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Embracing diversity and inclusion: A business’ collective responsibility

From HR to the C-Suite: fostering a culture of authenticity and inclusivity.

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The principles of diversity and inclusion have transcended beyond mere buzzwords.
Embedding inclusivity into the culture enhances HR effectiveness.
Middle managers and team leaders drive diversity and inclusion.

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In today’s rapidly evolving global landscape, the principles of diversity and inclusion have transcended beyond mere buzzwords to become integral components of successful business operations. No longer can they be relegated solely to the domain of Human Resources (HR) departments; instead, they must be embraced by all leaders. But more than this, organisations can’t be seen to be ‘ticking a box.’ Employees will see right through this. 

While HR undoubtedly plays a crucial role in setting the direction and fostering a culture of inclusivity, the responsibility for championing diversity extends far beyond its confines. Every leader, from C-suite executives to frontline managers, must encourage an environment where all can thrive, regardless of background, to drive sustainable growth, foster innovation, and cultivate a thriving workplace environment.  

There is evidence already that diverse organisations drive higher performance as businesses have access to a variety of opinions and thoughts which diversify and bolster the workforce. It seems so simple, but to drive change successfully it must be delivered with authenticity. But with evidence showing it’ll boost performance, it’s only logical that DE&I initiatives are implemented, embraced and supported across the organisation. 

Embedding diversity into the culture 

The best way to ensure an organisation is inclusive, is to make it so that everyone has good role models around them. By fostering inclusive behaviours, such as active listening, impartial feedback, and promoting diverse perspectives, managers can create an environment where all employees feel heard, valued, and supported. It then permeates through the organisation and is embraced and championed by everyone in the business. By tapping into culture and leadership, being bold but genuine and taking a stance to ensure equality is a priority, companies can thrive. Moreover, an inclusive culture nurtures a sense of belonging among employees, fostering loyalty, morale, and productivity. It also improves a company’s reputation, attracting top talent and expanding its customer base by demonstrating a commitment to equality and fairness. 

Freeing up HR to focus on strategy and direction, through embedding inclusivity into the culture is one step to creating a more effective HR function.  

The role of HR 

DE&I might be championed by all, but there are some aspects that will fall within HR’s remit. HR departments play a critical role in setting the strategic direction, developing policies, and implementing initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion. They are responsible for recruiting and retaining diverse talent, designing inclusive training programs, and monitoring progress towards diversity goals. There are certain things that we expect HR to be leading on due to their role in the business. For example, have you thought about how you will support those going through menopause? We know that 1 in 10 women leave because of symptoms, so it should be on the minds of our HR colleagues.   

Companies that are bold in their support, with HR leading that thinking, are a true shop window of how important women are to their business. But it’s not just policies where HR can take the lead.  

By collecting and analysing data on workforce demographics, employee satisfaction, and inclusion metrics, HR can identify areas for improvement and measure the impact of diversity initiatives over time. If it isn’t measured and reported on, it’ll soon drop down the priority list for those in the organisation who we also need to be championing the issue. This need not become a laborious process. To make this data easily accessible, tech solutions that automate the human capital management functions should be deployed. Other elements of the HR function can also be automated or improved with technology, such as payroll, so HR teams are freed up to focus on strategy. 

Collaborating for success 

While HR have a clear role in developing frameworks and reporting on progress, they’re not acting alone. As such, collaboration between HR and business leaders is essential for driving meaningful change.  

HR provides the expertise and resources to develop and implement diversity initiatives. Business leaders must actively champion these efforts and integrate them into broader strategic priorities. By aligning diversity and inclusion with business objectives, leaders can demonstrate the tangible benefits of fostering a diverse workforce, from improving decision-making to improving customer engagement and driving innovation. This helps to ensure any HR insights are used to inform business direction and is actionable.  

As we’ve seen, fostering an inclusive environment must be woven into the fabric of the business. HR and C-suite collaboration is one stitch in this pattern, but other levels of the organisation can support too. Middle managers and team leaders are on the front lines of implementing diversity and inclusion practices in their day-to-day interactions. They have a direct influence on hiring decisions, team dynamics, and workplace culture. This can all be supported by HR teams, underscoring the importance of collaboration with leaders in the business. 

When reflecting on this topic, some of the best advice and insights I’ve heard, I come back to “you can’t be what you can’t see.” And while it might sound like a simple approach, it really is important to have role models and ambassadors across business functions to make this possible. HR need to be leading by example for the wider business and ensure inclusivity and diversity within their team first and foremost – but this must be about inspiring and challenging the wider leadership to drive change. It’s only when the weight of expectation around inclusion falls on everyone’s shoulders can we create the change we want to see. 

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