Diversity and Inclusionby Gamiel Yafai
Approaches to implementing diversity
There are three key approaches to implementing diversity in the workplace. To describe these, difference in height is used as a metaphor.
Imagine a world made by and for short people. In this world, everyone in power is under five foot five and the most powerful are rarely taller than five foot three. Now imagine that, after suffering discrimination, tall people call for change and short people agree that the current world is unfair and amends should be made.
Short people first try to right things by teaching tall people to act like short people – to minimise their difference by stooping to fit into doorways. Once tall people learn these behaviours, short people insist, they will fit in.
Some short people then take another approach to routing discrimination: they make their world more accommodating to tall people by fixing some of the structural barriers that get in their way. They build six–foot-high doors in the back of the building and purchase desks that don’t knock tall people’s knees.
Other short people take a third approach: they celebrate the differences of their tall friends. Tall people stand out in a crowd, short people say, and they can reach things on high shelves. So short people create equity by putting tall people in jobs where their height is an advantage.
Companies that take the first approach encourage assimilation.
Companies that take the second approach accommodate the unique needs and situations of the ‘other’.
In the third approach, companies forgo assimilation and accommodation and instead emphasise the differences that everyone brings to the workplace.
A step-by-step approach
How do you implement an organisational framework for diversity? How does an organisation break away from outdated practices? A step-by-step approach to adopt and implement diversity strategies could include the following stages.
1. Prioritise improvements through audits, conversations with stakeholders, examination of wider practices within the organisation and so on.
2. Develop an action plan to implement the improvements.
3. Research solutions:
- Look at adapting or modifying old practices
- Talk to other organisations
- Meet with government agencies to seek advice
- Look to the voluntary sector for examples of best practice
- Find a consultant who will do the ground work for you, ensuring that your consultant is conversant with your organisation’s situation.
4. Implement a policy and code of practice and keep up to date with changes in legal obligations and rights.
5. Plan improvements – structure ways to move policy developments to the next level. Questions you need to ask are
- Who will be responsible for this process in the long-term?
- What are the realistic resources that are available?
- What key milestones should be targeted?
6. Training: this is a fundamental element in the move towards adopting a diversity approach in the workplace, and much of the success depends on the skill of the trainer.
- Hire expert trainers who are conversant in the changes that are taking place in the organisation.
- Take time to ensure that they know all the issues affecting the organisation.
- Although senior managers often make the decision to provide diversity training, they rarely participate in it. This can communicate to staff that there is no genuine commitment from senior management. All staff need to be involved in the training cycle.
- Ensure that the training organisation tailor-makes the training programme to suit your needs. Don’t settle for an off-the shelf package – they do not go far enough.
7. Implementation: launch the initiative. Keep the employees up to date with how the approach is developing. If there are any unexpected surprises in the process, let them know. They will therefore feel part of the changes and should embrace them. Make sure that those who are responsible for various aspects of the initiative are given support, space and time to discuss the process.
8. Keep diversity on the agenda. This is a vital phase in the process, but one that is often neglected. When diversity is moved from the agenda, it will lose momentum and the changes will be short-lived. Practical suggestions include having it on the agenda at all general meetings across the organisation, be they at board or senior level or on the shop floor. This will then always ensure that any issues that need attention are raised.
9. Review and evaluate: as with all initiatives, implementing a diversity approach requires evaluation. Following evaluation, changes may need to be made in the approach, but this is to be expected. Again, consultants can be useful here, but ensure that they are fully aware of the process.
B&Q is the largest retailer in DIY/Maintenance in the UK. In their attempt to improve diversity within their organisation, they carried out a systematic organisational approach.
Firstly, they carried out a complete audit of all policies and procedures with an exercise that mapped this against legal compliance. They initially looked at the six strands of diversity as separate issues and then looked at areas where there was a crossover. A list of the general issues where diversity could have an impact in their organisation was compiled. This included:
- Images in adverts
- Signs in stores
- Language barriers
- Brand image
They devised an action plan, and prioritised areas of immediate attention in relation to urgent legal compliance and business needs. A review of the entire budget was carried out in this process to examine where diversity could have an impact and what were the potential business benefits.
The company worked in partnership with community organisations in order to gain mutual benefits; some of the charity budget was therefore allocated to diversity.
B&Q believed that customer service would be improved by looking at disability awareness training. They used their customer-awareness training budget for disability awareness training. They also organised a series of employee focus groups to look at the concerns of staff and customers. A review of customer complaints was made and some market research was carried out.
They examined past examples of best practice of information dissemination in their organisation, and developed a communication rollout plan based on the successes of these experiences.
Getting the diversity message out into stores was done slowly with a constant ‘drip feed’ of information in short bursts every couple of weeks and with constant reinforcement in newsletters and a diversity notice board.
The initial success of the plan was followed with a vision for the future, which drove an action plan. B&Q carry out an annual diversity cycle, justify their actions and report the results of their strategies in their annual report.
For more details about their approach visit www.diy.com