Equality, diversity and inclusion- A guide to getting started

A company’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion must be sustained by strong practices that cut across all operations and systems to guarantee the maximum degree of inclusiveness. Here are five easy to adopt practices that can ensure greater fairness and revolutionise the way companies operate:

#1- Identify the EDI areas you want to focus on

This is the first and most important step in the journey to becoming a champion for equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Some of the most common areas of diversity that companies focus on are age, gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, culture/religion/belief and disability. Once a commitment has been made to specific diversity areas, a policy must be drafted to tell the story behind your desire to embrace more inclusive practices at work while explaining why this is important today.

#2- Embed EDI into everything you do
Once your company is committed to guaranteeing an equal treatment for all, EDI should be a part of all your tools, systems and practices.
There are numerous widespread studies showing that prospective applicants can be disadvantaged in the job market if they have a foreign name, if they are of a certain age, gender and cultural background or if their educational background is considered to be less sophisticated.

In an effort to attract more diverse talent, the BBC has introduced a new hiring system coined ‘blind recruitment’, which omits candidate names and universities from the application process in order to eliminate recruiter biases from the first stage of the recruitment process.

This process can be adapted to suit the needs of companies worldwide and eliminate key discriminatory factors that might affect the success of diverse candidates upon the early stages of the recruitment process. Other examples of information that can be omitted from application forms and CVs are gender, religion, age, sexual orientation and marital status, all which are commonly requested in many application forms and CVs worldwide.

In order to support a more transparent and fair recruitment process, companies must strive to organise, where possible, an interviewing panel consisting of managers or employees who represent as many areas of diversity as possible – males and females of different ages, in different roles and pay-bands, etc. This small shift in the recruitment process will ensure that all candidates are given equal consideration and valued on their experience and suitability for the role for which they are applying.

When it comes to EDI, many companies are great at talking the talk, yet, internal surveys on employee satisfaction highlight the need for more robust internal practices in order to eradicate discrimination in any or many of the areas of diversity.

Employers who are truly committed to embedding EDI in their practices have to make sure they talk the talk and walk the walk. IBM, for instance, has opted for demoting managers who do not display the behaviours and values that help manage and support individuals from all backgrounds. This includes failing to make people feel welcomed and valued within the organisation.
While this approach might seem drastic, embedding EDI into all managers’ deliverables and behaviours is the best way to ensure a fairer work environment for all.

#3- Mainstream
Sharing a company’s commitment equality and inclusion with others is one of the most powerful tools a company can have in the journey to challenging stereotypes and combating discrimination.
Mainstreaming can vary from simply adding an EDI tab to a website to share the story behind the commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, to something as simple as adding a brief description of your EDI policy at the foot of an email signature.

Best practice dictates that all contracts of employment or contracted services with external partners include an EDI clause to ensure the policies and systems are understood and accepted by all. Not only will this contribute to the employees’ understanding of the company’s values and expected behaviours, but where working with external stakeholders, these contracts will exemplify your advocacy for equal rights and inclusive working practices. Companies who embrace inclusive practices lead by example and also inspire others to transform the cultural and behavioural construct of common work practices in communities, countries and regions at large.

There is also benefit from developing partnerships with individuals or other organisations within the community who are actively advocating for the equal treatment of marginalised groups. Inviting local advocates to represent the issues affecting them helps develop a better understanding of how to support their cause. This can both motivate staff and also develop potential business relationships. Companies can also capitalise on their expertise on diversity and inclusion in an effort to train and support others in their journey to develop more inclusive practices at work.

#4- Set goals
It is essential to map out any EDI specific action to be achieved as a company, as a team, or as an individual, across all operations in the organisation. Whether it is to partner up with specific disability organisations to develop an internship program in your company, or to create a proposal for training and development programs for disadvantaged groups within the community, what matters is to be able to integrate the company’s business goals with its commitment to inclusion.

Setting quarterly and yearly goals will help you keep track of the work you have done and of further areas to focus on in the future.

#5- Assess and review
Assessment and review refer to the internal exercise of evaluating the amount and quality of EDI specific action undertaken by your organisation against the goals set at the start of the year or cycle.

To avoid biases, it is best practice to partner up with external stakeholders who are also committed to various areas of diversity and, together, evaluate the work carried out throughout the reporting period to decide whether the action undertaken by all departments, internally and externally has had the impact expected. This exercise of assessment and review is a powerful tool in keeping track of the impact and success of a company’s commitment to fairer practices in and out of work.

Now that we’ve looked at these five different strategies, which one do you think will/would be easier to implement in your company? Which might be the hardest? Why? Leave us a comment!