22nd May, 2019 | ,

How Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Drive Business Achievements

Overlooking Equality, Diversity and Inclusion can be a negative business decision. At Cadence, “Enabling” people in their business is a cornerstone of our work. From our work around the Gender Pay Gap, our various discoveries in businesses, Local and Central Government, we have identified practical business processes that teams need in order to drive an inclusive and enabling culture change.

Daily life can be complicated for many. At all levels of an organisation, people still face a lot of harmful stereotypes. In addition, various studies have shown that negative emotions stifle innovation, productivity and growth.

Organisations that do more work on business processes that make inclusion a reality, and foster psychological safety reap rewards over time.

They are organisations that put a distinct effort in understanding the differences that make us who we are, and appreciate the perspectives brought by our gender, our neurodiversity, our age, our sexuality, our mental health, our ethnic background, our cultural background, and at times all of these ‘identities’ simultaneously.

They are organisations that accept that when an issue is being raised, it is because it genuinely exists.

Moutain climbers - Inclusion

Peter Drucker famously said:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

An inclusive workplace is a cultural context and a practice that comes to life from the strengths, the vulnerabilities and the differences among its team members.

From a very early age, children are not always encouraged to speak up or ask questions, so we have to recognise that not everyone in a workplace is equipped to raise issues with ease. An inclusive workplace will address this.

An inclusive workplace uses more fluid open communications, reduces fear and stress, by doing so, it sees its innovation capacity grow, it is more open and eventually, more likely to design better products and services for a complex customer base.

From our research and events, we gathered a few practical steps to build or grow your inclusive workplace:

  1. Build an exquisite listening culture and a Thinking Environment tm.

    • Be mindful that perceptions and experiences of a given situation are multiple.
    • Not paying attention to these can lead to misunderstandings, staff attrition, morale decrease and lost opportunities.
    • Enabling people to express ideas and remove self-limiting assumptions is a formidable creative approach.
    • Developing coaching skills and a sponsor/buddy system among staff enables these conversations to take place and issues to be solved in the open.
    • A Thinking Environment tm and its 10 components, sets a wonderful foundation. These components are: Attention, Equality, Ease, Appreciation, Encouragement, Feelings, Information, Diversity, Incisive Questions, Place.
  1. Productive discourse and debate

    • Workgroups in organisations shouldn’t just look for a uniform consensus in service or operations design but be open to discourse and debate. During our workshops, we experiment with Deep Democracy, a technique that enables people to connect pieces of an argument, understand diverging points of views and design rich solutions that sometimes manage to combine disparate ideas, in a short amount of time.
    • Discourse and debate opportunities can be preceded by encouraging buddying up among peers or individuals within or outside the organization, whom people find comfortable to speak to, in order to overcome an initial fear of “speaking up”.
  1. Open management and radical transparency

Teams learn from witnessing the daily processes that lead to successful achievement of individual business objectives – but they also learn from the processes that lead to failure (that is not a bad thing!)

Consistency and company-wide transparency are key to boost positive culture change.

To boost efficiency, you can use tools that enable open communications such as Agile tools or Scrum methods (team daily stand ups, weekly sprint planning sessions, retrospectives) but also very simple digital communication tools (Trello, Slack, Teams), or making the point to meet people in person or see your project’s progress on the wall, letting people interact with it…

An inclusive and enabling workplace starts with conversations that are open and free of taboos and where everyone feels they can challenge practices that are counterproductive, without fear of retaliation.

  1. The discipline of framing the issue and being accountable for it.

Some organisations struggle to be enabling workplaces because key topics such as equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) are reduced and framed as mere HR functions, policy writing exercises, nice-to-haves, female led, a minority specific, a small branding effort on the sides, not central to the business, etc… Instead they should be framed as a strategic priority, a core business issue, a means to build stronger teams and grow business intelligence. The framing should focus on staff loyalty & inclusion, the involvement and leadership of the top executive team, eventually customers satisfaction.

Management accountability is key. Aligning business metrics to support desirable behaviour and culture change, and systematically report on it openly, becomes easier and is a bold step forward!

  1. Work with an enabling legal background

People usually come to lawyers when things have gone very wrong. For someone to get over the fear of speaking up, they first need to be listened to. Organisations usually put in place safeguards for raising complaints, which see people/complains as a risk.

Practical steps include:

  • Know your rights! An employee’s contract should outline the procedure for complaints and grievance policy, and other rights. Outside that, there are statutory rights, however people are not always aware of these.  A lawyer can act as professional, critical friend who can tell you what your rights are.
  • Logging all complaints or claims of harassment or discrimination centrally (if anonymously), so that if there is a discrimination incident, it is recorded. (Technology can help to do so, such as InChorus, a third party platform that surfaces insights around non-inclusive behaviours at work and empowers companies to take a more data-driven approach to D&I.
  • For the employer: start from a place of believing people when they complain
    1. Statistics show that there is a low percentage of complaints made that are serious or discrimination, so companies should question why their policies are so defensive.
    2. Empower those investigating to make decisions.
  1. Prototype participatory cultures with people

Before you do anything around participation and openness, be mindful that culture change needs to be driven and implemented from the top and this can also mean re-educating or training leadership teams to adapt new management styles than operating with more traditional ways of working. When leadership teams drive the change and make it a priority, interventions tend to be more successful

With this objective in mind, explore the following steps:

    • Research and evaluate how your team members can learn to speak up and understand how not doing so can lead to missed opportunities.
    • Set up and measure results of internal sponsorship schemes
    • Review and clarify employment processes, retributions, contracts, progression routes
    • Ensure various business functions (HR, D&I officers, CEO, board) do speak the same language and align objectives.
    • Make sure that individual’s personal circumstances don’t feed bargaining power. This is illegal.
    • Understand that regulations and compliance are there to help.

Thanks to our May workshop’s participants and panel members Katy Alexander & Suze Kundu (Digital Science), Paula Lee (Leigh Day LLP), Jaspreet Kaur (Cadence Innova), Cynthia V. Davies. (BAME Recruitment)

Thinking about inclusive business processes and individual attitudes that drive culture change can really influence business success.

For inclusive workplace advisory and inclusive leadership development, write to servane.mouazan@cadenceinnova.com

What is your challenge? Do you need to solve a problem in a different way? Connect with us now on challenge.us@cadenceinnova.com