LINKAGE Q1 (2022) - BREAK THE BIAS
By Kathleen Charles-Jackson
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is good for business not just because it is the right thing to do but because it makes good business sense.
Diversity recognises the differences in the workplace such as race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability, socioeconomic status, language or political perspective. Equity recognises that not everyone is starting from the same place or has the same advantages in their career and will need specific resources, access and opportunities to make up for that inequality. Inclusion means that everyone is welcomed, feels a sense of belonging, and is valued and respected regardless of their difference.
Internationally, DE&I has been on the agenda of many companies for years and these companies have made tremendous strides in promoting a diverse and inclusive culture in their business. Locally, we are behind the curve, and it is in our best interest to catch up. Today’s socially conscious environment, the focus on social injustice and inequities, and the impact of the global pandemic, have put pressure on company leaders to improve diversity, promote equity and create a more inclusive work culture. Let me tell you why!
DE&I can be a source of competitive advantage and a key enabler to the growth, success and competitiveness of a company.
DE&I helps companies to improve financial performance; attract, hire, develop and retain the best talent; build a good reputation and secure their license to operate; understand their customers, and improve their decision-making and innovation.
In its first report into the relationship between the level of diversity and financial performance, “Diversity Matters” (2015) , McKinsey&Co, found a significant relationship between a more diverse leadership team and better financial performance. Companies in the top diversity quartile for gender diversity and racial/ethnic diversity were statistically more likely to generate financial returns above their national industry average. The level of diversity was defined as a greater share of women and a more mixed ethnic/racial composition in the leadership of large companies.
Its 2018 and 2020 reports indicated that the strong company case for both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership continues to strengthen.
Statistically, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability and companies with more than 30% women executives were more likely to outperform companies with fewer or no women executives. Further, the likelihood of outperformance continued to be higher for diversity in ethnicity than for gender.
Companies that want to remain competitive must embrace DE&I across its talent lifecycle from attraction and recruitment to career progression and retention. Hiring diverse talent will not be enough to create an inclusive culture. Companies must implement policies and practices that promote equity, impartiality and fairness. By so doing, a company can ensure that all workers are treated fairly, feel empowered to contribute, and have opportunities for career growth and leadership development.
Questions to consider – Does the current recruitment strategy reflect the diversity of the society in both the candidate slates and the interview process? What policies or practices are in place to promote inclusion, fairness of opportunity, openness, and freedom from bias and discrimination? Is there enough diversity in decision-making? What is the leaders’ accountability to promote the DE&I objectives? If an employee decides to move on, what meaningful insight can be gained from the exit interviews?
DE&I increases employee satisfaction and reduces conflicts between groups, improving collaboration and commitment.
Creating a diverse workforce and an equitable and inclusive work culture is not without its challenges and takes work. It takes commitment from leaders to listen, understand, and act on differences and inequities in their organisation.
It is easier to treat everyone the same way with the same work standards and policies. However, that approach does not allow all voices to be heard or for active participation by all.
Marginalised groups such as women, people who identify as LGBTQ+ and other underrepresented minorities experience microaggressions daily. Microaggressions are subtle, intentional or unintentional interactions or behaviours such as slights, insults or indignities that communicate bias. These groups may feel unable to speak openly or share ideas with their team members and peers because of fear of judgment or ridicule.
As companies rethink their workplace model and consider more flexible work arrangements such as remote or hybrid work, they must be aware that these new ways of working may cause more employees to feel disconnected from their peers and teams. New work arrangements will require sustained efforts to create and maintain inclusive work environments.
DE&I policies can help to form connections with customers, e.g., women are key consumer-decision makers.
Diverse teams which reflect the communities in which a company operates gives the company a better chance of understanding and serving diverse customer groups, which in turn will help them to grow.
Teams that are diverse, well-managed, and able to cultivate and utilise their differences, outperform others. Diversity drives greater creativity and innovation through a greater variety of problem-solving approaches, perspectives and ideas because of the inherent discomfort and friction that diversity creates.
The level of commitment by management and senior leaders to having a diverse, equitable and inclusive corporate culture is important for embedding DE&I in a company. Companies should appoint a top executive to lead the DE&I efforts. Leaders must adopt and demonstrate inclusive behaviours and commit to continually educating themselves on DE&I. Inclusive behaviours include having open and honest conversations on inequities, calling out microaggressions when they are seen, and serving as mentors and sponsors for underrepresented talent.
Aspirational goals and targets such as increasing the share of diverse leaders and the hiring and progression of underrepresented groups will help to drive the DE&I agenda, influence an inclusive culture, and reduce bias in hiring and promotion.
Aspirational goals must be supported by transparency in data to identify gaps, set direction, monitor progress and benchmark against other companies. There must be a willingness to share the data internally and externally.
Ensure that the company objectives align with the goals and adapt company policies and practices which may limit DE&I through the talent lifecycle.
Implement a framework with an action plan to improve DE&I and to embed DE&I into the DNA of the business. Continually review, measure, improve and communicate the effectiveness of the DE&I initiatives.
Companies should establish a code of conduct – values and behaviours – supported by training for their organisation. Establish systems for employees to raise concerns and report conduct that is not aligned with the company’s values and behaviours, including allowing for anonymous reporting.
Employees have a major role to play in building a diverse and inclusive culture. Engage all employees in conversations about inclusion and ensure that the actions to support inclusion involve all employees, e.g., allies’ programmes, employee resource groups, surveys to track improvements on DE&I.
Encourage the creation of ERGs which are a valuable resource to companies. Such groups act as a forum for employees to get involved in building DE&I awareness and promoting activities that support an underrepresented group; provide diverse perspectives on employee issues and help to shape DE&I practices and policies. Examples of ERGs include gender equality, sexual orientation and gender identity, ethnic minorities, working families, cross-generational working and people with disabilities.
The business case for diversity, equity and inclusion is not only strong, but tried and tested. Research shows that diversity increases financial performance. Engaged and included employees are more committed and energised. Equitable processes and procedures improve employee satisfaction and retention. Diverse teams perform better and are better able to understand and engage their customers.
Remember, one size does not fit all, so tailor your DE&I program to ensure relevance to your business.
Kathleen Charles-Jackson is Diversity & Inclusion and Ethics & Compliance Investigations Lead at bp Trinidad and Tobago LLC. Kathleen is responsible for identifying and leading DE&I initiatives at bpTT to enable employees to be their authentic selves and have equitable access to opportunities to grow and be successful at bp. Kathleen is the co-lead of the bpTT chapter of the Working Parent business resource group and co-One Team Lead of the Americas Working Parent group.
Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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