Leading online workplace training provider, iHASCO, conducted an expert Q&A with Cecilia Harvey, Global ED&I lead, at Royal HaskoningDHV, to provide an insightful and informative introduction to equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) in the workplace for businesses looking to address this issue.
Whilst it can be a sensitive topic, Cecilia’s passion and enthusiasm shows organisations how raising awareness and starting to take small steps to promote ED&I can have huge benefits.
How can a business start to address equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
The first step is to acknowledge what your starting point is - whether by data or acknowledging any awareness exercises you currently implement, such as training modules or seminars. Very often companies make the mistake of believing that because they have a policy in place ED&I is being addressed. The reality is though, that nothing is really happening. It’s a vast topic that can feel intimidating, especially as it addresses protected characteristics - which are such delicate and crucial elements of one’s identity.
Companies worry that they will have to throw a lot of money at it; in reality though, it starts with awareness and behaviours. Engage in open conversations and lead by example, show zero tolerance towards any form of discrimination or mis-use of language, and you will find it’s more powerful than just having policies in place. Take stock of where you are, project where you want to be and recognise you are on a journey. There will be hurdles and you will make mistakes, but when you have a vision of where you want to be and put in some milestones and interventions to shape your internal culture and learn how to become more inclusive, you are on the right track.
What everyday actions and interventions can help?
An eLearning module, seminar or speaker can help with the education piece, to develop people’s understanding of what it means to be inclusive and what embracing diversity actually means. These can kick-start your journey, and by building awareness you might find that individuals could learn something they didn’t know, or even better, once identified, challenge themselves to refrain from their own biases. This cannot be enough in itself and you have to have multiple and continuous touchpoints throughout your journey to ensure you embed an inclusive culture in every cell of your company’s being.
It isn’t a big ask to change over to use inclusive language, such as ‘what does your partner do?’, rather than ‘what does your husband or wife do?’. In 2019, Air Canada changed their scripts to ‘good afternoon everybody’ instead of ‘good afternoon ladies and gentlemen' and in the same year, American Airlines added gender neutral options for their bookings. Changes like these allow wider perspectives and avoid non-binary thinking. There are lots of elements you can educate people around that are not costly but can make a big difference.
You can start by addressing one thing at a time so as not to feel overwhelmed. Set realistic timelines, and pick your biggest current challenge. If the size of the team tasked with ED&I is limited, it is more than ok to approach one topic at a time instead of trying to tackle everything at once.
How can you assess where you are with EDI in the workplace?
Many companies are scared of data but the disclosure of it will help you take stock of where you are. How can you make any positive change if you don’t know your composition? We already have the gender pay gap in the UK and the ethnicity pay gap is soon going to be legislation too. Companies need to concentrate on the messaging around wanting that data in order to do right by their employees.
Trust is vital; make a plea to your employees to disclose any personal data such as any disabilities, both visible and invisible, their religion or their sexual orientation and explain its importance to ensure that as an individual they feel comfortable coming to work, have a safe space to work efficiently and can be their true self. Also be transparent around the use of that data and ensure you have the appropriate legal disclaimers. Not everyone will be ready to disclose this information, and that’s ok. Leading by example is key so to give employees confidence, the disclosure of data has to start with board/senior members. Try carrying out internal analytics, such as, analysing the percentage of females or ethnic minorities for example in a particular job function, why that is and what, if any, are the barriers to entry.
What business benefits are there to building a more inclusive and diverse workplace?
There is so much research and evidence around diverse teams outperforming non-diverse teams and that it really does hit the bottom line. These (teams) have been found to be more creative, more innovative, staff engagement is much higher and they are better placed to stay ahead of the competition. On top of that you have fewer leavers, so you do not have to invest in recruiting or re-training; that money can be ploughed back into the business and could be spent on new training programmes for existing employees, coaching or mentoring.
A more diverse team also helps create more resilient and robust products and offerings that stand up to tests and challenges from the client and marketplace. Furthermore, when you have people that bring something different or even unique to the table, it can, interestingly, also help trigger elements of interest or growth in other team members, thereby keeping ideas and approaches fresh and not letting them stagnate.
Cecilia’s expert knowledge and experience played a role in creating the script for iHASCO’S Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training course. Get instant access to the course today or download iHASCO’s guide to equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, to support your business further on this important topic.