Challenges to achieving workplace diversity and inclusion best practice
Rachael Wilson, Managing Director of EW Group, discusses the biggest challenges to organisations achieving diversity and inclusion best practice.
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are increasingly important concerns for all organisations. However, there are some key challenges to implementing effective diversity and inclusion best practice and its subsequent success.
So, what are the challenges with diversity in the workplace and how can organisations overcome them? In this blog, I explore the top 3 most common challenges our clients encounter.
Often, clients come to us wanting to improve and progress their diversity and inclusion, but they don’t know where to start. We work closely with clients to first identify their unique challenges. Working backwards to identify the specific barriers to success, we develop programmes to support their objectives and overcome these challenges.
1. Staff retention – create an inclusive culture
Staff and talent retention is key for business success and profitability. It takes significant time and investment to induct and train new staff, all of which is lost when the individual leaves. Many organisations we speak to attract and recruit diverse staff, but don’t know how to retain them and build an inclusive culture.
Retaining diverse talent means taking meaningful steps to change the overall culture so that individuals feel they can fully contribute, that they belong, and they aren’t just a token hire aimed to massage the D&I stats.
2. Staff engagement – avoid a strand specific approach
Continued engagement and buy-in to the diversity agenda must start at the top and involve the whole organisation. Diversity initiatives need to address intersectionality – the compound layering of disadvantage – if they are to bring everyone into the conversation. Otherwise, an isolated, strand-specific approach will lead people to think this is something ‘being done to them’.
3. Networking groups – get resources and senior backing
While many workplaces are creating networking groups focussed on diverse employee groups, it is important these well-intentioned initiatives are executed carefully and sensitively. So how do we ensure these networks are supported and gaining the traction they need?
Staff networks can often feel like they alone are responsible for finding the solution to an organisation’s poor diversity performance. Or worse still, that they are a token effort to allow diverse voices some airtime and that they have no ‘bite’.
To avoid these pitfalls, you need to clearly define and resource these networks and ensure they have the backing of a senior sponsor who can act as a very visible ally). They should be focused on putting forward the views of the minority and making recommendations to the business for how to break down barriers and make progress. The people who have experienced disadvantage, whether subtle or blatant should not be responsible for fixing the system.
Adopt a holistic approach
The common thread in all of these initiatives is to adopt a holistic approach that considers organisational data, the lived experiences of staff, business challenges and goals, brand and talent.
It is also important to take a zero-tolerance approach to unacceptable behaviour. Whilst employees are entitled to free speech and their own opinions outside of the workplace, there must be clear policy within organisations on where their line is on what is okay and what isn’t. A zero-tolerance approach to racism, for example, is the only way to provide a safe working environment for all.
How to achieve diversity and inclusion best practice
A thorough diversity audit is the most effective place to start. And from here map out the current position and state of employee engagement. Working closely with you and your employees, we develop bespoke programmes to create a more inclusive culture – where people don’t feel tokenism operates – in a way which is embedded in everything the organisation does, and every decision taken.
A diversity audit allows you to systematically break down barriers and provide a sustainable and measurable approach.