Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

15 August 2020 Joanna Byerley

Diversity and Inclusion are more than just buzzwords. They are a long-term series of commitments. Yet all too often, they easily become formalities. How do we stop that from happening, especially in the current job climate? Back in June Theresa Jones at Luminance Insight and Joanna Byerley at Research Talent Hub joined forces and delivered a webinar on the benefits of having uncomfortable conversations on both combating systemic inequality and eliminating bias in the hiring process. Keep reading for our 5 take-aways on effective Diversity & Inclusion (summarised by Theresa Jones).

 

1. Employees expect increased flexibility and empathy post-lockdown

The session started with key findings from the ‘London in Lockdown’ study. During the research, participants were asked how much longer they thought could cope in lockdown. Their answers revealed hidden anxieties: female-skewed groups and people from ethnic minorities gave lower estimates than white and male-skewed groups. Their responses revealed both increased vulnerability and responsibility to others. On their post-lockdown predictions, a fifth overall expected more kindness, and a third expected continued corporate flexibility. The desire for corporate flexibility was particularly resonant among black respondents (41%), the 45-54 age group (40%) and women (34%). Being more inclusive starts with acknowledging people’s varied lived experiences.

You can access the full findings from the study as well as the webinar recording at the end of this post.

2. Communities have bolstered individual growth

 
 

Closures to places of work, worship and recreation have brought unexpected paths towards personal development during lockdown. People with little familiarity with platforms like Zoom pre-lockdown started building proficiency at home. With the extra free time, people have also been proactively expanding their networks, learning new skills and increasing their adaptability. Among the religious respondents of the survey, a quarter were connecting with others of their faith online, and ahead of Ramadan, almost a third of Muslim respondents were already thinking of breaking their fast via video chat for a sense of community. Lockdown has been a transformative experience for many, and in some cases, those previously hesitant to speak out have found a new voice within their networks. Now is a great time to build a sense of community and welcome feedback from your team.

This can take place in the form of:

  • one-on-one meetings

  • quarterly/monthly happiness surveys (before discussing results and subsequent decisions)

  • virtual lunch rooms via video chat (for remote teams)

3. Creating a Diversity and Inclusion culture is easier than you think

You can get started right away by writing 3 statements on pieces of paper to outline your overall strategy. Joanna demonstrated this by writing down three example pledges:

 
 

The next step is to commit to them and ensure that your careers page reflects them. Of course, pledges alone won’t magically solve diversity and inclusion challenges in their entirety as it’s an ongoing process. It’s more about taking small, achievable actions in order to form an overall strategy. From sponsoring events, mentoring, using alternate talent sources and celebrating non-traditional career paths, there are multiple ways to inspire a Diversity and Inclusion culture both in the hiring process and across the whole team.

4. Biases are like fingerprints – everyone has a unique set

However, unlike fingerprints, biases are easy to change. Since we can’t possibly know everything, there are bound to be gaps in our knowledge, and this is often where bias steps in. Eliminating bias requires awareness, particularly during the hiring process. It’s not about making anyone feel guilty, in fact it’s an empowering step towards building a more connected workforce. One simple way of eliminating bias is using ‘blind CVs’ (CVs with personal details removed). Studies have shown that candidates with more ‘white-sounding’ names are up to 3 times more likely to be called for an interview than if this isn’t the case, so it’s an effective way of providing accessibility for all. Creating an anti-bias strategy requires a lot of time and effort, but the payoff in terms of innovation, retention rates and profitability make all the difference when bias is less of a driving force behind hiring decisions.

Blind CVs work well alongside other anti-bias measures such as:

  • unconscious bias training for managers

  • ensuring inclusive wording in job adverts

  • using standardised interview questions

  • writing a results-based job spec (rather than a description of the ideal person)

5. Think ‘culture-add’ instead of ‘culture fit’

‘Culture fit’ is often used to justify not hiring someone, which, on its own, isn’t inherently bad. When it’s used in place of more thorough feedback however, it is a big clue that unconscious bias is at play, because it comes from a gut reaction that a candidate is ‘not like us’. Of course, we want to work with people that we can get on with and trust. The issue here is that we naturally tend to gravitate toward people who are similar to us, so if the workforce is comprised of people with a similar background and life experience, it can be easy to be unaware of this bias. It’s important to challenge the notion of culture fit as a justification and dig deeper. Therefore, it’s crucial that hiring managers and both junior and senior team members have room to challenge instances of culture fit wherever it shows up, welcoming opportunities for new perspectives.

Conclusion

Creating an effective Diversity and Inclusion strategy is not a one-and-done process, it takes time and patience. Outlined above are just some of the measures that this can be approached. Judging from participation from attendees to the webinar (which included HR professionals, business leaders, market researchers, and teachers among others), it was apparent that ineffective diversity and inclusion measures have been a long-term issue across a wide range of sectors. Believe it or not, now is a good time to build – or rebuild – a more effective diversity and inclusion strategy, as a more diverse team is smarter, more adaptable and more profitable.

Theresa Jones is a freelance researcher and the director of Luminance Insight, a cultural insights consultancy. You can read her London in Lockdown report here and connect on Linkedin.
Joanna Byerley is the director of Research Talent Hub, a talent search consultancy, career coaching and recruitment partner for businesses and individuals in market research, insights, data science and AI. You can connect with her via Linkedin.

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