Chloe Cameron, Chief People Officer, at Pax8 EMEA
Diversity in the workplace has become an increasingly hot topic within the channel in recent years, and many organisations have made diversity, equity and inclusion a high priority for their business. Within the channel, many organisations assume that there is tension between hyper-growth and improving diversity – where true focus can only be given to one area at a time. But, that isn’t necessarily the case.
When businesses recruit with diversity in mind, the quality of hire is not compromised. Too often, DE&I programmes are incorrectly assumed to be tokenism. However, finding talent from under-represented groups can bolster a company’s bottom line, improve innovation and create a more vibrant and engaged community through the addition of new perspectives, experiences and ideas.
In order for the channel to continue thriving, organisations must create spaces where team members can be their authentic selves, and there are three key changes businesses can make to achieve diversity amongst workers.
1 – Reassess Recruitment
To find the right talent, and to build a diverse workforce at the same time, organisations must take a fresh approach to their recruitment. They need to be able to harness the talent available in underserved communities.
A new mindset is required – rather than looking for an applicant who will fit in with the culture, organisations should look for someone who can add to it. Recruiters should put themselves in an applicant’s shoes and aim to better understand them as a person rather than quickly glancing at their CV. It is essential to recruit based on aptitude, attitude and values, and consider what any potential new hire can bring to the team.
Businesses must also think outside the box in today’s fast paced environment. In many recruitment drives, some organisations ask for specific qualifications – such as university degrees – for roles that don’t necessarily require them. This immediately excludes a large section of the talent pool. According to research undertaken in 2021 by the UK Government, while university attendance is relatively balanced in terms of gender and ethnicity, students who report disabilities are more likely to drop out of higher education. Similarly, when it comes to socio-economic background, pupils eligible for free school meals are much less likely to go into higher education than others, and students from areas with higher levels of deprivation are more likely to drop out of university.
Of course, for some specialist roles, a university degree is a necessity. However, by demanding degrees for roles that do not necessarily require them, businesses are hindering their diversity progress, while limiting their applicant pool.
Creating a diversity agenda can also be useful for hiring in volume, allowing businesses to keep track of their efforts more seamlessly. Agendas can include a number of practices, such as changing role requirements, engaging specific demographics and building relationships, or using diverse imagery and language across recruitment materials.
2 – Encourage Accountability
Accountability is crucial within an organisation. Once businesses have identified their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) goals, they should begin to report on progress at board level. Key performance indicators cannot be left simply at ‘we’ve hired X amount of people’. Instead, they must go in-depth, accounting for other factors such as performance ratings, pay rises and promotions, and investment in training. Tracking the progress of initiatives encourages accountability within businesses and ensures that standards are being upheld.
Creating accountability is not an overnight task, and education is critical to drive DEI – at all levels within an organisation. Educating staff on the business’ DEI strategy puts everyone on the same page. Formalised diversity training can also better connect departments – which might have different perspectives and face different challenges in this area – and learn from each other. This should be organisation-wide, not just limited to those in a people management role.
Organisations can also foster accountability by asking for feedback and implementing changes. Asking team members to highlight existing issues, as well as proposed solutions allows them to feel part of the drive for change, and helps to create a dedicated DEI community.
Finally, leadership must also be held accountable, and cannot be exempt from company-wide efforts. A transparent approach, that allows leadership and senior management members to feed into DEI strategy and planning, provide their own feedback and assess progress, creates change from above. If leadership isn’t held accountable, this mindset can trickle down to the wider workforce and prevent future development.
3 – Create a Culture of Safety
Psychological safety in the workplace is vital. It boosts employee engagement, develops an inclusive workplace culture, enhances employee well-being, and lowers employee turnover, all while improving team performance. An effective team places as much emphasis on psychological safety as it does on physical safety and performance requirements.
Businesses should encourage peer to peer conversations around diversity, and be careful not to appropriate certain practices – such as celebrations – to those who are not part of that community. Allyship means creating a culture where employees feel comfortable and supported in championing their issues and celebrating their diversity, by asking and listening to what people need and want.
One effective way to encourage these conversations is by creating Colleague Resource Groups (CRGs), such as women empowerment groups, or LGBTQ+ networks. People join companies, but they stay in communities, and CRGs create an inclusive workspace that team members can feel proud of.
Anyone, regardless of tenure or role, should feel comfortable to speak up and have their questions received with wisdom or traditional authority.
Invest for the Future
Not only does the right DEI strategy increase employee engagement and make the business more attractive to prospective employees, but it also drives innovation and growth, while benefiting financial performance. According to As You Sow, companies that embrace diversity at the management level perform better on a number of financial metrics. The report finds that greater representation leads to higher cash flow, net profit, three and five year revenue, five year return on equity, stock performance and lower volatility.
Change takes time, but by rethinking recruitment strategies, holding stakeholders accountable and promoting an inclusive culture, organisations can begin to make strides in the right direction. Prioritising diversity should be on the agenda of any forward thinking organisation.