In many ways, it took a global crisis for people to wake up to the inequalities right on their doorstep, says Leila McKenzie Delis.
In the wake of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, many employers began looking inward at the inequalities and challenges happening within their own organisations.
Some companies took it upon themselves to actively challenge them in a bid to champion diversity and inclusion, but it seems most have only scratched the surface.
When it comes to diversity, inclusion and equality, most people think of ethnicity and gender. While these are perhaps the most obvious, solely focusing on these facets does not amount creating to a truly diverse and inclusive workplace.
There are several other elements that make us unique as human beings, the McKenzie-Delis Review highlights 10 different facets of diversity: gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability (visible and invisible), age and generation, religion or beliefs, nationality, socioeconomic status, mental health and parenthood.
Many of these key inclusion markers are missing when HR teams think about diversity – here are five of the often-overlooked inclusion markers:
1. Socioeconomic status
Socioeconomic diversity must be considered during the hiring process in order to level the playing field of applicants, regardless of their background and income, and also to help employers identify hidden talent that may otherwise not be identified through more traditional recruitment processes
A fantastic way in which employers can practise more inclusive hiring and remove socioeconomic barriers is to use contextual recruitment tools to support candidates from underperforming schools and less advantaged backgrounds; this accounts for the challenges that these candidates have continuously overcome in order to access career opportunities.
2. Sexual orientation
A 2019 investigation revealed that over a third of FTSE 100 companies failed to mention the inclusion of the LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, +) community in their 2019 annual reports. This highlights a need for heightened focus on sexual orientation in diversity and inclusion management.
The lack of inclusion in annual reports is alarming given the ‘spiral of silence’ methodology, which argues that organisational voices largely influence individuals’ perceptions of the attitudes towards an issue within their workgroup.
Individuals are much more likely to speak up when they believe that their position is supported by others and remain silent when they believe that it is not.
It also emphasises the importance of creating a proactive environment that welcomes LGBT+ inclusion and rejects discrimination in order to create safe working environments where LGBT+ employees feel heard, respected and able to work to their full potential.
3. Age and generation
Age and generational differences can raise challenges for diversity and inclusion management if senior decision makers make assumptions about team members’ capabilities based on their age.
To combat this, HR teams should pay extra attention to the recruitment process to ensure that age is not a barrier to applications. This should be done while also considering mentoring schemes to create an environment of continual learning and development, regardless of age.
Encouraging the relationships between different generations, levels and diversities across the workforce promotes professionals to share their knowledge and experience. It also creates a harmonious and more engaging environment within which to work.
4. Religion or belief
Despite being illegal in the UK, 3 percent of British workers report that they have personally experienced religion or belief-related discrimination. This is approximately one million people.
Such discrimination should not be tolerated in the workplace. HR teams should provide awareness training for all staff in order to promote empathy and understanding, and eradicate religion and belief-based discrimination.
British businesses are more internationally diverse than their counterparts around the world. It was found that 70% of all international businesses analysed have at least one non-national director on their board, with that figure being 89% amongst the FTSE 100.
Yet despite this positive trend, representation of emerging markets on boards amongst British businesses is lacking, with directors from these territories currently only filling 7% of positions on UK boards.
Stereotypes and negative attitudes towards different nationalities can create barriers for inclusion and be challenging to address, as often, individuals are unaware that they’re using stereotypes to inform decisions.
Employers must take responsibility of addressing negative stereotypes within their workforce through cultural training to immerse teams in the values, norms and subtleties they may not understand.
At the heart of creating meaningful change in organisations is ensuring that HR teams fully understand where their workforce is currently – in terms of culture, staff experiences and opportunities – through data and insights.
Setting a benchmark and identifying areas for actionable change is key to creating a truly inclusive environment that caters to diverse individual needs.
HR teams can implement best practice and continually measure how they’re shifting the dial on each of these facets of diversity.
Business leaders and HR teams must step up today, recognise the importance of D&I and take action to better our workplaces. Not only to play their part in the fight against inequality, but also to remain open and attractive to the full diversity of talent.
Leila Mckenzie Delis leads multiple businesses and charitable initiatives and spends her time dedicated to managing these Directorships whilst continuing to promote and campaign for the benefits of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging in business and in wider society.