The first step in creating an inclusive organisational culture is to understand what we mean by inclusion and define what this looks like for your organisation. There are various definitions in the literature, for example:
“The process of inclusion engages each individual and makes people feeling valued essential to the success of the organisation. Individuals function at full capacity, feel more valued, and are included in the organisation’s mission. This culture shift creates higher performing organisations where motivation and morale soar.”
Miller and Katz (2002).
Developing your organisation’s definition of inclusion and communicating this to all employees is a critical first step in the journey of developing an inclusive culture.
Understanding inclusive culture
Research indicates that the factors below foster an inclusive culture.
Take the time to understand these core features of inclusive organisations and define what each would look like in your organisation.
- Open and trusting environment - an open and trusting environment within which there is an absence of prejudice and discrimination; and where everyone is treated with respect and dignity and feels valued.
- Resources evenly distributed - a common acceptance that resources (jobs, income and access to information) are distributed equally.
- Policies that support - policies are in place concerning equality and human rights, working conditions, dignity at work, employee welfare and fair recruitment and procurement practices.
- Diversity and inclusion as a business objective - the establishment of diversity and inclusion as a business objective. Inclusive strategies are fully supported and promoted by senior staff.
- Devolved decision-making - decision-making processes that are devolved to the lowest point possible.
- Listening, encouragement, participation - the encouragement of consultation and participation, with management listening to and acting upon what employees are saying.
- Understanding of core values - an understanding of core values by all employees.
- Open flow of information - an open flow of information throughout the whole organisation between all levels, so that business goals are communicated to everyone, and an attitude of 'us and them' (employees and management) is discouraged.
- Innovation/creativity - the encouragement of innovation and creativity.
- A representative workforce - the workforce is representative of the local community or customers (or if not, under-represented groups are encouraged to apply).
- Encouragement - all employees are encouraged to develop and progress, and any barriers faced by specific groups are identified and action taken to address them.
Knowing where to start
Before implementing any specific initiatives, it is important to understand your organisation’s current culture and the level of inclusivity. The Diversity Leadership Group (DLG) Diversity and Inclusion Survey Report 2015 indicates that 63% of respondents have embedded diversity and inclusion within their organisation’s mission and values, and 75% of organisations have developed a diversity and inclusion strategy or plan.
DLG Diversity and inclusion survey template
To support engineering companies in knowing where to start, the DLG is giving all engineering companies access to the DLG Diversity and Inclusion in Engineering Survey Report 2015 and the survey template used. This will enable companies to make an internal assessment of their current position, as well as the possibility of benchmarking against other engineering companies. If an engineering company is interested in taking up the benchmarking option, an email will need to be sent to the Diversity team to register interest in receiving the survey when it next opens. The survey template is included as an appendix to the Diversity and Inclusion in Engineering Survey Report 2015.
Six Ps cultural analysis framework
A structured review will help you develop a strategy or plan, or review the effectiveness of a current plan. The review will help create a baseline against which to measure future progress as well as identifying where there is room for improvement. This will help you to develop a tailored action plan and establish priorities for building an inclusive culture and increasing diversity.
In addition to the two diagnostic tools listed above, the six Ps outlined provide a framework for gathering key information, analysing the culture and processes in the organisation.
Review all policies related to the employee life cycle, for example, recruitment and selection, training and development, performance appraisal, bullying, harassment and discrimination, flexible working, career breaks, maternity/paternity/adoption leave. Ensure all policies are kept up to date with current legislation, are inclusive of all employees, follow best practice and are communicated to all employees. In particular:
- Provide support mechanisms for those seeking career breaks – including but not limited to maternity/demonstrate to women that you want to retain them through career breaks and beyond.
- Implement effective guidance on how to respond to unacceptable or unhelpful behaviour in organisations.
- Implement flexible working for all/make flexible working a reality for all.
- Implement a transparent career path/map or similar activity that supports employee progression.
- Review and establish job design to ensure there are no barriers to recruiting the best person securing the job.
Review day-to-day management practice, for example, how are policies and processes applied? How inclusive are managers? To what extent do managers role model inclusive behaviours? How flexible are managers? To what extent do managers consider individuals’ needs and value contributions? In particular, you should:
- Develop leadership and a corporate culture that positions diversity as a ‘business’ as opposed to ‘HR’ imperative.
- Communicate and advocate diversity based on good practice.
- Identify, address and eliminate unconscious bias/challenging bias.
- Educate leaders and give them responsibility for change.
Consider employee perceptions of how inclusive the organisation’s culture is. Include data from interviews, focus groups, staff surveys, employee networks etc. You can collect broad views about what is working well in relation to diversity and inclusion and what the organisation could do to improve. In addition, consider perceptions in relation to employee processes such as promotion, career development opportunities, training, informal networks, dignity and respect etc. This will enable you to identify where improvements can be made, for example, through changes to policies and increasing transparency.
Review the demographic make-up of the organisation. How representative is this of the local community, your customer base and the sector? In addition, review demographics in relation to key processes such as recruitment, promotion, performance appraisal, access to development opportunities. This will enable you to identify whether any adverse impact (ie, a certain group of people being disadvantaged) is occurring. In particular:
- Use statistical information to raise awareness, measure progress and support diversity in organisations.
- Set public targets and measure progress.
Consider the informal networks that exist in organisations and the extent to which these have an impact on career development or project opportunities, access to information, perceptions of performance/ reputation and make people feel included or excluded.
Build understanding of where your organisation is in comparison to where it wants to be and what progress has already been made, for example, changes in demographics and staff perceptions. It can also be useful to look at benchmarks at this stage.
The DLG Diversity and Inclusion in Engineering Survey Report 2015 indicates that 78% of organisations include success measures and/or targets for diversity and/or inclusion in their strategy. These provide a good opportunity for understanding the level of progress made.
Once you have gathered information in relation to the six Ps:
- Use the information to identify your organisation’s key strengths and development areas.
- Remind yourself of what inclusive cultures look like (refer to Tool 2). What does the information you have gathered tell you about your organisation’s performance against the key factors needed for an inclusive culture?
- Understand how your results compare to what you are trying to achieve.
- Create an action plan identifying key priorities. Link this to the organisation’s overall strategy or objectives.
- Engage senior leaders in the process as they will be key figures in driving action at a local level.
All employees have a part to play in developing and maintaining an inclusive culture. However, leaders have a particularly critical role to play as employees will look to them for an indication of what is acceptable and what is the norm.
The DLG Diversity and Inclusion in Engineering Survey Report 2015 asked organisations specifically about the role that leaders play in terms of diversity and inclusion.
The strong consensus was that engaging senior leaders is essential for progress on diversity and inclusion, with 63% of respondents identifying the chief executive as being overall accountable for the success of any diversity strategy. In 67% of organisations, there is also a diversity champion, and in 78% of organisations senior leaders speak publicly about the importance of diversity to the business. Indeed, communications from senior leaders are the most likely vehicle for communicating the business case (in 75% of organisations). There are still challenges for organisations in this area: 42% believe that they need more consistent and visible leadership on diversity and inclusion. But the fact that learning and development on diversity and inclusion for leaders is the second most predominant learning and development activity suggests that organisations recognise that meeting this challenge will be crucial to progress.
Important questions for organisations are therefore:
- How can we ensure that senior leaders understand why diversity and inclusion is important to our organisation?
- How can we ensure that the most senior members of our organisation are fully involved and engaged in developing out diversity strategy?
- How can senior leaders demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion to the rest of the organisation?
- How can we encourage senior leaders to effectively role model inclusive leadership behaviours?
What does an effective leadership model look like?
Business psychologists at Pearn Kandola have carried out extensive research into the key behaviours that leaders can use to create an inclusive culture. From this, they have developed leadership model below, which highlights three main competencies as being critical for inclusive leaders to role model.
Use this model to raise leaders’ awareness of what ‘inclusive leadership’ means, the behaviours they are required to role model and how to do this. A good starting point is to ask leaders, their direct reports and the employees who report to their direct reports to provide feedback on their/their leader’s behaviour in relation to the inclusive leader behaviours. This will help leaders to understand their key inclusive leader strengths and development areas.
Inclusive leaders proactively create a culture in which people feel they are safe to speak up and give their honest opinions and where each team member feels they have something valuable to contribute to the team. Inclusive team leaders also encourage their team members to work for and support each other.
Inclusive leaders take time to get to know each team member and value their individual contributions. They create wide, diverse networks and help their team members to do the same. Inclusive leaders also take time to support underrepresented employees.
Inclusive leaders have a clear understanding of their own unconscious biases and take action to ensure these biases are not influencing the decisions they make. Inclusive leaders also take time to make decisions about people, avoiding acting on gut instinct or intuition. They are open to suggestions about different ways of doing things and are flexible in their personal style and approach.
Developing a global perspective
Due to the large number of organisations operating in global locations, there is a need to consider the most effective way to embed diversity and inclusion across such organisations.
We recommend that there is an overall vision in place for the organisation and that different regions/locations take responsibility for determining and implementing action plans at a local level. This approach helps to ensure that priorities and initiatives are tailored to the needs of individual areas and that they can drive an approach which is relevant for them.
We recommend that each region/location has a senior leader who is responsible for championing D&I actions and reports back to others. It is worth considering holding regular meetings for the D&I leaders of each region/location to share experiences, challenges, progress, advice and tips. The requirement to report back on actions also increases the likelihood that people will take action.
How the legislation differs in different locations and the impact of this.
Both business and diversity and inclusion priorities at a local level.
How to communicate diversity and inclusion messages across the organisation, eg in terms of overall strategy, local strategy and action plan, successes, progress, areas of future focus and so on.
How to support different locations.
How to celebrate the success of areas that might be at very different stages of their D&I journey.
Transparent career progression
- Make a range of development activities available to all employees. Ensure development plans are designed to meet specific individual needs, increase performance in the current role and help to develop knowledge, skills and experience for potential future roles.
- Monitor the uptake of training and development opportunities, to ensure that all employees have equal access to relevant opportunities.
- Ask leaders to be the first to participate in sessions to raise awareness and increase understanding regarding D&I and inclusive leadership.
- Collect and analyse diversity-related data where possible to identify areas of progress or concern. Analyse monitoring data in relation to employee processes to help identify if there are any stages which may be subject to bias or adverse impact.
- Collect data for all relevant grounds of the legislation (where permitted) and for other characteristics/ factors (for example, working hours) which could potentially cause discrimination. It is also important that global organisations are aware of the relevant legislation in different countries which may restrict the collection of demographic data.
- Make employees aware that data is being collected for the purposes of monitoring.
- Collect data in a way that ensures confidentiality.
- Ensure data is stored confidentially.
- Ensure data is only accessed by personnel for the purposes of monitoring.
Tips for organisations thinking of setting up employee networks (based on Stonewall’s Guide to Network Groups):
- Research other employee networks to find out what has worked for them.
- Establish the business case for a network in your organisation. This should include benefits to the business and not just employees.
- Find a senior management sponsor who can argue your case across the organisation. Get the HR team on board as well.
- Set out the aims of the network. These could include advising on diversity policy and practice or helping with career development for the group the network is aimed at.
- Draw up a business plan that sets out the purpose of the group, its proposed activities and funding requirements.
- Ensure that network coordinators have the time to make it work. Many employers give coordinators time off each month for network business.
- Establish criteria for network membership, setting out whether the network is only open to certain employees or available to all.
- Publicise the group internally, through email and the company intranet, and externally.
- Consult all network stakeholders regularly — members and managers — to ensure it stays relevant to the business and to employees.
Legislation now states that “employees can apply for flexible working if they’ve worked continuously for the same employer for the last 26 weeks.” Furthermore, it is best practice to ensure that all employees are aware of the policy.
There are a number of benefits of flexible working to both organisations and individuals including:
Higher levels of job satisfaction and employee well-being and lower levels.
Tips for organisations considering flexible working:
- Be aware that legislation now states that "employees can apply for flexible working if they've worked continuously for the same employer for the last 26 weeks."
- Ensure that all employees are also aware of this legislation.
- Consider the full range of options encompassed by "flexible working", including:
- Job sharing: Two people do one job and split the hours.
- Working from home: Doing some or all of the work from home or anywhere else other than the normal place of work.
- Part-time: Working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days).
- Compressed hours: Working full-time hours but over fewer days.
- Flexi-time: The employee chooses when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but works certain core hours, for example 10am to 4pm every day.
- Annualised hours: The employee has to work a certain number of hours over the year but has some flexibility about when they work. There are sometimes core hours, which the employee regularly works each week, and they work the rest of their hours flexibly or when there is extra demand at work.
- Staggered hours: The employee has different start, finish and break times from other workers.
- Phased retirement: There is no longer a default retirement age, so older workers can choose when they want to retire. This means they can reduce their hours and work part time.
- Term-time working: A worker remains on a permanent contract but can take paid/ unpaid leave during school holidays.
- Career breaks/sabbaticals: Extended periods of leave – normally unpaid – of up to five years or more.
- Providing a flexible approach to work utilising some or all of the approaches outlined above. It will not be possible to offer all options to all employees, but ensure that the rationale for not offering certain options is clear and not just based on the fact that it hasn`t been tried before.
Tips for embedding diversity and inclusion across global organisations.
- Consider how the legislation differs in different locations and the impact of this.
- Agree both business and diversity and inclusion priorities at a local level.
- Plan to communicate diversity and inclusion across the organisation, including the overall strategy, local strategy and action plan, successes, progress, and areas of future focus.
- Ensure a plan is in place to support different locations.
- Consider how to celebrate the success of areas that might be at very different stages of their D&I journey.
- Create an overall vision for the whole organisation.
- Ask different regions/locations to take responsibility for determining and implementing action plans at a local level, to ensure that priorities and initiatives are tailored to the needs of individual areas.
- Identify a senior leader in each region/location who is responsible for championing D&I actions and reportings back to others.
- Hold regular meetings for the D&I leaders of each region/location to share experiences, challenges, progress, advice and tips. The requirement to report back on actions also increases the likelihood that people will take action.
- Carefully consider the language used in job adverts and descriptions. There is certain language which indicates that a role is ‘male’, for example, ‘power, strong, leader, bold.’ Keep language neutral and focused on essential skills. Being explicit that your organisation actively seeks diversity and will support the successful candidate in their role.
- Advertise using a range of different publications and organisations.
- Work with organisations that target underrepresented groups to signal to applicants that the organisation is committed to employing a diverse workforce.
Mentoring schemes are now in place in many organisations, however, results are mixed and schemes are often abandoned. To increase the likelihood of success from a mentoring scheme
- Consider how mentors and mentees will be matched. Ask mentees to state their requirements and mentors to outline what they can offer and use this information to determine the right match. When an individual is asked to mentor someone they haven’t chosen and there is little flexibility in finding a match, it can result in the feeling that this is just a procedural thing. A more tailored approach to matching and flexibility for both mentors and mentees to change pairings is likely to minimise the feeling.
- Research has shown that people who are similar to those who occupy senior positions find it easier to secure mentors. Given the underrepresentation of certain groups in senior positions across STEM roles, it is therefore more likely that people in these groups will find it harder to find a good mentor. Consider launching mentoring schemes specifically aimed at certain groups to bridge this gap.
- Ensure that training is available for mentors. Training should cover topics such as: what is expected of them as mentors; benefits of mentoring; the boundaries; contracting and maintaining confidentiality; setting expectations; the difference between coaching and mentoring; challenging and giving feedback the mentoring process; what to do if things are not going well; and hints and tips for making the relationship a success.
Recruitment and selection
- Arrange training for all staff involved in recruitment and selection which covers the process, how to ensure fairness, consistency and objectivity and how to avoid bias.
- Use specific examples in the recruitment process to encourage managers to recognise situations and think through the best way to deal with these.
Respect at work training
- Ensure all employees are aware of what is meant by acceptable/unacceptable behaviour, bullying, harassment and discrimination.
- Make employees aware of their rights and responsibilities, what to do if they have experienced unacceptable behaviour, and the sources of support available.
Role of leadership
- Link D&I to personal and strategic objectives help leaders and employees understand what is expected of them and how this impacts on the organisation’s wider strategy, to increasing engagement and accountability.
- Measure performance against these objectives to increase the likelihood that D&I remains a priority even when workloads are high.
- Start the roll-out of any diversity training with the most senior teams to signal its importance to the rest of the organisation.
- Use senior leaders in the organisation as sponsors for staff networks to increase the likelihood that the networks’ views are considered and that actions are taken seriously. It is essential that such sponsors are authentic supporters of their network and champion its work.
- Develop a strong, positive mission and core values which make diversity and inclusion necessary, long-term business objectives.
- Ensure the mission and values are a focus and a responsibility of all employees.
- Involve leadership in developing the strategy, and ensure they have a clear idea about the future of the organisation in relation to diversity and inclusion, and diversity goals and aspirations.
- Undertake a gap analysis by evaluating you organisation against this vision. Use this to identify priorities and build strategies to address them.
Supplier diversity is an area that is important for all businesses. It means taking steps to ensure that the businesses that supply your business are inclusive and diverse. Businesses that diversify their supply chain can experience unexpected positive add-on benefits, such as new ways of looking at product development and marketing, access to new markets and an enhanced business image.
- Tips for improving supplier diversity:
- Level the playing field rather than positively discriminating in favour of particular groups.
- Consider how the diversity of the business community and wider society is reflected in your supply chain.
- Ensure that the businesses that supply your organisation follow policies that live up to your own equality, diversity and inclusion standards.