Kyle Hughes, Client Relationship Director at Premier Partnership.

 

The way in which an organisation approaches the topic of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) has long been an indicator for its harmony and success. People of all backgrounds deserve to work in an environment that is not only free from discrimination and harassment, but actively embraces the diversity of culture, background, and ideas of their personnel. When working effectively, organisational EDI efforts will identify systemic obstacles then create, maintain, and improve policies, procedures, and processes to ensure that everyone is treated fairly. Many of my clients continually examine the ways they can improve in this area and are bringing in support in a multitude of ways.

Align to Organisational Strategies

Equality law affects all organisations and therefore they should have an EDI policy which supports the overall strategy. In my view, Learning and Development (L&D) is of seismic importance to success of it, as it is the individuals within the company that will determine whether the strategy is a success or failure. The individuals must have the awareness, enthusiasm and capability to improve workforce EDI and thankfully many of those factors can be trained, meaning L&D support is integral to the organisational EDI objectives.

L&D Input

L&D support can range from workshops ran to raise general awareness such as unconscious bias, equality law and managing diverse teams, all the way through to establishing an organisation wide programme to develop employees at each level of their career with tailored content to fit their role, coaching opportunities and ‘any time learning’ resources.

If an organisation focuses on making inclusivity a foundation stone of its structure, a diverse workforce can be created meaning relationships will strengthen, collaboration will increase, and talent retention will become less of an issue. In her article Influence for an Inclusive Work Culture Emma Dutton MBE, CEO of the Applied Influence Group, writes about how inclusivity can be practiced and improved by equipping your staff with an assortment of skills and competencies. Developing an individual’s self-awareness, communication skills, emotional management, empathy and cultural cognisance, will only ensure that they are equipped with the right mindset, tools and skills to be more inclusive and effective in their organisation.

Factors to Consider

Although skills to improve the organisational EDI capability can be taught, it is important that when doing so, a number of factors should be considered. The HBR article Why Diversity Programmes Fail is an interesting read. It states that ‘the positive effects of diversity training rarely last beyond a day or two, and a number of studies suggest that it can activate bias or spark a backlash’. How can this be countered? Here are a few of the most useful tips I found as both a designer and facilitator of training:

Select the right facilitator. The subject matter encompassed by EDI challenges beliefs and values that are deeply rooted and different for each individual. It is important to recognise this and for facilitators to be able to approach and challenge deeply entrenched beliefs, both conscious and unconscious.

Consider the environment for all. When undertaking an EDI programme content should be delivered in an appropriate learning environment so that delegates will be encouraged to think in a new way about how they as individuals going about their day-to-day duties, behave and engage with different communities and cultures.

Keep it current. EDI and the attendant issues of race and racial equality feature prominently in the public consciousness at present and so trainers should be mindful that content reflects and responds to current events in a way that is positive and constructive.

Make It Stick 

Providing training to develop the skills that create an inclusive organisation is certainly a great start and can make a huge impact on your organisation. However, making those skills stick and attitudes fixed in the long term can be more of a challenge. The tips I have listed above really focus on the tactics you can employ in workshops you are delivering to have more lasting impact. However, these should be part of a larger strategy to ensure learning is embedded. I will examine more strategic approaches an organisation can take in a future article.

Conclusion 

L&D departments should be integral to their organisation’s EDI policy and strategies to improve in all areas. Whereas Daniel Goleman claimed that Emotional Intelligence can be taught and developed, I am firmly of the belief that so can the skills and competencies to create a more inclusive, and subsequently successful, organisation.