We all love the feeling we get when we see our company’s Mardi Gras float heading down Oxford street or hear colleagues talk about their a-ha moment from our latest diversity event. These activities can create memorable moments, however if we want to access the true benefits of a diverse workforce and inclusive culture, we need to look at the micro-moments that are hardly perceptible to others outside of HR. These moments can either perpetuate inequality or break down systemic barriers and HR are in the perfect position to create meaningful change. Gemma Saunders, Founder of Workplace Edit gave us these three tips for doing D&I differently.
Examine your approach to diversity and inclusion. Right now, we are being encouraged to shift from diversity and inclusion to diversity, inclusion, equity and justice. Where our diversity efforts focus on representation within the organisation, equity addresses who is trying to get into the organisation but can’t. When we focus on justice, we don’t stop at asking if people feel like they belong here, we go further and tackle why one person’s safety is sacrificed to allow others to feel comfortable. By assessing your D&I priorities, you can make small but important pivots to deepen your impact.
Critically examine your policies. Policies hold hidden assumptions and it’s upon us in HR to critically review our policies. When I say primary carer, you are likely to think female. When I say secondary carer, you are likely to think male. The research tells us that only 95% of primary carers leave is taken by men in Australia and our policies are getting in the way of all genders being able to share the care. We have an opportunity to redesign policies that create the change we want to see in the world and with 75% of all unpaid caring done by women, we need to actively encourage men to participate in caregiving. Language is important and we must ask who our policies are designed for and who is inadvertently being written out. One simple activity is to invite others beyond HR to review your policies and give them license to critique and question the intent and application of each core policy.
Challenge behaviours and practices. As we know, so much of the employee experience is driven by the behaviours of leaders and co-workers. If we want to make genuine progress, we have to tackle the micro moments that are hardly perceptible to those outside HR. In a talent identification session, you might hear someone described as “not that ambitious” because they work flexibly or part-time. When these comments are made, we need to start challenging if someone is making an assumption based on their biases and preferences. A simple starting point is to find a language or a few simple phrases such as “tell me more about that” or “help me understand what’s shaped your view on this” to catch those moments and tackle them constructively. You should be aiming to create conversations where people are willing to change their minds when met with new information.
Remember that the real work is in the tough conversations with peers so be brave and celebrate small acts of change.
Thank you, Gemma for your insights and thank you to everyone who was able to attend the session.
Gemma Saunders is the Founder of Workplace Edit – a workplace experience consultancy that helps edit workplace practices, systems and behaviours so workers get the best from their workplaces and workplaces get the best from their workers.