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Guest post: Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace – Looking beyond the buzzwords

Paul Williamson explains why employers need to do more to eradicate barriers that are in the way of building progressive, diverse and inclusive workspaces in their fight for social change.

Inclusion and diversity strategies should be commonplace in corporate environments across all sectors, including private, public, and voluntary. In reality, employers need to do more to eradicate barriers that are in the way of building progressive, diverse and inclusive workspaces, as backed by the latest CIPD ‘Inclusion at Work’ report.

To drive equal opportunities and achieve social justice, business leaders must understand what inclusion and diversity mean, how to roll out a practical I&D strategy, and recognise the long-term benefits for employees, employers, and key stakeholders. Looking beyond equality law that sets out the minimum standards, we explore how to create an inclusive workplace for a diverse range of individuals.

What is inclusion and diversity? 

Inclusion in the workplace means creating an environment where individuals can openly express their thoughts and beliefs without fear. Diversity in the workplace refers to employing a variety of individuals with different identities and backgrounds to provide equal opportunities, inviting an assortment of views, and unlocking a variety of skills.

A workplace with an unsubstantial diversity and inclusion policy can expose minority groups to discrimination and place them at a disadvantage. Feeling unsafe at work can have a detrimental effect on the mental wellbeing of workers, causing confidence and participation levels to tumble. This can have long-term negative implications on your brand image, recruitment efforts and consumer appetite.

Employers must strive to reshape existing working practices to cater to all individuals, regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, or background. By celebrating a fusion of different cultures and using this as an opportunity to educate employees, you can improve the standard of working life and reduce employee retention rates.

A real-life outlook on diversity and inclusion in the workplace 

The Inclusion at Work: Perspectives on LGBT+ working lives report conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that LGB+ employees reported higher levels of workplace conflict (40%) than heterosexual, cisgender workers (29%) in the last 12 months.

Delving into the data, 23% of trans workers experienced discrimination because of a protected characteristic, with over half (62%) reporting that it had not been resolved, or only partly resolved (20%).

This can contribute to a lack of psychological safety and severe job satisfaction without proper measures in place, including a zero-tolerance policy. Professional recommendations put forward to employers include:

  • Formal reporting and investigations procedure
  • First point of contact, such as peer support and allyship network
  • Legal obligations to eliminate workplace discrimination
  • Wellbeing and psychological support
  • HR policy reviews to integrate gender-neutral language

In addition to the LGBT+ community, the focus should also be paid to disability inclusion and the related disparity in pay. According to the Office for National Statistics, on average, disabled people earn 12% less per year than non-disabled workers and the disability pay gap was wider for men than for women.

How can employers implement inclusion and diversity strategies? 

Inclusivity in a corporate environment can be encouraged by educating senior staff on different forms of bias, protected characteristics, and employee needs, such as access to a prayer room or disabled access.

Employers can do this by requesting feedback from employees to generate a first-hand account of strengths and improvements concerning inclusivity in the workplace. After dissecting employee feedback to pinpoint new opportunities, employers may overhaul internal or external processes to factor in inclusivity and workforce diversity.

The way employers implement this will largely be dependent on their sector. For example, a public sector business funded by taxpayers may be exposed to greater scrutiny, transparency, and accountability, and therefore governed by a long administrative process to push through new internal measures or campaigns.

Employers may choose to diversify the business in many ways, such as restructuring the way they recruit staff or weaving their beliefs into a marketing campaign if this aligns with their identity. The benefits of employing a diverse workforce are limitless and wield the power to revitalise businesses with poor employee output.

Workplace diversity – adding value to your business 

Creating a diverse and inclusive working environment can help towards the fight for social change and remove the barriers to creating a positive working environment for all. From a commercial perspective, forward-thinking and socially conscious businesses present more value to investors and consumers as they are actively managing their reputation and investing in employees on the front line and behind-the-scenes.

About the Author

Paul Williamson is Managing Director at Selling My Business, part of Ernest Wilson, one of the UK’s leading and highly trusted business transfer agents, founded in 1956. Paul advises business owners and accountants on how to sell a business, arrange a business valuation and negotiate a business sale to maximise value.

The National Equality and Diversity at Work Event

There is less diversity in public sector leadership across the UK than in the FTSE 100. According to the Office of National Statistics, the average hourly median gender pay gap in the UK in 2020-21 has increased compared to the previous year to 16.4%, up from 15.8% in 2019-20.

Public sector workplaces must ensure that they provide supportive and nurturing workplaces that allow employees to be treated with fairness and respect and achieve their potential.

The National Equality and Diversity at Work Event 2021 will provide public sector organisations with practical and actionable insights to determine their next steps in their equality and diversity journey.

Through a combination of policy updates and case study examples, delegates will get a comprehensive range of information on topics such as flexible working, inclusive leadership, and fairness at work for women, LGBT, disabled and ethnic groups.

View the event agenda and secure your place.

Article written by
Danielle Chapman

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