‘Inclusivity,’ ‘diversity’ and ‘equality’ are all phrases that good employers are well aware of and will have policies in place to show that the workplace is indeed inclusive, diverse and equal for all. However, have you ever sat down to analyse your workplace and asked yourself if you have an inclusive workplace in practice as well as in policy?
As well as having benefits for the staff you employ, an inclusive workplace also has benefits for you and can keep your company ahead of the game, driving future success. An inclusive workplace is a diverse workplace and this can result in a stronger teamwork ethic.
In a past article, I wrote about the types of questions you shouldn’t be asking during the interview process. These are mainly questions that could ultimately land you in legal hot water and relate to someone’s age, disability, gender, marital status, race, sexual preferences or religious beliefs. An inclusive workplace is a workplace that takes into account all of these differences between people, embraces them and is a team of people that are representative of the make up of British society.
Is this your workplace? Is it diverse and inclusive? Is there room for improvement? Let’s take a look at some of the issues faced by job applicants, your existing staff and also, of course, some of the obstacles you might face as a company looking to become more inclusive.
Questions To Consider
Do you monitor your recruitment?
Writing great job ads to attract the best, targeted candidates for your roles is essential but having a target in mind can help to create more inclusivity and diversity within your company. For example, do you know how many school leavers, students or graduates are applying for your vacancies? Have you hit the right audience?
Amongst those young people who have applied for your vacancies, are they representative of British society? When it comes to race, for example, Sandra Kerr OBE, Race Equality Director for Business in the Community says ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the workplace. 1 in 4 primary and secondary school children in the UK are from an ethnic minority background. This decreases to 1 in 8 in the working age population and 1 in 16 for senior positions in the workplace.
Likewise, people with disabilities – physical, mental or long term illness – are also underrepresented in the workplace. Young people from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds are also slipping through the net.
All of this is young talent that you could be harnessing. If these people are not applying for your roles, is there something you could do that could attract their interest. In this case, could you tweak your initial job advert in some way to indicate that diversity and inclusivity is a key part of the culture of your workplace.
Are you open to new ideas and suggestions as an employer?
Is your door always open – and do your staff know your door is always open? Having an inclusive workplace means your staff need to know they can come to you with ideas, suggestions and requests and know that they are going to be listened to.
You might not be able to accommodate what is being suggested but explaining why this is the case means your staff will still feel included and valued. And, if you can make changes or adaptations due to a staff suggestion, a team of staff who know their opinions are considered and valued is likely to remain in place for longer.
Being open minded and approachable can really boost your staff retention and, when you do need to recruit young people, your reputation as an inclusive workplace means you could get a whole host of applications from talented people you could otherwise have missed out on.
How do your staff work together and communicate on a daily basis?
Do you think you have a strong team within your workplace that is also diverse? How do all of those people communicate and work together.
For example, are your disabled staff comfortable discussing their illness or disability with co-workers or do they feel they might be thought of as less capable of doing their role if they did this? Are your staff from different religious backgrounds or different cultures comfortable chatting about this with coworkers? Is it accepted that some staff might need to work flexible hours or job share because they have commitments at home such as children or others to care for?
Whilst this can be a difficult balance to achieve, a work culture of inclusivity and diversity can keep your company ahead of the game. A diverse range of people will find different ways of communicating and working together and this can boost productivity and innovation.
Are your staff perks for everyone?
Having staff perks is a fantastic way of not only boosting staff retention but innovative, quirky perks can also be a great draw for the recruitment of school leavers, students and graduates. But, are your staff perks equal and inclusive? Telling everyone they can take time off for the latest sporting event, for example, might seem like a great idea for you and a percentage of your staff.
For others, that’s not so great, if they don’t like sport. Equality in the workplace and inclusivity is about matching your staff’s individual needs – all are treated fairly but not in blanket fashion where one size fits all. If you do give time off for a sporting event, what is your alternative for those staff that might request other perks instead?
Organising a variety of social events so that everyone can enjoy them will also improve inclusivity in the workplace. Can your disabled staff access your chosen venue, for example? Is it a venue that can be enjoyed by staff of particular religious or cultural backgrounds? Is your get-together at a time suitable for your staff with family commitments?
Do your staff feel valued and worthy of promotion?
Who are the people in senior positions in your workplace? Who are the people who apply for more senior positions when they arise? Have you got staff from different cultures, different socioeconomic backgrounds, different genders, ages? Do any of your senior staff have a disability?
One issue for employers in this regard is that, even if your workplace has a diverse range of people that make up your workforce, are all of those people applying for the senior positions when they become available? Studies have shown that some people don’t apply for promotion because they feel they wouldn’t get the job anyway because of their circumstances. They feel they wouldn’t get the job because they’re too young, because they’re female, because they need to work flexible hours, because they have a disability, because they’re from an ethnic minority background.
One way to remedy this is to have different role models within your company. Prominent young senior staff will show your young Apprentices and those on graduate schemes that their chances of progress within the company are real. Female bosses, senior staff with disabilities; this demonstrates to all staff that they are worthy of promotion and holding senior roles.
What Action You Can Take To Become A More Inclusive Workplace?
There are a few strategies you can utilise in order to make your workplace more inclusive and a place that you can really see is representative of society. One problem faced by employers is that, even at the application stage, a diverse range of people simply don’t apply for vacancies. So what can be done to make sure you aren’t missing out on talent because those people aren’t even applying for roles?
If They Don’t Come To You, You Can Go To Them
Make yourself and your company visible and accessible to young people. You could do this by going into schools that have a diverse range of pupils and tell them about your company and the apprenticeships you have on offer.
Make sure you get out into the inner city schools and areas that might be socially and economically disadvantaged. You could also create some work experience programmes for both high school pupils or further and higher education students at these schools. Build connections and encourage these young people to get involved.
If you offer graduate programmes, make sure the universities you are targeting are also diverse. Don’t just concentrate on the institutions where students need top A-Level grades to get a place on a course. There is a lot of talent in other colleges and universities that you could harness.
Can You Offer Flexible Working Hours?
Whether it’s graduate programmes, Apprenticeships or other roles, are you in a position to be flexible with working hours? For those with learning difficulties, for example, is it possible that they could complete their Apprenticeship on a part time basis so that they can have more time to learn new skills.
Also, lots of young people are also carers, too, or they might be parents with young children. Can you be flexible with working hours so that they can be a part of your team? And then there are the graduates and other young people who are just looking for a role that offers a better work life balance.
There are many benefits to offering flexible working hours to your staff:
- Studies have shown that flexible working means staff are more productive, engaged and happier and are therefore more likely to stay in their role for longer.
- Flexible working hours also help people who might have been held back, previously, to advance their careers. Women held back on many occasions because of lack of flexible working such as job share. Mothers are prevented from returning to work or they need to leave their role because of lack of flexibility.
- Staff feel valued and trusted by the company if they are given the opportunity to work from home occasionally.
What You Can To Attract Young People With Disabilities
Young people find it hard to get jobs and those young people with disabilities find it even harder. Less than 1 in 20 people with a disability are in paid employment in the UK. There are lots of reasons for this and there are strategies that employers can make use of to make sure they attract disabled applicants for their vacancies.
- People with disabilities are often put off from applying for some roles because they fear discrimination.
- If your company has no history of employing disabled people then disabled people are less likely to apply for your roles. As mentioned earlier in the article, if you can have role models that disabled people could relate to, you could attract more applicants. Eventually, your company will gain a reputation for inclusivity and you will have more applicants to choose from.
- Your recruitment process could be dissuading people with disabilities from applying for your Apprenticeships, student jobs or graduate schemes. Is your recruitment accessible to everyone? Have you shown that you can make any necessary adaptations so that people with disabilities feel they can apply? Could you adapt your interviews for people with certain learning disabilities?
Employing a diverse range of people can create a stronger team dynamic in your workplace. Everyone learns about each other and learns new ways of communicating and adapting to certain situations. This can help your company stay ahead of the game in the future.
You could be missing out on top talent if your team of staff is not representative of today’s society. This means you could also be missing out on the financial benefits, too. An inclusive and diverse workplace means you have a range of experiences and skills to draw on for the uptake and completion of projects. You can access new markets for your products and services and also boost your reputation as being an inclusive company.