10 ways to manage employees’ expectations around inclusion and diversity

Claire Williams, our Managing Director of Operations, shares the moment that she feels dramatically shifted people’s expectations of their employers in I&D, and gives her expert tips on how to manage this in a demanding environment.

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There’s been a significant shift in expectations within workforces regarding Inclusion and Diversity. I wouldn’t be able to put my finger on a sector, a size of employer, or a region, but I feel that I can put my finger on the exact moment when the shift started to happen.

25 May 2020. So many readers will know what happened on that date and what it represents. It was the day that George Floyd was murdered. It was the day that the iPhone footage of those nine minutes, captured forever, went viral.

Darnella Frazier, the teenager who filmed the murder of George Floyd, has been given a special journalism award by the Pulitzer Prize board. She said “When I look at George Floyd I look at my dad, I look at my brother, my cousins, my uncles – because they are all black…and I look at how that could have been one of them.” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-57449229)

Darnella’s reaction, shared in a literal sense by so many, fuelled outrage and horror amongst decent-minded people. This is not the society we want or will tolerate. People were speaking about events in Minneapolis with friends, family and colleagues. And once the conversation started amongst colleagues, questions were directed at employers.

Sadly, many employers were unable to respond. Fearful of getting it wrong, they missed the moment to say, with humility, “we don’t have the answers, but we too are outraged and horrified.”

We all learnt the importance of having a clear sense of self as an employer. During those weeks and months of summer 2020, I continuously told employers to “lean on their values”. Even if you don’t have an I&D policy statement, it was the moment when a set of values offered direction, clarity and an authentic response. This is what employees were expecting and hoping for. Sadly, many employers were on the back foot.

10 ways to manage expectations

  1. Although the temptation may be to respond to energetic suggestions for activities that sound interesting or fun, it is very easy to end up with an I&D programme that is more like entertainment than a programme that creates sustained change! Use our events planner and webinar programme and webinar programme to support focussed activity.
  1. Never commit to doing something that you can’t pull off. This is a tricky one because we all need to be bold and ambitious, but if you have no support and low chances of success, it can actually be better not to try at all. Instead, find something less ambitious that will be a success and build from that foundation.
  1. Use data wherever possible to inform your plans. Some of this data should be the opinions of staff; colleagues need to be heard and are more likely to share their thoughts and information about themselves if they can see positive steps happening as a result.
  1. We know that the appetite for I&D news/perspectives/updates is huge within workforces, so you can share our podcasts, share our newsletter Inclusion Insights and members can share Everyday Inclusion on a weekly basis too. To build a greater understanding of inclusion you can also register colleagues onto our webinar programme.
  1. Read your newsletters as you receive them to stay bang up to date on the issues, whether it’s case law opinion or sample position statements, we share our thinking in the moment to help members plan and act in a timely way.
  1. Harness all the enthusiasm and expertise in a strategic way, by engaging staff in the strategy planning process. And don’t try to do everything in year one!
  1. Develop a strategy that is capable of being applied locally and gives direction but not prescription.
  1. Work towards an allies model where everyone shares and takes responsibility for the agenda. Inclusive Employers has trained over 500 allies in the past 18 months through our Inclusion Allies Programme and its making a real difference within those organisations.
  1. Communicate really well about what you are doing as you are doing it, so that employees know that this is a continued and consistent focus.
  1. Integrate wherever possible, so I&D is that golden thread through learning, through the employee lifecycle, through recruitment, and through leadership. We want people to feel the inclusive and diverse culture – this way, their needs and expectations will be met.

For more support on developing your I&D agendas, contact your Account Manager about Consultancy, and check our events calendar for webinars on current topics.

If you’re not already a member and you’d like to know more about how Inclusive Employers can support your I&D agenda, get in touch.