Diversity needs to be Authentic, Action Led and HR Driven.

We were recently featured in Raconteur, talking about the diversity and inclusion and the role of HR.

Here is the full interview with Jack, detailing the importance of making diversity in the workplace authentic, not just effective. 

What do you think are the biggest mistakes that companies make when it comes to diversity and inclusion? Spanning from the hiring process to roles and policies within the workplace.

The fact is that the best person for the job is the best person for the job, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Tokenism and affirmative action are the enemies of true diversity and inclusion. Companies that have solid employment and engagement policies, based on a zero tolerance for discrimination, will witness an organic culture of inclusion from the top down. Anything short of this is, more often than not, simply “show boating” and has very little positive effect on employee satisfaction or work ethics. Every employee should feel their employment was based on merit, not because their employer needed to reach a “feel good and look good” target.

Creating an environment where everybody feels welcome is more than their skin colour or sexuality. Diversity should also embrace those who identify as a family person, a sports fanatic, a musician, a romanticist, and the like. HR Departments have become PR Departments where the way a company is perceived is more important than reality. Diversity and Inclusion certainly starts with the employment process, but companies must adopt a more holistic approach where these policies transcend all structural levels and employment prospects.

Do you think these mistakes have become exasperated recently, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement shining a spotlight on D&I within the workplace?

These mistakes have become exasperated in the same way that we have to focus on the real enemies like fear and mistrust. The BLM movement is a symptom of the times, showing a deep and repressed anger desperately trying to be recognised and heard. In the 1960’s, we witnessed a similar uprising by the civil rights movement in America predominantly led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unfortunately, he was taken from the world before his time. He famously said that he had a dream where “one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” This is precisely the sentiment we need. We are all one and our commonalities far outweigh our differences.

I believe the movement strongly highlights the desperate need for serious conversation. All people deserve to be heard, understood, and given every opportunity to have their aspirations realised. Equality is built on the foundation that all people are equal, not some benevolent condescending attitude of charity.

How can companies solve or improve on these mistakes and offer an effective approach to diversity in the workplace?

Rather than just effective, I would say authentic. If companies really want to have a diverse workforce then they should think about how it can turn into direct ROI rather than trickle down through PR campaigns. If someone is diverse, then they should be able to bring something outside of the box. Companies thrive on ingenuity, on advancement and not being left behind in the dust. If we make “diverse thinkers” part of the hiring criteria in businesses, we get to kill two birds with one stone. We validate Diversity from a company advancement perspective and we empower people to work and make change. Secondly, we need to destigmatise conversation and embrace some simple principles of free speech. When people are afraid to say the wrong thing all the time, they might start saying the right things but for the wrong reasons. The boss may have stopped saying anything upsetting but he may also pass you over when it comes to a promotion. Freedom of speech is, in part, about the ability to express your true feelings without any fear of retribution. Robust debate through the diversity of opinion is healthy, and should be encouraged as a tool to learn and grow. When I had the company Profile Pursuit, we hired a lot of diverse people, at a time when it wasn’t seen as “fashionable” as it is today. Through this experience, I found that when people felt free to engage in open and frank conversations, (and yes even some jokes sometimes) everyone felt like they belonged to something because they could be their whole self. We shouldn’t fear the unknown and we shouldn’t fear each other. Ironically, it is the development of an inclusive workplace that fosters and builds true diversity by judging people on who they are not what they are.

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