Belief in the importance of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) has soared over the past few years, as businesses begin to recognise the benefits that harbouring a culturally diverse workforce can have.
This is why the implementation and execution of D&I strategies in the workplace and the continuous promotion of such HR initiatives is important for HR professionals to consider. Not only will prioritising D&I avoid discriminative workplace labels, it will also increase a businesses exposure to legal compliance.
HR Consultant and Author of Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace, and The Will to Change, Jennifer Brown, told Forbes that D&I are closely related, but defined differently.
She said: “Diversity is the who and the what: who’s sitting around that table, who’s being recruited, who’s being promoted, who we’re tracking from the traditional characteristics and identities of gender and ethnicity, and sexual orientation and disability inherent diversity characteristics that we’re born with.”
However, Brown explains that inclusion in the workplace concerns how the individuals feel and how recruiters accept the diversity of prospective employees within the hiring process. She continued: “If you are a great leader for inclusion, you have figured out how to embrace and galvanise diversity of voices and identities.”
ACAS reports that the benefits of promoting workforce equality and diversity externally offers “a better chance that the best candidate from the widest possible pool of applicants is selected for the job.” There are internal business benefits too; not only will a diverse and inclusive workplace improve employee satisfaction and encourage more positive workplace atmospheres, but it will also enhance the financial integrity of businesses, creating more room for further development. These benefits also extend to business performance.
Katherine Early commented on a study by McKinley & Co in an article for The Telegraph: “Businesses with a healthy balance of men and women are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors, while those with employees from a good mix of ethnic backgrounds are 35% more likely.” So, there are a lot of factors to convince HR that D&I is critical for business.
Nevertheless, it’s one thing to be aware of D&I and the importance it plays for a business and the benefits available to be reaped, but it’s another thing to actually implement programmes and develop initiatives on a global scale. One firm actively prioritising D&I is the telecommunications company, Vodafone.
Sharon Doherty, Global Organisation & People Development Director at Vodafone, told about the initiatives that they have woven through Vodafone’s working culture — after quickly realising the benefits that a diverse and inclusive workforce can have on company.
In 2017 Vodafone created a programme called ReConnect, with the aim being to reintroduce unemployed women who have potentially left work for several years, most possibly to raise a family, and who would like to return to work on a full-time or flexible basis. They have a target of 1,000 recruits within three years.
This is something that Vodafone have started to focus on with a view to level the gender playing field for women in leadership. She explained: “Since 2010, we published an ambition to move 20% to 30% of women in leadership roles by 2020. As a tech company to now have 45% of our board female, 28% of our ExCo will be female from April 2019, (and 21% BAME), 31% female in our 6,000 management roles have been important achievements — numbers matter in business.”
One of the key successes of Vodafone’s initiatives is stemmed from the ability to empathise with a range of prospective candidates and eventual employees: “To hit the numbers, we have had a tight grip on the hiring, retention and turnover processes.
Introducing hiring rituals such as all ExCo must personally interview at least one woman for their roles, language de-biasing tools in job adverts, publicly showing we are an LGBT+ friendly employer for graduates and introducing our ground-breaking maternity policy in 2015 have all played a key role.” So, recruitment strategies can be easily managed and better advertised, to be more diverse and inclusive of all candidates.
The importance of the D&I agenda continues inside a business’s company culture too. An environment where all can belong seems to be something that Vodafone advocates proudly, through their continual development of D&I initiatives and programmes.
This shows that it works for them as a business and their evolution as a company has grown to an envious level. Doherty concludes: “Of course the real magic is creating a culture that prospers with a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Successive CEOs have given a clear tone from the top that diversity and inclusion is who we are as a company. We then light fires and make real action happen.”
So, the key takeaway for HR is to implement programmes and initiatives — firstly into recruitment processes, to actively attract the very best talent, fairly and diversely. Following this, it’s important that the D&I of a company’s culture is promoted and celebrated to retain staff, make them feel included and create a business model that enables customer satisfaction as the end goal.
This article was first published in HR Grapevine magazine. You can read the original article here.