Three ways to create a diverse and inclusive workplace

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Diversity and inclusion may now be on the HR agenda, but responsibility for embedding them into company culture belongs to everyone.

It’s no secret that over the past few years there has been an increasing focus on the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I) within business. Public sentiment and reports, such as the gender pay gap report, have brought increased scrutiny on companies across all sectors.

While this focus is positive and has led to many changes, there is still a great deal of work that businesses need to do to ensure that the workplace is truly diverse and inclusive.

All too often organisations are focusing purely on gender equality initiatives within the workplace. Although of course fundamental, diversity and inclusion spans much further than gender inequality.

Organisations need to ensure they are widening the D&I lens to include other factors such as race, age, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity, amongst others. At the end of the day, we can’t just put people into one box.

The combination of all those things that makes us who we are will impact how we experience the workplace - but where does the responsibility for this lie?

Start from the top

This shift in focus needs to come from the top. Business leaders and senior members of companies should be leading the way in creating a truly inclusive and diverse workplace.

One way of doing this is by making role models and mentors more visible and accessible to employees across the business.

It’s clear that the impact of role models cannot be underestimated. To see someone who is the same gender, race or background as you thriving and succeeding is both encouraging and empowering.

In its own research, Business in the Community (BITC) recommended that in order for businesses to address inequalities in the workplace they must celebrate diversity and inclusion through role models, networks, allies and executive and board champions.

It is these aspects that are vital for businesses to create a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Role models

Often a lack of diversity at the top of businesses or in certain industries is because there are not enough real-world examples and visible role models.

Diverse individuals within these positions need to be celebrated and use their prowess to encourage others to do the same.

In Stonewall’s Role Model Guide, they define a role model as “someone who understands the potential they have to influence others and uses that influence constructively… they recognise their fallibility and they share what they’ve learned with the people around them”.

It’s clear that the impact of role models cannot be underestimated. To see someone who is the same gender, race or background as you thriving and succeeding is both encouraging and empowering.

Within businesses, networks should be open to everyone, so all employees can receive the support they need to thrive.

In fact, the Rockefeller Foundation found that having female leaders as role models within businesses is “critical to the career advancement of women” and aids in attracting a more diverse workforce.

Role models should be used to encourage people at all stages of their life and career – whether this is through school-led schemes or within a business itself – no matter how young or old, role models are able to positively shape our experience.

At Fujitsu for example, we have seen first-hand that LGBT+ employees find role models hugely important for giving people the confidence to come out at work, with ally role models creating a culture where it feels safe to be out.

There is a sense of comfort in knowing that if an inappropriate comment is made, you have allies that will speak up to challenge it for you.

Reverse mentoring

Mentoring shouldn’t be a one-way street – business leaders and senior members of companies need to be having open and honest conversations with their employees and wider community about D&I.

Reverse mentoring allows employees to feel included in these important conversations and be at the forefront of change within businesses. This in turn gives employees more confidence to interact with senior leaders and give their honest opinion on how the company is performing in D&I.

It also aims to build the understanding of senior business leaders into the experience of diverse talent within an organisation, to then allow them to more easily and effectively take actions to ensure a diverse environment.

At Fujitsu our Perspectives reverse mentoring program has been greatly successful with a number of our senior executives on the board being mentored by employees from a different background.

In fact, our CEO was reverse mentored by the chair of our Shine LGBT+ Network.

Inclusive networks

Finally, inclusive networks are a key lever for creating momentum for change.

They help to connect employees to colleagues for peer support, they raise awareness of diversity issues within the workplace, and they amplify the voice of these colleagues, so all can learn from them how to better serve every employee, customer and partner.

Whilst great strides have been made in driving D&I, there is still a lot more work that needs to be done to ensure all employees – not just women – feel that they are included in the workplace.

Networks tend to be exclusive to individuals that can directly identify, however. While these networks are positive, it is more important to have networks that aim to bring everyone together. For example – just because you don’t identify as LGBT+, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be involved.

Within businesses, networks should be open to everyone, so all employees can receive the support they need to thrive. These networks will then also play a significant role in creating a more inclusive culture.

Final thoughts

In an increasingly globalised, hyper-connected and multi-cultural society, organisations should be thinking about how to foster a culture of diversity and inclusion 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.

Whilst great strides have been made in driving D&I, there is still a lot more work that needs to be done to ensure all employees – not just women – feel that they are included in the workplace.

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 should be able to identify with the idea of being part of a group while being able to be true to themselves.

Interested in this topic? Read Why companies need to open up the dialogue around diversity.

About Sarah Kaiser

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Sarah Kaiser is the Employee Experience, Diversity & Inclusion Lead for Fujitsu EMEIA. She has driven Fujitsu’s activity to become recognised as an exemplar on gender pay gap reporting, a Times Top 50 Employer for Women, a Disability Confident Leader, a Stonewall Top 100 Employer and a Top 50 Social Mobility Employer. She is passionate about finding creative solutions to unusual diversity challenges, developing cultures where everyone can achieve their full potential, and the representation of diversity in contemporary culture.

Previously Sarah was the Head of Equality at Brent Council, where she led the organisation to achieve the Excellence level of the Equality Framework for Local Government. Beforehand, as the first Diversity Manager for Tate, Sarah increased the diversity of Tate’s audiences, workforce and programme. Prior to that, Sarah was the Director of RenéCassin, an international human rights NGO.

In her personal capacity, Sarah has worked on a wide range of diversity and inclusion projects, including with Citizens Advice, Purple Light Up and the Commission on Women in Jewish Leadership. She has a degree in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge.

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