Creating Inclusive Cultures – The Risk of Doing Nothing

 Guest contributed by Charlotte Sweeney

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Many industries are increasingly realising that building better workplaces for all has a positive impact on productivity, employee engagement and the bottom line.  In their recent research, Deloitte identified an 80% improvement in business performance when levels of diversity and inclusion were high within a company. Also the highest performing teams are the most diverse – not more women than men, just a good mix, as this graph showing stages of team development, in the long term, a diverse and well-managed team is the most productive.

However, companies are struggling to make ‘better workplaces for everyone’ a reality.  The great opportunity is that we all have an important part to play in creating a better workplace for everyone.  Ensuring our colleague’s voices are heard and valued not only helps to attract and retain the best people, but also helps us deliver better solutions for our clients and identify risks and opportunities that we might not otherwise see.

What part can each of us play?

In our recent book ‘Inclusive Leadership – the definitive guide to developing and executing an impactful diversity and inclusion strategy – locally and globally’ we look at how to engage everyone in creating the culture change many companies aspire to.

Take a moment to consider the following questions:

  • Who do I spend most time with?

If you think about an average workday or week – whom are you spending most of your time with?  Human nature is such that we feel most comfortable with people who are like us and have similar backgrounds.  Are you spending your time with people who make you feel comfortable or with people who challenge your thinking?

  • Who do I go to for advice?

Who are the three of four people you go to for advice and support on business issues?  Are they from similar backgrounds or do they have different perspectives to you?  What are the risks of gaining advice from similar sources time after time?

  • Who is in my wider decision making team?

Again, is there diverse experience and thinking across your team or do you all think in a similar way?  Are you missing opportunities both for yourself and clients through accessing potentially narrow thinking?  How could diverse views and inputs influence your final decisions?

By narrowing our view points and limiting the types of people around us whom we spend time with, ask for advice and make decisions with we are, by default, creating cultures that seem exclusive to others.

Creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces isn’t an end in itself, it’s a means to enabling companies to attract and retain the best talent, to benefit from increased productivity and to tap into new markets and client opportunities.

My challenge to you is this – how are you going to diversify the people you spend time with and what part are you going to play in building a better workplace for all?

How many times have you heard someone question ‘Why do we need to change? We have been pretty successful with what we have always done?’ All cases for change within businesses are different. However, by considering each of the following elements you are building the foundation for your case for change.

  • What has worked in the past? – Ask your colleagues what they think has been effective in the past. Source that case for change and identify what was important for the organization. How was it structured and what were the key drivers for change? Was it client service? Employee engagement? Legislative changes or something else?
  • The moral, the legal or the business case for change? – All three should be covered:

o The moral case – simply put, this is the right thing to do!

o The legal case – The current requirements from a legal perspective as well as case law and other regulations that will potentially have an impact in the future.

o The business case – What positive impact will this have on the business ultimately for the bottom line linking back to employee engagement, brand reputation, shareholder confidence and client/customer loyalty. How can it support and enable the delivery of the existing business strategy?

About the Author

Charlotte’s first book written with co-author Fleur Bothwick OBE, ‘Inclusive Leadership – The Definitive Guide to Developing and Executing an Impactful Diversity and Inclusion Strategy – Locally and Globally’, published by The Financial Times.