Tackling the right problems in the right order.  It might sound simple, but it isn’t always all that easy to distinguish between what’s urgent and what’s important.  At least, not without proper evaluation.   

In medical terms its called triage. In business terms its called prioritising.  OK, lives aren’t usually at stake, but leaders in business could learn a lesson or two from the process of medical triage.  As any visit to A&E on a Saturday evening will confirm, the waiting room is packed full of people, some more vocal than others.  And it doesn’t always follow that the loudest person needs the most immediate attention.  It takes the skill of the triage nurse to ask the right questions, assess the problems, and prioritise their level of urgency. And as any medic will tell you, more often than not, it’s the quietest person in the room whose problems are the most critical.

When it comes to managing diversity and inclusion in the workplace, a spot of ‘triage’ goes a long way. Take a random sample of businesses and ask them whether they take steps to address diversity and inclusion, and their knee jerk response will probably confirm that, in their eyes, they do.  But what does that mean?  Generally, that they’ve covered off the basics.  They’ve stuck some posters up around the business about equal opportunities, trained their managers in diversity awareness, and included a diversity monitoring form in their recruitment and induction material.  They’ve even installed a ramp and a disabled toilet in the building, and their ‘zero tolerance’ stance on discrimination means that once, three years ago, a disciplinary process was conducted in response to some alleged racist remarks.  Bravo!

All of the above is a good start, and granted, these are all things that would be notable by their absence if they had not been addressed.  But, have any of these employers actually taken the time to establish the facts (how their employees really feel – especially the quiet ones) and determine the real priorities (what actions their employees would value most). Managing diversity in the workplace should be about more than just ‘reacting’.  There’s more to it than adhering to the basic requirements of the Equality Act, or implementing a quick fix in the face of the latest grievance. Instead, it should be about considering the importance of all aspects of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, for all minority groups, all the time. And it should be motivated by a genuine desire to build an engaged and fully inclusive workforce, over and above the urge to avoid expensive tribunal compensation pay outs.

There’s a whole host of questions that should be asked on a regular basis, before any employer can state hand on heart that they’re truly inclusive in their approach.  Here’s just a few:

  • Is your company stance on diversity and inclusion clear to your employees?
  • Does diversity and inclusion matter to your employees, and if so, who is most concerned about it?
  • How engaged are specific diversity groups within the business?
  • Was the company’s stance on diversity & inclusion integral to their decision to join the business?
  • Does their experience of diversity and inclusion in the workplace match with the vision the company presented prior to starting?
  • Will the prevailing culture regarding diversity and inclusion in the workplace influence their decision to stay or leave?
  • What, if any, initiatives or changes, would your employees like to see implemented to improve diversity and inclusion at work?

Creating a diverse and inclusive work environment is something that is best done with your employees, rather than to them. Not every member of your team will be bold or brave enough to speak out about their concerns unless they’re asked very directly, and in the right way. That doesn’t make their opinion any less strong, nor any less valuable. Some people’s minority status is very obvious and visible (disability, race).  For others, their minority status is less transparent (sexual orientation, mental health) and it may even be transient (caring responsibility). There are a multitude of reasons that people can be made to feel excluded in the workplace; they aren’t always obvious. There’s a strong chance that if you don’t ask the workforce as a whole to comment and feedback on the company’s diversity and inclusion practices, you’ll make some ill informed assumptions about the minority groups you are aware of, and entirely overlook the needs and wishes of those falling under your immediate radar.

At great{with}diversity we work with you to assess how diversity and inclusion influences employee opinions and perceptions through every step of the employment journey with your organisation, and across multiple minority groups. Starting at recruitment and attraction, through to engagement and development. And, whilst no one likes a farewell, we cover that part too with diversity specific exit questionnaires. So, whether you’re looking to audit your practices in relation to racial inclusivity, gender equality, or any other field of diversity, you’ll only need to come to one provider to assess diversity and inclusion  in all its forms, right through your business.

We achieve all of this through a unique range of questionnaires that focus on the perceived importance and impact of bias in the workplace, rather than census gathering and box ticking in the name of diversity and inclusion. ‘Person-organisation-fit’ is central to our philosophy, and our approach focuses on understanding how individuals and organisations interact across the rich variety of minority groups that reflect today’s world.

The arguments for addressing diversity and inclusion in the workplace are stronger than ever.  But just having diversity in the workplace is not enough. Managing it well and doing it right is what really delivers competitive strength. “The negative outcomes of not managing diversity include low morale, ambiguity, conflict and tension, confusion and communication problems.  These undermine organisational attachment and reduce effectiveness and workforce cohesion” (Managing Diversity, Measuring Diversity, CIPD).  So, before you make any decisions on what your business should start, stop and continue doing, ask for input from those in the thick of it all; your employees.  Engage their minds, and the chances are you’ll be a big step closer to engaging their hearts.

Visit our website www.great{with}diversity.com for more information about our products and services.