOW it plans to achieve its diversity goals?
Each of us has a personal responsibility to learn what we can. There is a plethora of information available about the business benefits of diversity and inclusion – for example, it has been found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation.
You should also take time to familiarise yourself with the diversity goals of your organisation, understand their connection to overall business objectives, and align yourself to this vision. For example, four years ago at Hays we took the decision to work towards EY’s National Equality Standard (NES). It has been a tough journey at times, where we’ve had to have some difficult conversations and challenge some of our traditional approaches. But, we’ve helped our staff to come on the journey with us and having been awarded the NES for the second time, it is also incredibly rewarding.
3. Take a holistic view of workplace diversity
We all have issues that are close to our heart. Gender diversity in the workplace, for example, may be something that you are particularly passionate about, and quite rightly – after all, corporations that embrace gender diversity in their executive teams have been shown to be 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability. In fact, it has been estimated that advancing women’s equality could add £9 trillion to global GDP by 2025.
But this is only one piece of the diversity puzzle. Instead, you should remember that diversity of thought is the key aim, and whilst this will definitely be facilitated by greater gender-balance, it’s not the sole factor. All the things that make us ‘us’ – socio-economic background, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, neurodivergent status – also shape our unique thinking, can provide different perspectives on customer needs, product improvements and wellbeing, and can’t be ignored. Make sure you consider all aspects of diversity and listen to all the voices around you.
4. Get involved and lend your voice
Each of us brings unique experiences. We are all different and have huge value to add to our organisations because of these differences – so if there are any occasions to get involved in diversity and inclusion events or activities, seize them.
If these opportunities are not currently available, look to start them. Set up an employee group, celebrate awareness days, attend external training sessions – position yourself as a leader in this space, and help shape the conversation. Our diversity steering committee leads our activity to support awareness days, such as International Women’s Day and Pride, but everyone is encouraged to offer their suggestions and ideas to help shape the day so see if your company has a similar set up.
Whatever the situation, welcome ideas that are different from your own, and support your colleagues. The creativity that comes with diversity can help generate new ideas or improve current processes. It can also make work more interesting, engaging, and exciting – for yourself and for everyone else.
Hays is proud to support International Women’s Day’s #EachforEqual campaign. To find out more about what you can do to support equality, diversity and inclusion at your organisation, visit our Diversity hub today for our latest reports and insights.
About this author
Simon joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for our businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for our operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.