Research shows that organisations play a key role in social inequality and in the light of the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign, there is no better time for Companies to reflect inside on their policies and practices to use their power and influence in society to stamp out racism. The Equality Act (2010) has done a lot to reduce unfair racial discrimination within the workplace. However, it is not enough to simply not be racist. Inaction is just as damaging. Organisations should actively encourage diversity and inclusion and allow it to flourish.
So how can you increase your workforce diversity?
Focus on inclusion, rather than diversity
To be a diverse employer, is not necessarily to be an inclusive one. An organisation may have a workforce that comprises of 45% minority ethnic employees but if those 45% of employees are given less opportunities, are held back in lower-paid, lower-skilled jobs and are subject to racist slurs and jokes from the other 55%, that workplace is not an inclusive one.
Too often workplace diversity becomes a tick-box exercise with employers taking positive action to increase their diversity, but little subsequent action to ensure that employees from diverse backgrounds are given equal opportunities and actually feel included.
So how can you ensure that your diversity strategy is an inclusive one?
What gets measured, gets managed
There is no set figure at which an organisation suddenly becomes a diverse or equal opportunity employer. However, by failing to monitor and report on diversity, it is difficult to identify underrepresentation within the workplace. One of the most effective ways to improve diversity in the workplace is therefore to identify where it is lacking. Begin with reporting on which ethnicities are present in the organisation and then take positive action to increase where it is lacking.
However, measuring diversity still does not necessarily establish inclusion. As such, analytically identifying how many employees from ethnic minorities are in senior roles within the organisation will demonstrate whether ethnic minorities are given opportunities to progress and develop and be in positions that influence decision making. Only when ethnic minority employees are involved in decision making can a company be truly representative and diverse.
Equip managers with the skills and knowledge to tackle racism
Your company may have recently taken the initiative to deliver some unconscious bias training or perhaps some training on discrimination. Great! But what happened when everyone left the training room? What was implemented after that training that changed current practice? The chances are, like most training courses, attendees walked out, went home, came back the next day and nothing actually changed. There is certainly a place in increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace through training, particularly amongst managers and senior leaders. However, the importance of monitoring the impact afterwards cannot be understated.
Testing attendees with post-training quizzes is a great way to ensure that the information was understood and retained. Another way to assess the effectiveness of diversity training and to ensure that subsequent action is taken is to hold one-to-one meetings in the following weeks with managers that attended to seek feedback on where they feel diversity and inclusion is lacking in their department and how this could be improved.
Training managers is an extremely useful tool for increasing diversity, but they are often being pulled from left to right juggling their workload to meet targets and deadlines. Consequently, it is important to keep the momentum going afterwards and encourage them to think about what can be implemented in light of the training to improve current practice.
Offer additional support for career progression for ethnic minority employees
If your HR metrics have identified that there is a large under-representation of some ethnicities within senior positions, the focus of your workforce planning strategy should be to increase the diversity within the senior leadership team. One way to do this is through additional support for minority ethnic groups to support their development. Offering additional training or online courses for underrepresented groups would be a starting point. Ascertaining their value, skillsets and career aspirations within the organisation to create a development plan, which equalises their chances of future promotion with that of less under-represented employees, is another approach.
Additional support may even come in the form of checking in with ethnic minority employees, particularly in times like this when emotions are heightened due to such a disgraceful act of racism. It will mean more than you probably think. Multiple employers also offer Employee Assist Programmes. This is the perfect opportunity to promote that benefit to employees that could truly gain from talking to somebody about how this has affected them.
Create a safe environment to talk out against discrimination
Communication is key in any workforce strategy. Many managers may feel uncomfortable to discuss matters of race with their employees due to a fear of saying something which may offend or be deemed discriminatory. However, effective communication with employees from ethnic minorities opens a channel for communication and to discuss if, and how, employees feel they are treated unfairly or are undervalued and underrepresented. Good communication will create a culture in which minority ethnic employees do not fear ostracisation and the repercussions of speaking out against inequalities but are instead encouraged to raise them. It is the role of HR to equip their managers with the correct training to have the skill and confidence to have conversations with employees around sensitive topics. Employee feedback surveys are also a great way to receive perhaps more open and honest feedback, particularly if they remain anonymous.
Seeking feedback of the experiences minority ethnic employees have had within the organisation will be absolutely crucial in developing an inclusive equality and diversity strategy as it enables the problem to be pinpointed and therefore a solution to be created.
However, again this will only be effective if action is taken on the feedback that is received. It should not become another tick box exercise whereby a sophisticated communication forum is introduced to give these employees a voice, but their concerns are not truly heard and acted upon. This would in fact hinder progress towards achieving an inclusive workplace. Remember, words mean nothing without action.
Every organisation should use this opportunity to look within to identify if and where their current equality and diversity is lacking. A pro-active diversity strategy based on up to date metrics and delivered by well-trained managers should form part of the company’s overall business strategy. These steps will facilitate an inclusive workforce whereby ethnic minorities are treated equally, encouraged and supported to thrive and progress. As evidenced by the tragic case of George Floyd and too many similar travesties, racism is still prevalent in society. Don’t let your organisation be an outlet for it to grow.
For support and guidance on increasing diversity and inclusion within your workplace, please get in touch via the contact us page so that we can discuss how we can support your business to do this.