Many organisations still fail to recognise both the people and business case for Diversity and Inclusion, says Teresa Boughey.

Companies know they must do something, but in the absence of truly understanding the necessity, they apply a tokenistic, tick-box approach.

They believe that exclusive inclusion initiatives combined with public declarations about a commitment to Diversity and Inclusion will be sufficient to placate employees and shareholders alike.  

However, in recent weeks the world of sport has been rocked to its core by the very public demonstration of the devastating effects that a tokenistic, tick-box approach to inclusion can have on individuals, teams and organisations.

The Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport select committee interview with Azeem Rafiq certainly made for uncomfortable viewing as he publicly replayed his trauma, lived experience and the racial discrimination he suffered. But, Azeem has found a level of strength, courage, and tenacity to blow the whistle with the intention of creating change.  

The sad reality is that he is unlikely to be the only person who has experienced this discrimination and trauma and this situation is likely to have ramifications for people and businesses across the country. 

Inclusion is a business necessity  

The Accelerating Inclusion Research Report highlighted that 1 in 2 leadership teams (49 percent) understand and are able to articulate the business benefits that an Inclusive and Diverse organisation brings, 36. percent said no they couldn’t and 15 percent reported not to know.  

For those still unsure of the business case for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging then let me tell you, ‘return on Inclusion’ (ROI) is real. There is the perception that some facets are the ‘softer’ elements, such as behaviour and culture. 

These can, on the face of it, seem harder to measure, however, these so-called softer elements have a huge impact on the more tangible facets such as Results, Reputation, and Relationships.  

 In recent weeks the regulatory body, the English Cricket Board has imposed sanctions against one club including the withdrawal of fixtures. Sponsors have withdrawn their support and significant relationship damage has occurred between players and the wider community. 

But what is next for workplace inclusion?  

Employees are tired of rhetoric. They are desperate for change. Whilst there is no overnight quick fix when it comes to creating an inclusive culture, there does need to be a degree of pace in order to instil confidence that the organisation is committed to change. 

Organisations need to hold leaders to account, listen to those sharing their experiences, and embed inclusion and belonging at the heart of policy. These are a few key ways organisations can take heed of what has unfolded in the sporting world and truly prioritise inclusion.  

 Governance 

Board governance is often where an overhaul is required. When a board not only looks the same, but has the same/similar experience and backgrounds, groupthink occurs.

Without Board diversity, leaders can often fail to connect the dots and ingrained biases such as confirmation bias and conformity bias emerge. The halo effect can result in incidents being left unchallenged and the board failing to hold each other to account.  

However, when asked ‘Diversity and Inclusion is a key performance metric for each member of your leadership team against which they are held to account’ for the Accelerating Inclusion Research Report only 26 percent of organisations said yes, 60% said no and 14 percent reported that they did not know.   

Boards need to ask ‘what are we not seeing’ ‘what are we missing’ and ‘whose voice are we not hearing’. 

Data 

There’s not one right way to measure diversity efforts. The areas you decide to focus on will depend on your company’s culture. Whatever specific problems you’ve been trying to solve – now is an ideal time to take stock.  

The report also showed that 53 percent of organisations did not have a people data dashboard against which the Board is able to measure progress and hold each other to account, and 15 percent said they did not know if such a mechanism existed.  

Being clear on people and diversity data, setting out an action plan for closing any gaps, and then regularly measuring progress will be key.

Whatever the data tells you, organisations cannot shy away from this. It needs to be confronted. 

Inclusive Leadership 

Leaders who build an inclusive workplace culture consistently demonstrate inclusive leadership behaviours. They are available for individuals as well as teams; not just leaving their office door open, but proactively taking time to get to know and understand everyone who is part of their team 

An inclusive leader understands the importance of treating staff fairly, they tune in with minority groups and will act as a role model to encourage others.

The inclusive leader will champion suggestions from others, facilitates the actions needed to progress initiatives and empower others to make decisions to prevent bottlenecking. 

Leaders should set the tone of the organisation, check their own behaviour is congruent, and take the necessary action to show zero tolerance. 

Zero tolerance and allyship  

An inclusive workplace culture is not something that one individual can achieve it is felt and experienced by all. This is why zero tolerance and allyship are so important. However when asked, only 16 percent of respondents said yes, they have a development programme in place so that everyone understands how they can become an ambassador ally or advocate for others.  

It is clear from recent events just how important it is to stand up for the rights of others, confront abuse while it is occurring and prevent any individual from experiencing discrimination or isolation.  

To achieve zero tolerance, everyone must have absolute clarity on the aims of the organisations, understand the rules and know what is required of them to abide by these rules. 

Regardless of your industry sector, this is a pivotal moment for organisations and their Boards to pause, to look at their actions and behaviours of the past and present, and make bold changes for a more inclusive future. 

 

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Teresa Boughey MA FCIPD is CEO of award-winning Jungle HR and founder of Inclusion 247, which has just released the Accelerating Inclusion Report. She has delivered a TEDx talk entitled ‘Overcoming Diversity Fatigue’ (2019) and is author of #1 Amazon bestseller Closing the Gap – 5 Steps to Creating an Inclusive Culture. Teresa is a Business Board Member and Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Sub-Group of the Women and Enterprise APPG and member of the Women and Work APPG. She is also a regular contributor to the media and public policy.