Managing diversity, equity and inclusion in corporate culture

Managing diversity, equity and inclusion is a crucial part of building the right company culture. Debbie Ramsay, who leads GoodCorporation’s work in measuring ethical culture, talks to Clare Beresford, CEO of Laurence Simons Search, about why these areas are important and how best to get it right.

Building an inclusive organisation

An inclusive organisation is one that recognises and fully embraces the importance of a diverse workforce to its success. It has a culture where everyone can feel valued, engaged and respected for what they do, and given the opportunity to progress.

This means taking proactive steps to ensure that the rhetoric becomes a reality. First, ensure there are no barriers to recruitment, participation or progression. To do this properly you need to ask for opinions; you may not perceive the barriers that others see or even experience. Second, listen to what is said, understand the concerns and work hard to address them. Third, identify the pathways to ensure diversity and inclusion goals can be met (assuming you’ve set some!) and that a wide range of groups are represented across the organisation and in particular in leadership roles. This should be supported with mentoring, training and coaching.

Defining equity

Equity is a newer term, but very important. It’s about creating a level playing field. In terms of how you recruit, for example, it can be about ensuring you get a diverse pool of people to recruit from.

Within the organisation, this means making sure that everyone can achieve their potential, whether that’s through enabling working parents to manage childcare needs alongside their work demands or recognising the additional needs of people with disabilities, or, in the current environment, ensuring that people feel they have been treated fairly whether furloughed, working from home or on the front line.

Why does this matter?

Creating an equitable, inclusive and diverse environment is more than just a ‘good thing to do’. All the evidence to date shows that doing so also delivers a sustainable and competitive advantage. It leads to higher retention levels, better workforce engagement, the ability to attract top talent, more innovation, and better decision-making. In other words, it helps build better businesses.

Advocating for diversity and inclusion

Always start at the top. If the importance isn’t understood and prioritised at board level, you may find yourself pushing water uphill as it won’t be properly recognised or promoted through the organisation. Start by looking at the structure and make-up of the board and senior management team. It is vital to ensure that the right role models exist within the organisation – if staff can’t see what they could aspire they may not consider applying for certain roles, creating a self-perpetuating situation.

For more on the glass ceiling, gender equality and challenging the status quo, read the article in full.