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3 Highly practical ways to boost diversity in your workplace and some startling facts that may scare you

BestStepEver Diversity and Inclusivity

Inclusivity is this season’s hot topic!

Along with its conjoined twin, diversity, this is a top priority for most HR departments right now. The global pandemic has helped to highlight the struggle of excluded groups to find success in society.

For BestStepEver, like for many start-ups of today, inclusivity is built into our very core. We want to create access to high quality soft skills development for all, not for the few. We want to unlock the career potential of every person, not only those identified as “high potential”.  

It's a hard job for HR leaders to embed diversity and inclusion (D&I) into existing company structures and practices.  What follows are some ideas to help with this journey. 

The need for a focus on D&I is clear. For too long, career success has been determined by factors like:

  • - gender
  • - ethnicity
  • - disability
  • - neurodiversity
  • - sexuality
  • - socio-economic background 

The complexity is that there are many contributing factors to how a person identifies with any of these exclusion markers. Despite this, the evidence out there is clear. There’s still a long way to go.

Let's examine only one excluded group, namely women. Despite making up 50% of the population, they still face discrimination in the workplace.   

Today, only 8 out of 100 FTSE CEO's are women. The trickle-down impact of this is far reaching as our bias always errs towards those like us. So now we know that 92% of the people with ultimate power in business are men. They're likely to choose men for the decision-making roles in their companies. These managers are more likely to choose male suppliers. They're also more likely to promote males. So, the barriers for women are built into the workplace before they even get there. 

Consulting firm McKinsey refers to the "broken rung". Let's assume that for every 100 men promoted into entry level management, only 85 women are. This means that the pool for further promotions has less women in it for promotion and so on. 

We can use the same logic to tell the stories of other excluded groups. These stats reveal how ethnicity, disability, neurodiversity, sexuality and socio-economic background all affect a person’s working life and prospects. 

Ethnicity has a huge impact. Black people are twice as likely to be unemployed, but also earn up to 50% less than their peers when they are employed. 

One in eight people who identify as LGBTQIA+ have reported physical attacks in their workplaces. Why? Because of their sexual orientation / gender identity. 

47% of people with a disability are out of work and 40% of people who are neurodiverse as well.   

People from less privileged backgrounds (lower income families) are only 50% as likely as their peers to have a professional career. And now let’s turn to those manage to embark on studies to support a professional career. Graduates from poorer backgrounds may earn 50% less than their more privileged colleagues in their first job. 


Because they lack financial support and family connections to put themselves forward for more and better jobs. 

When the odds are stacked against you for factors entirely outside your control, it’s very hard to climb the ladder.

The business case for diversity

D&I matters implicitly. We should grow a culture of acceptance and representation of everyone for the wellbeing of society alone. Some argue that social mobility should be the responsibility of the state. Yet governments only have power over their constituencies which limits their global reach.

But businesses who hire and operate globally hold a huge amount of power to create a fairer society. It’s no secret that, excluding the lucky few, most people need employment to survive. In a world that didn’t promote D&I in the workplace, the opportunities afforded to each person would be wholly determined by the conditions into which they are born.

This means that the wealthy few would continue to accumulate wealth. Whilst those less privileged would have no hope of escaping their circumstances.

That being the case, we know that we live in a world where money talks. Fortunately, more inclusive workplaces do produce much more profit. According to  Builtin, global GDP could increase by $28 trillion if the global workface became truly gender diverse. When it comes to return on investment, D&I offers a significant edge.

To oversimplify, the reason more D&I creates more profit is that people are more likely to buy things from people like them.  Going back to our implicit biases, we’re all likely to trust and gain an understanding with people we identify as being like us. So, it makes sense that when a company represents itself as having people similar to the people who are buying from them, we’re more likely to buy from them.

This benefit shows internally, too. Diversity in a company increases diversity of thought. Lived experiences that are different make for people that problem-solve differently.  A company that celebrates diversity and inclusion benefits through being able innovate more effectively.  

Research by Josh Bersin shows that companies which are truly inclusive have teams that are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders.  And, connectedly, 1,8 times more likely to be change-ready.  That’s nearly double that of their less inclusive peers.

Diversity in a workplace directly engages staff. A study by Deloitte showed that 83% of millennials are more likely to be engaged at work at inclusive companies. Creating a comfortable and supportive environment for everyone, unsurprisingly, benefits everyone.

 A company culture that celebrates D&I in a meaningful way creates employees who feel valued and empowered.  Making space for diversity in promotions and in all leadership means decision-making becomes more democratic.  Employees get to see themselves represented in the direction of the company. Instead of being disempowered by people not like them who are deciding for them.

Not convinced yet? Here are some more statistics from Josh Bersin’s research. Companies that rank highly on inclusivity measures have leaders that are:

3.8 times more likely to coach people for improved performance
3.6 times more able to deal with employee performance problems
2.9 times more likely to identify and build the next generation of leaders

I’m sure you don’t need more convincing. Here are three innovative ways to make your workplace more inclusive and diverse.

1. To promote diversity, turn your recruitment process on its head

BestStepEver turn recruitment process on its head

The first, and probably easiest, way to promote a more inclusive workplace is to hire more diverse talent. HR leaders consistently tell us that hiring and retention are at the top of their list of priorities. And if hiring practices are more inclusive this will increase top-talent acquisition. There are many ways to use hiring as a tool for inclusivity including mindful language and revisiting the use of the CV. 

If you’re reading this blog about inclusivity, you’re probably aware of the stats like those that women, in general, do not apply for jobs if they don’t meet all the entry criteria.  Whereas men, in general, will apply if they meet only 60% of the criteria. 

The same goes for our groups of diverse talent. This makes sense.  If a person operates in a world where they are constantly having to prove themselves (because they are the anomaly), that means they’re much more unlikely to apply for roles where they feel like they’ll be challenged.  Because it’s hard enough already! 

Most employers want to hire the best candidate, but unknowingly dissuade so much incredible talent through badly worded, gendered and often discriminatory job adverts.  There are tools you can use to check how gendered the language is in your ads, for a start. But if you’re serious about proper inclusivity, try thinking about adding a line into your job ads like, “we’re accepting applications from brilliant candidates that do not necessarily meet all the criteria, so if you think you’re a good fit, we’d love to hear why!” 

A radical idea for some, but absolutely embraced by companies leading in the D&I space is this:  don't use CVs! (resumes).  Especially not for entry level jobs.  A CV is a highly (HIGHLY) curated document, mostly not written by the candidate themselves. And very likely heavily influenced by other people:  parents, that HR friend, that knowledgeable aunt, that online CV shaping tool all provide input to this document.  It’s frequently full of exaggerations and mistruths. 

A CV rarely tells you very much about the candidate and their ability to learn how to do the role you're hiring for. A cleverly worded paragraph about being on the student council and having a part-time job at McDonalds that taught the value of teamwork (spoiler, this author knows, it doesn’t) isn’t a true representation of the person behind the CV.  

If you want to know about education, ask. If you want to know about a particular field of interest, ask. If you want a page of meaningless tautologies (the old favourite being, “I work well as an individual but also as a team”) then ask for a CV. 

There are great alternatives. like an application form that directly asks about the experience you’re looking for. Especially when you’re on the hunt for brand new, pure, mouldable talent. 

Here’s another tip: call every candidate. This suggestion, invariably, is met with the objection of not having enough time. Meanwhile, at the exact same time, the team is lamenting over the lack of talent and the pressure to find some-one good. 

Job hunting is no longer the one-sided project it used to be. Talented people are precious. If they’ve spent over an hour applying to your company (which is the lower average), the least they can expect is a five-minute call from you. 

The fabulous thing about this is that it is a great filter for candidates. Great candidates will either answer the phone or call you back, because they’re serious about looking for a new job. 

The terrible candidates will ignore the call and never call back – wasting no more of your time. Some mediocre candidates will fall either way. 

But for those that you do end up speaking to (about 30% in this author’s experience) you can get a very quick idea of how good the candidate is. And you’ll get some surprising discoveries of talent that you may otherwise have overlooked.

2. To boost diversity, get better at connecting and listening

BestStepEver get better at connecting and listening

If you’re serious about inclusion, you’ll need to reach wider than just hiring practices.  You'll be running active interventions though out the business to promote diverse working attitudes. 

The good news is that this is easy if done right. 

The bad news? It can have the opposite effect if done badly.

Let's start with mentoring. It’s every company’s go-to when it comes to D&I work. Invariably, those that take advantage of the scheme build good relationships with each other. And the feedback is good, so the scheme continues.

Mentoring is an incredible resource. But it is only impactful from an inclusivity standpoint when it is implemented thoughtfully.  Take, for example, the LGBTQIA+ senior leader who has made it to their position despite all odds and has worked hard to get the influence they now have. They’re happy about their progress and recognise that creating opportunities for people like them is important.  So, like many diverse people, they agree to mentor some LGBTQIA+ talent.  

But this adds to their workload in a way that doesn’t to colleagues who are over-represented. And guess what that does?  Yes, it further widens the gap.  

A far better mentoring scheme would pair up those that are in leadership positions (regardless of who they are) with diverse mentees that are looking to progress through the company.  This makes for a more equitable sharing of the mentoring labour, but also creates opportunities for the mentees to directly connect with, and be heard by, the people making decisions.  This has the mutual benefit of creating space for leadership to fully understand the people in the company.  

Add to this the benefit of helping diverse employees to understand how the company works strategically, thereby giving them a better pathway to success.  

If there is a way to ensure that all senior leaders have space in their calendar for mentoring, it is best that this is seen as a communal responsibility.  Not one that is palmed off to only those who believe intrinsically in its necessity.  Another option is mentoring (and reverse mentoring) outside of the company through organisations that are dedicated to this type of relationship.

It's also important to create space for voices to be heard.  Are you in a company with a low representation of ethnic minorities? Are you working on getting the voices of neurodiverse employees heard? Are you thinking about how to make women apply for more promotions? Ask them how you can. 

Many company policies and procedures come straight out of HR strategy meetings without consultation with the communities they’re trying to empower.  Not only is this not going to work, but it also has the reverse effect of disempowering the people you were trying to help. Instead, you’re showing them how little their voices count, even when they’re the ones you’re allegedly helping.

3. To promote diversity, provide learning for all, not just the favoured few

BestStepEver believes that equal and unbiased opportunities can and should be extended to the entire workforce.  That’s at the centre of our business model. 

And cost shouldn’t stand in the way. Training and development don’t need to be prohibitively expensive.  There are many innovative ways to deliver quality learning opportunities without breaking the bank.  

Organisations who actively measure employee engagement initiatives almost always report a clear link between learning and engagement.  Levels of employee engagement rise after employers begin offering soft skills training.  And why wouldn’t organisations want to extend this engagement to their full workforce instead of the selected few? 

Gone are the days of old, where old, pale and stale executives of old, pale and stale businesses called all the shots in autocratic environments. We’re in a time and place in history where people’s autonomy is paramount to their choice about where they work. 

High potential employees, often identified through outdated and non-inclusive methods, are traditionally the only people to receive high quality skills development training within an organisation.  Companies have historically allocated their entire L&D budgets into ensuring that current and future leaders are properly prepared for their propulsion up the company ladder. 

Great for them. 

But often this is at the expense of the 90% of people who have not been identified as worthy. 

Imagine, though, the workforce potential that’s waiting to be unlocked if all employees are given the same opportunity for growth.  

Smart organisations don’t want good people to leave because they feel they don’t have a future. And this is not difficult nor expensive to fix. Consider giving better opportunities better opportunities for staff to upskill themselves and develop their careers in a cost-effective way. 

Providing staff with power skills training to upskill themselves and build their careers starts to look like a very reasonable and inexpensive way to reduce costly turnover.  

Spending a percentage of annual salary on staff training for everyone to prevent turnover makes good business sense. Particularly in an unstable labour market. 

BestStepEver has made this process easy. We use smart learning pathways and cutting edge learning methodologies to ensure that our members get the very best out of us, and therefore their futures.

Contact us today to see how we might be able to help you get the most out of everyone in your company!

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