The importance of an equal, diverse, and inclusive workplace

Business Insights

Back in 2015, a youtube video of a “smart” soap dispenser went viral. The clip shows a black narrator trying to get a handful of soap by waving his hand under the sensor. However, the dispenser fails to work. Then, his white friend makes exactly the same attempt only for it to work perfectly. The video ends with the narrator labelling the soap dispenser “racist”.

Though the video was intended to be humorous, it highlights a much bigger problem with equality, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I). Had people of colour been consulted during the testing phase of the soap dispenser, this particular design flaw would have been spotted and dealt with long before it reached the market.

It’s a well-known fact that a diverse workforce is more creative, more innovative, and generally outperforms less diverse teams. As an employer, you have a legal duty towards equality, diversity, and inclusion, but this alone shouldn’t be your only motivation and here’s why...

Products and Services

As we’ve already seen, a diverse team can help you improve the products and services you offer. A product which has been brainstormed, designed, created, and tested by a team filled with a range of different viewpoints, backgrounds, cultures, experiences, histories, and knowledge will immediately stand up to much more scrutiny and be much more robust than a product which hasn’t. There may also be new markets, new uses, and new approaches which you might otherwise have missed out on.

It’s all about the people

As an organisation, all of your successes and achievements would not be possible without your employees. In order to help them achieve and work to the best of their ability, you need to create an environment in which they feel safe and secure; where they can work without the pressure of trying to hide who they are or the distraction and emotional toll of being subject to bullying or harassment; and where they feel nurtured, valued, and able to flourish.

According to Cecilia Harvey, Global ED&I lead, at Royal Haskoning DHV,

“Someone who is able to turn up to work and be their authentic self will be more effective, as they will not be distracted or fearful of being themselves. Furthermore, feeling psychologically safe will enable them to thrive and give their best, it will promote good results and the company thrives too. This will lead to increased loyalty as working in a company where there is give and take, appreciation, trust and respect is paramount.”

The next generation

An important point to consider with regards to ED&I in the workplace is the rising dominance of younger generations. Traditionally, employees placed a premium on finding jobs which paid high salaries, had good benefits, and which had the potential to lead to lifelong careers. For the new generation of employees, who are estimated to make up as much as 50% of the workforce, the most important factors are social value (or the opportunity to give something back to the community), the environment, and, most importantly, company culture.

Increasingly, people are willing to forego larger pay cheques and will actively seek out employers whose values align with their own. Establishing an inclusive and diverse culture in your workplace is essential if you want to attract the best talent.

Be brave

Whilst problems like racism, homophobia, and sexism are actively being tackled in the workplace by legislation (though there’s still a very long way to go yet), the root cause of discrimination is still very much alive. Whether it’s providing binary gender options on paperwork; not recognising non-Christian holidays; dismissing a job candidate for having visible tattoos; or forcing female employees to wear high heels, the problem is rooted in a very traditional and conservative mindset, one which is slowly being eroded.

For Cecilia Harvey, whose expert knowledge played a crucial role in the script for iHASCO’s new Equality, Diversity & Inclusion eLearning course,

“ED&I cannot be a tick box exercise. It starts with a recognition of where you are at, and the honesty and humility of recognising you need to change things, then you can start to look at the small, tangible measures that can change that narrative.”

Cecilia’s passion for the richness of diversity led her to work with iHASCO on the eLearning module, as she believes awareness is the first step, and training is a perfect way to educate your workforce about the importance of ED&I. It will help everyone feel accountable to make a positive contribution and change their behaviours, so they are more inclusive. It’s time to shake the non-inclusive mindset and take a brave step forward to a more diverse workforce.

Employers can get instant access to iHASCO’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion course or download their ED&I guide here.