Diversity in Leadership: 10 steps to increasing inclusion

Fircroft College

This blog is part of the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce’s (ABCC) Diversity in Leadership campaign.

The Diversity in Leadership campaign works with some of the regions’ biggest employers in order to boost the numbers of women and those from black and minority ethnic (BAME), lesbian gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and disability groups being represented on boards of directors and in leadership roles.

Click here to find out more about the campaign

The arguments for including all kinds of diverse people in organisations is clear, whether it’s increased candidate attraction in a time of skills shortage, higher levels of creativity and innovation in teams, a happier workforce with less issues or creating an all-round fairer society; inclusion is all positive!

I was fascinated by a neuroscience event I attended recently which explained why a sense of belonging is so important.

The negative effect on the brain when we feel we don’t belong or ‘fit in’ somewhere means fight or flight kicks in and this feeling adds to long term stress and poor mental health. So just think about the effect this can have on retention and sickness levels!

So how can we as leaders and policy makers ensure our organisations are inclusive for everyone?

Here’s 10 steps to get started:

  1. (Most importantly!) Employee involvement - utilise your employee forum, consult on all policies and practices and ask people what they feel and what they'd like!

    Work with them to create an action plan to support this!
  1. Critically evaluate your practices and embed a culture where people at all levels do the same. Routine and habit mean it’s easy for practices, language and policies to become outdated fast.

    Disability Two Ticks for instance has been obsolete for years now but I still see it all the time! Is that what your potential applicants are seeing too?
  1. Develop an equality, diversity and inclusion committee, appoint a champion and have them work with other areas to review practice, implement ideas and share best practice.

    If your company is large enough then also have diversity networks for people to join.
  1. Use ‘equality impact assessments’ on your policies and decisions, this is a way of assessing the decisions that are made to ensure no discrimination takes place.

    They don’t just have to be around the 9 protected characteristics, how about including poverty, eldercare and different levels of neurodiversity for instance?
  1. Be as flexible as possible with employees in terms of working practices and culture, flexible working and home working for instance are great for inclusion.
  1. Challenge the norm!

    Why do we only use interviews to recruit people, not work experience or other routes? Why do we need a degree for that role, is it really essential? Why can’t that role be home based or a job share?

    Why do we only advertise in that place? If you want to include people from different backgrounds you have to make an effort to do this, the benefits far outweigh any short term inconvenience!
  1. Use values to drive inclusion.

    What does your company value?

    Is equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of your culture or something that gets rolled out occasionally in an online module?

    If you want to be inclusive this has to be the norm, not something on the periphery. This means exclusive or discriminatory practices also need to be challenged at all levels.
  1. Invest in management training and support.

    Managers set the tone for their teams, if they are not supportive of inclusive practices then you’ve lost the battle already!

    Smart working training could be a great start (see Ruth Gawthorpe on LinkedIn).
  1. Use ‘positive action’ in succession planning. Analyse diverse representation in your organisation, how is it in the management team?

    How is it in the board? What backgrounds do these people come from, ethnically, socially etc. If you have people who are mostly the same at this level making all the decisions then inclusion will naturally be slow to change and may not be fully supported.

    Target underrepresented groups for fast track management training programmes.
  1. As Nelson Mandela said ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’.

    Educate staff at all levels about difference, why it is needed in your organisation, why difference should be embraced, why it gives you a competitive advantage and why difference must be celebrated!

    Send e-mails to explain different events, guidance for supporting fasting colleagues during ramadan for instance, information about gay pride or Black history month, make sure conversations are started!

There’s so many more things organisations can do to help everyone feel included and that they belong and the best way to find out what they are really is to ask people.