With the benefits of diversity in the workplace so abundantly clear, on both a human and business level, many companies are keen to ensure they are an attractive proposition to a diverse range of potential employees. Here Kirstin Furber, previously Head of HR at the BBC and now Chief People Officer at ClearScore, explains how she believes the task should be approached.
Diversity is critical in this age of competiveness and market disruption. The best ideas come from different perspectives and diversity of thoughts. But how do you make your business an attractive place for a diverse range of people to work?
For me, this is about moving away from thinking about diversity in terms of separate groups that need to be catered for. Instead, it can be more helpful to think about every employee as an individual, with individual needs and drives.
By taking this more human, individual approach, you begin to create an environment where people feel like they can be themselves at work. This environment is then the beginnings of an inclusive company culture.
How do you get this culture right?
First, recruitment and selection is critical, and importantly it needs to be a two-way process between organisation and candidate. Is the candidate going to thrive in the environment? Does the candidate feel they can be do their best work? Does the process allow both parties to do their due diligence to decide if this is going to be a good fit? Can this person be a future cultural ambassador?
Alongside a great recruitment process, you need a strong induction to allow employees to solidify their understanding of the company and culture, as well as understanding their role so they can hit the ground running and begin delivering results as soon as possible.
Make the culture part of everyday life
When you’ve hired people you think will fit, encouraging culture is not something you can force, it comes naturally where people are drawn to being part of it. However, it’s important to be clear on the organisation’s purpose and genuinely show how company results are contributing to it. Be clear on expectations or standards that need to be achieved and encourage and support ownership of these.
Enabling people to be their best selves is also about flexibility. Some people prefer working in the morning, others late at night. If an organisation is clear on outcomes and the overall plan and has a mechanism in place to spot issues when things are not working (i.e. talking to each other), then an organisation can offer flexibility about where and when someone can work.
The challenge is to decide how much bureaucracy or structure to put in place. I believe it’s about trust. If everyone is working to an aligned purpose and goal and everyone respects each other’s opinions, then why do you need a process or a checklist for everything? The short answer is, you don’t. If you have checks and balances in place, and you talk to each other, any issues can be resolved quickly and the business can be confident that goals are being achieved.
Encouraging diversity is also about allowing diversity of thought. Creating an environment where people feel they can say what they think and raise issues and ideas regardless of level, is critical. Make space for these debates in meetings and put ideas into actions as you plan. And be mindful that everyone contributes in different ways: some may be verbal, some may be written, some may be in the moment, and others may be after some reflection. Make sure to keep all options open.
Finally, people can only do their best work if they are mentally and physically fit. Whilst wellbeing programmes are not a new concept, it’s about making these accessible to everyone. This doesn’t mean companies supporting a bespoke, admin-heavy programme, but instead encouraging employees to take a leadership role in their personal wellbeing. If they are interested in a sport, a club, or setting up a community in order to support their personal wellbeing, they should be given the tools to do it.
Above all, it is about remembering we are all human, we are all different, and we all have different skills and ideas to share. Cultivating a culture together, regardless of hierarchy, is critical for any business to scale.