By Jai Thade, Head of Content
In the conversation around ED&I, a lot of emphasis is placed on looking at this topic from a strategic perspective. Aspects like policies and processes around areas like recruitment and promotion or the monitoring of diversity demographics are certainly important. However, the one element that shapes employee experience most powerfully, is the behaviours of those around them.
Our species’ survival has been dependent on our social nature, and thus, social behaviours have a disproportionately powerful impact on our emotional states. Having a robust sick leave policy is one thing but having a colleague surprise you with some hot soup from the company cafeteria, or for them to bring a special brand of cough drop from home which they swear is another!
As an ED&I consultancy, while a lot of our work revolves around auditing policies, protocols and processes, we are also committed to helping our clients identify and embed small inclusive behaviours that they can engage in regularly. In our experience, these small actions performed consistently tend to have powerful impacts both internally to the employee engaging in them and externally to the colleagues with whom they interact.
Let us illustrate with a few examples.
In our work with a UK-based public sector organisation, one of the simple behaviours we spoke about was being more fully present in one’s interactions. In our follow-up session with employees, many mentioned how this simple behaviour made them participate more fully in meetings, leading these meetings to proceed more smoothly and be more successful in their agendas. Frontline workers reported being more mindful of how they phrase what they say and being more conscious of not committing microaggressions. This led them to have improved interactions with service users. Leaders reported being more vigilant of their biases in interactions, allowing them to better mitigate them.
Another behaviour we spoke of is leaders embracing vulnerability by speaking more openly about some of their experiences. One leader spoke about engaging in this behaviour by writing a blog post on being a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Just this one act encouraged multiple employees to feel greater comfort in approaching the leader and opening up to them. Employees felt more able to speak openly about their sexuality and less inclined to hide their identities.
These open conversations that take place without the presence of fear can be transformative to organisational cultures.
At another local authority, one of the inclusive behaviours we asked employees to focus on was actively seeking the perspectives of diverse stakeholders before sharing their own. This led those employees working in children’s services to review their process and ensure it considers cultural differences between families. Employees reported challenging certain protocols and seeking perspectives from diverse stakeholders when it came to family cases.
With a large multinational company, one of the inclusive behaviours we encouraged their leaders to practice was learning something new about ED&I each day and sharing these learnings wherever appropriate for the betterment of their team. This led to conversations around ED&I becoming more frequent. Because this topic was more front-and-centre to the minds of leaders, this small behaviour ultimately resulted in more inclusive work processes being instituted, which in turn led to better diversity and inclusion outcomes.
In this video, you can hear our CEO speaking about her work with a team of senior executives of a large US-based financial institution. Her suggestion to them to share an invisible characteristic they possess that will give others insight into their shared humanity proved pivotal to their subsequent progress in their ED&I agendas.
Our firm belief is that a holistic approach, with an emphasis on small inclusive actions performed regularly, is necessary for a successful ED&I journey.