2019: The year the diversity and inclusion lens widens
Sarah Kaiser believes that this year companies will be forced to think more strategically when it comes to global issues of diversity.
Reading time: 4m 30s.
In an increasingly globalised, hyper-connected and multi-cultural society, organisations should be thinking about how to foster a culture of diversity and inclusion (D&I) all the time. Strengthening D&I will, in turn, support business transformation and make organisations – both large and small – more competitive in a digital and diverse world.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways that businesses and government have been driving the D&I agenda. For one, 2018 was the year that 100% of qualifying businesses – those with 250 employees or more – reported their gender pay gap. This enabled many organisations to have richer conversations about the position of women in the workforce.
But, as we see more and more companies publish their second annual report in the coming six months, we’ll begin to visibly see what they’re actually doing to change. And whilst lots have begun those conversations, businesses know they have to answer.
Whilst the second report will be the opportunity for businesses to show they’re serious about diversity and inclusion, gender pay reporting is only a fraction of where D&I still needs to go to ensure organisations are properly fostering an environment that promotes diversity and inclusivity for all its employees.
Because a mix of factors impact our experience of the workplace, organisations need to recognise that D&I not as simple as separating people into boxes.
We know that companies need to support everyone, but unfortunately too many still separate people into boxes. For example, if you look at big companies within the FTSE 500 – most focus primarily on gender diversity and not the other aspects.
Because a mix of factors impact our experience of the workplace, organisations need to recognise that D&I not as simple as separating people into boxes. But too many companies currently treat diversity in siloed ways. And that needs to change.
Because of this, the upcoming year is likely to see organisations adopt a more holistic approach to D&I. Take the recent announcement from the Prime Minster as a key example.
In the wake of the gender pay gap reporting laws, employers could be forced to publish their race pay gap in a bid to highlight any discrimination against people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the workplace.
So why will the next year and few years see such a focus on widening the D&I lens outside of just gender?
Organisations accurately reflecting their customer base
Currently, most companies still focus on diversity in terms of talent retention and acquisition. However, making sure they‘re leveraging this diversity to create market-relevant products and solutions that really work for all customers needs to be a focus for all organisations.
In the coming year, the power of transparency will be fundamental in order to improve diversity and inclusion efforts.
As many might remember, last year a video from a Facebook employee was leaked which showed an automatic bathroom soap dispenser failing to detect the hand of a dark-skinned man – raising questions about racism in technology, as well as the lack of diversity in the industry that creates it.
This hugely controversial video signalled an urgent need for organisations to boost diversity internally. Rihanna’s beauty range, which serves all different skin tones and colours in a way mainstream beauty companies don’t, is a perfect example of the change we’re needing to see more from brands.
You can’t adequately think about what people worldwide actually need if you don’t have a diverse team providing insight from all perspectives.
Globalisation will drive more global D&I roles
For organisations with a presence in two or more countries, more should be asking the pressing question – how can we support global efforts? To achieve true inclusion on a global scale, it’s important that you don’t just implement a programme or initiative that is successful in one country and hope it works in other countries.
D&I activity shouldnt take place in an isolated way (i.e. by country), but instead across an entire organisation. For this to occur, you need to build your understanding of local culture, especially within a legal context – that’s because an ‘inclusive organisation’ may evoke a different meaning for each country.
If organisations want to encourage an inclusive culture, the most important step is to ensure that employees are able to be completely themselves and feel confident to express their points of view.
Whilst this can mean different things in different places, at the very least, everyone is able to identify with the idea of being part of a group while being able to be true to themselves. Because of this, 2019 will likely see more global D&I roles come to fruition.
Promoting change and shifting D&I mindsets
In the coming year, the power of transparency will be fundamental in order to improve diversity and inclusion efforts. That’s because any good business leader will know how important it is to talk openly about it to their audience – whether that’s a stakeholder, customer or employee.
For example, if their people don’t hear them saying it, then they won’t realise the benefit and will struggle to act on it. After all, in today’s current climate, anyone connected to an organisation in any capacity wants to hear how the company feels about D&I and what they're doing about it.
The time has passed for apologising, 2019 should be about taking action and ensuring they are facilitating an entirely diverse and inclusive workforce.
About the author
Sarah Kaiser is employee experience, diversity and inclusion lead at Fujitsu EMEIA
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