Understanding the growth of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

In this article, Rupert Moyne, our Managing Director of Corporate Services, explores the growth of equality, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Have you noticed how the ‘noise’ of inclusion activity is increasing? Inclusion has never had a higher profile in the media, in our work, in our conversations, or in our lives.

We conducted a survey of organisations earlier this year to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Inclusive Employers. The findings demonstrated how much inclusion activity has increased in organisations in general over the last decade. 

One hundred percent of those polled said their employers now have some kind of I&D initiative in place. 

Many people I’ve recently spoken with believe that this activity has gained traction in the last 18 months, fueled by the reaction to George Floyd’s murder and the COVID-19 pandemic.

How the workplace is changing

As previously stated, numerous incidents have highlighted the world’s lack of equality and diversity. As a result, businesses and employees have placed a greater emphasis on inclusion.

Here are a few examples of how the workplace is adapting and evolving:

There has been an increase in inclusive employers

This is certainly supported by the increase in the number of organisations with which we have been working at Inclusive Employers

We worked with 305 organisations in 2020, and I fully expect a significant increase in numbers in 2021 when we conduct another count at the end of this year. 

Our National Inclusion Week campaign received 4,500 registrations in September, compared to 2,000 in 2020. 

Our #NationalInclusionWeek2021 Twitter reach was just shy of 57 million, compared to 16 million for the 2020 hashtag. So, from where I am, inclusion activity is increasing.

What has been your experience? Is there a risk, to paraphrase Greta Thunberg, that much of this growth is just ‘bla-bla’ rather than actually changing anything?

Strengthened leadership

Many leaders and managers are emphasising inclusion and diversity. Leaders can drive inclusion and diversity strategies in their organisations by strengthening their understanding and capabilities.

Decisions will be made more effectively by diverse teams. The diversity of talent and perspectives can have a positive impact on organisations while also allowing employees to be a part of processes they may not have seen before.

An emphasis on the importance of building trust

Although there is an increase in policies and training to assist employers in becoming more inclusive, those in charge must first create a safe environment. It’s important to take steps to understand your employees challenges and experiences.

Employees at all levels need to work in a place where they feel free to express themselves, and that starts with honesty and trust.

Leaders must be able to initiate discussions on topics that can be difficult to broach. As a result, leaders must be trained and understand how to effectively initiate these conversations with compassion and understanding.

Being active is key

Once trust has been established, it is time to take action to combat various forms of discrimination. Staying completely silent and failing to address critical issues affecting society is a problem that must be addressed.

Organisations can contribute to systemic change through collective learning and training. Attitudes and words have a significant impact on company culture. To provide real change for an organisation, there must be a reduction in discrimination from leaders to employees.

A focus on inclusion planning with intregrity

Inclusion activity, without a doubt, necessitates careful planning and the avoidance of tokenistic actions (such as those that are focused purely on messaging).

A strategic approach is now being implemented in a growing number of larger organisations, in particular (but still not enough).

However, it appears to me that we have reached a tipping point in which more large organisations are adopting a strategic approach and basing their strategy on what they know are the challenges for them based on empirical evidence. 

This is being aided by increased professionalisation of I&D with dedicated staff, as well as, of course, recognition of the business case for I&D and its inclusion in broader corporate strategy, which gives it legitimacy.

I am seeing this through the Inclusive Employers Standard accreditation, with an increase in the number of organisations seeking accreditation and a subsequent rise in the number of organisations demonstrating progress when seeking reaccreditation. Similarly, our CMI-accredited programmes for I&D professionals are in high demand.

This contributes to the professionalisation of I&D and the services these individuals provide to organisations, while also providing people with increased skills, knowledge, and confidence to chart a course for their organisations.

Obstacles for inclusion and diversity in the workplace

Although there has been an increase in organisations wanting to be more inclusive and create safe spaces, there are still issues that prevent fully inclusive spaces from being created.

According to research, organisations that deliver on diversity are more likely to outperform financially those that do not. However, despite this, some leaders and management are still not being diverse and providing equal opportunities. For example, in 2019, more than a third of organisations from data sets still have no women on their executive teams.

It is critical that employers understand the distinction between creating a diverse environment and implementing real and organisational change. It is not enough to hire people from diverse backgrounds; all employers must make everyone feel included and equal.

Final thoughts

The key message for me for 2022 is to keep the volume turned up. To quote Brutus from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

“There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.”

– William Shakespeare

Obviously, it needs to be reimagined in a non-gendered manner – I am sure Shakespeare would be up for it today. We must all work together to keep the volume on inclusion high and not let the opportunities presented by the last two years pass us by.

Continue to work on addressing key issues for your organisation and society, embed I&D further in your organisation, and collaborate with colleagues both within and outside of your organisation. We can accomplish so much more when we work together.

I wish everyone the best of times in the coming year.