Diversity brings value to the workplace and most importantly, right now, we all need to listen to diversity. Whilst we are listening, we also need to be aware of the impact the world is having on people from diverse backgrounds and communities.
One of our key messages to employers is, even though you have people with rich lived-experiences, it is important that you remember that the burden of finding solutions and tackling these issues shouldn’t rely or be placed solely upon a small group of people. Too many times we’ve witnessed the burn-out of people from diverse backgrounds who are required to champion their identities at work. Whilst we want people to bring who they are to the workplace, it is important that everyone is encouraged and supported, as well as given time and space, to think about and act upon diversity and inclusion.
There is a balance between the current hunger to be able to talk about diversity and inclusion, along with a deep fatigue often felt by those directly affected. There is a need to be cautious about where any burden falls.
Most of all, we want you to listen to those around you who have different perspectives and experiences. Diversity and inclusion leads to better decisions. We all need to listen to diversity right now and allow space for thought leaders from diverse backgrounds into these important conversations; enabling spaces for people with lived experience to share their stories and experiences.
Recognising your privilege in the leadership position you are in and how you enable those who are othered to take a step up, will ensure people feel appreciated, valued, listened to and, most importantly, heard.
We encourage you to revisit the values of your organisation – as an appreciative enquiry – what are your organisation’s values? How are they upheld and protected? Is everyone on board with them? What actions bring them to life? Values, and how cohesive they are, are an essential element of the identity of an organisation and therefore, how attached individuals are to them. They illuminate questions such as: “Do I belong here?” and “Will I put the effort in for this?”
Attitude is everything and your attitude toward others in your organisation will help shape your relationships. View everyone across your teams as a person who has the best interests of the organisation in mind. Take the stance that everyone wants to do their best, to contribute to something they believe in, to feel valuable, valued and invested in. Attitudes toward the diversity of your team should be that it is a valuable asset, rather than an obstacle. Diversity builds resilience, flexibility, sustainability and distinctiveness; all qualities that every organisation needs to be adaptive and competitive. Well thought out and facilitated conversations are really golden opportunities.
Current organisational systems don’t work for many people, including many people with protected characteristics. Whilst we have workplace anti-discrimination legislation and protection in place, discrimination still happens. How you act upon the privilege you have as a leader will demonstrate to those you work with how valued they are. Taking part, having conversations and listening to those, in every level of the organisation, will help you to better understand the people in your organisation, but also what changes need to happen. Begin with small steps; ask people what they think needs to change; listen to people, especially to people with protected characteristics.
Ask yourself what you want the future of the organisation to look like. Ask people who are different to you – who don’t look like you, sound like you, think like you or come from a similar background to you – what they think needs to change. You have a wealth of resources in the diversity of people in your organisation.
We often see diversity and inclusion as a destination, an outcome or a success. What is important is what we do with diversity and inclusion. In many ways, diversity and inclusion are questions and challenges that have been set for employers.
‘Look at us!’ ‘What are you going to do?’ ‘Are you ready to meet the challenges and enable something special to grow and thrive?’
With this mindset and approach, the results achieved are only limited by the organisation, its systems, cultures and the people that make up the workplace. Engaging with and listening to diversity brings value to the workplace.
With thanks to the team at the Diversity Trust for sharing their top tips on diversity and inclusion and for their input into this blog post.
We provide education, awareness and campaigns on a wide-range of themes and topics relating to equality, diversity and inclusion. We deliver online and offline training to organisations and teams in the public, social purpose and private sectors. Our clients range from micro-charities and non-profits, local authorities, education, health, social and care services, to large multi-national corporations. We provide support and feedback through training, auditing, policy writing, service design and development.
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