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Promoting diversity and inclusion is not only the right thing to do, it's also good for business.

Diversity wins: How inclusion matters, a report from the global management consultants McKinsey & Company, points out:

"The business case for inclusion and diversity is stronger than ever. For diverse companies, the likelihood of outperforming industry peers on profitability has increased over time, while the penalties are getting steeper for those lacking diversity.”1

Amanda Stone, People Director at Bupa Global and UK Insurance, believes:

“Cultivating a diverse and inclusive working environment is beneficial for everyone. Employee engagement is a key measure for our leaders and we know that inclusion and engagement are highly correlated. It can open opportunities for individuals, reduce the impact of bias and discrimination, and give businesses a real competitive advantage.”

Barriers to inclusion

Christos Tsaprounis, People & Culture Director at Auto Trader, acknowledges:2

“There are barriers to inclusion that are deeply rooted into our societal and workplace structures. As a leader in your business you have the opportunity to educate yourself by working with your people to understand their experience at work, the barriers they face, and support them in overcoming them together.”

He adds: “At Auto Trader we run a diversity and inclusion workshop for all employees called ’One Auto Trader’. The workshop is run across 1.5 days and explores in an engaging way what diversity and inclusion means for our business. We create a safe space for colleagues to explore their own biases, how to challenge others in a constructive way and be active allies of inclusion.”

Inclusion starts with recruitment. Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, suggests a number of simple strategies to ensure hires reflect the diversity of our communities.

  • Advertise a job in at least two different places to reach a wide range of people.
  • Have more than one person involved at each stage of the selection process.
  • Encourage recruiting managers to be aware of unconscious bias.
  • Hold back some details, such as the candidates name or sex.
  • If possible, have one interviewer on the phone, to avoid decisions based on physical appearance.

Focus on neurodiversity

Let's look at neurodiversity specifically. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) suggests identifying the specific skills needed for a role. Don't recycle job descriptions or gravitate towards people who tick 'all the boxes'.3

The CIPD suggest five best practices.

  • Ensure job descriptions are as clear and concise as possible. Avoid jargon and be clear about what are ‘must-have’ and what are ‘nice-to-have’ skills.
  • Provide opportunities for candidates to disclose their neurodiversity. You should also discuss possible accommodations at every stage of the process.
  • Don’t write off neurodivergent applicants with a patchy educational or work history. This could be due to lack of support in the past.
  • If it’s not essential for the role, don’t be overly critical of spelling errors. This might rule out talented people with dyslexia.
  • Ensure candidates are in a quiet space, free from distractions, before and during the interview.

Research conducted by Discover Autism Research & Employment, Autistica and the Centre for Research Autism also suggests sharing questions with candidates before an interview.4

Equality law is evolving

The Equality Act outlaws discrimination in relation to nine ‘protected characteristics’.5

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

It also acknowledges some exceptions. Two recent employment tribunal rulings around so-called ‘gender critical’ views have highlighted potential pitfalls around conflicting rights.

Following the cases of Maya Forstater and Allison Bailey, Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at CIPD, advises:6

“Organisations should review their policies and guidelines for employees and managers in light of the latest case law. Trans employees have the right to be respected and treated equally and there must be a zero-tolerance approach to any form of discrimination against them. Equally, employers must ensure that any form of bullying or harassment towards people with gender-critical beliefs is not tolerated. It is likely that there will continue to be conflict around this issue and organisations need to update their policies and approach accordingly.”

Reasonable adjustments

The Equality Act also makes it clear that employers should make ‘reasonable adjustments’. This is to accommodate the needs of different staff members.

Working from home and hybrid working brings fresh challenges.

Research by McKinsey & Company shows that some under-represented demographic groups prefer hybrid working.7

Teams work

The McKinsey research identified three essentials for an inclusive workplace:

Inclusive actions

Steps to build respect and strong teams include:

  • Encourage employees to view one another as individuals, not co-workers.
  • Ask about each team member’s preferences and boundaries for working styles and communication.
  • Check-ins should include personal updates as well as a review of work priorities.
  • Reframe mistakes as opportunities to find improvements and encourage staff to learn from each other.
  • Celebrate achievements.

As Amanda Says:

“If we want our workplaces to thrive, we have to not only ensure we have a diverse workforce across all levels of the organisation, but also make sure that everyone feels they can be their best version of themselves.”

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1 McKinsey & Company. Published: 2020. Accessed: 2022.
2 Acas. Accessed: 2022.
3 CIPD. Published: 2018. Accessed: 2022.,0.4MB)
4 DARE. Published: 2020. Accessed: 2022.,0.8MB)
5 Equality and Human Rights Commission. Published: 2021. Accessed: 2022.
6 CIPD. Accessed: 2022.
7 McKinsey & Company. Published: 2022. Accessed: 2022.
8 McKinsey & Company. Published: 2022. Accessed: 2022.

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