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How to support diversity, equity and inclusion in your workplace

Data Blocks
Data Blocks

According to recent research by McKinsey, although more companies have realised that Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) is an asset bringing real difference in financial outperformance and staff retention, many struggle because it's tricky to get the practices right. Teletrac Navman is a member of Diversity Works NZ and is committed to supporting an inclusive industry made up of all people from diverse communities. This June, Teletrac Navman and Transporting New Zealand are teaming up to launch the Te ara ki tua Road to Success Driving Change Diversity Programme, a ground-breaking initiative to celebrate transport industry diversity.

Alongside this focus on creating change and facilitating diversity in workplace and community, we invited Pete Mercer, Diversity Works NZ Head of Research and Development, to write a guest blog. Read on for some expert tips to get started with fostering a more inclusive work culture.

Supporting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace is not just the right thing to do for your employees, it is also the smart thing to do. Research shows that a more diverse, equitable and inclusive culture in a workplace brings innovation, creativity, boosts morale and improves employee engagement. This helps increase productivity and collaboration to result in better decision making and problem solving.

However, diversity in the workplace alone does not drive inclusion. The DEI journey of any organisation will not be successful merely by recruiting more diverse employees if they do not have an equitable and inclusive experience in the workplace once they start their work.

Where do you get started with building a more inclusive culture? Here are a few basic first steps to consider.

Make diversity core business, not an HR initiative

While there are big overlaps with HR, we know that DEI must encompass the entire organisation for it to make real change and be successful. Think of DEI as a standalone agenda that relates to all parts of your organisation, rather than being siloed within your HR function. Make DEI a priority, let everybody in the organisation know it is highly valued and make it everyone’s business.

Be authentic

Supporting DEI benefits organisations of all shapes and sizes – and in many different ways. Every organisation is unique – it is important to take the time to consider why this agenda matters to your organisation specifically. A cookie cutter approach to DEI not only runs the risk of appearing superficial to your people, but it is also unlikely to serve the needs of your people and workplace culture. Have authentic conversations to identify your own priorities, create shared understandings across your organisation and forge a path that works for you.

Actively seek out your company’s unconscious bias

Unconscious bias is one of the biggest obstacles you’ll face in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture. It’s worth spending some time figuring out how it is playing out in your organisation. While it can be confronting, encourage key members of your team – particularly those who have a hand in hiring and promotion – to undertake some training in this area. Self-awareness can be a powerful tool for fair decision making.

Don’t ignore the workplace bully

Ignoring the bully won’t make them go away, but it could mean you lose some of your best staff. Bullies often target people based on difference so leaving them unchecked can be a disaster for workplace culture. Have a harassment and bullying policy in place, make it understood bullying isn’t tolerated and take action to investigate when incidents are reported.

Be flexible

Flexibility in the workplace creates a culture where it’s normal for employees to be able to perform their best in their job while flourishing in the other important areas of their lives. It’s key to retaining top talent, having more women in senior roles and allowing people to manage an illness or disability while still being able to participate in purposeful work and contribute to our economy and society. Don’t make the total hours worked a measure of success in your workplace. Reward achievement instead, especially in the post-covid age.

Play to your strengths

Get to know what each of your staff members are good at and make use of their talents. In a workplace where people are encouraged to play to their strengths, diversity is more likely to be accepted. When new people join the team don’t focus on making them fit in; focus on getting to know their personal identity – you’ll figure out what they’re good at much sooner and research shows they will feel more satisfied and perform more effectively.

Make a plan and measure your progress

To turn commitment into a reality, you need to develop a strategy or plan to define what course of action you must take, including a set of manageable objectives with deadlines and clear responsibilities. Remember, what gets measured gets done, so with time you should measure your progress against these objectives. To get started, however, you should take an assessment of your current DEI maturity. Diversity Works New Zealand developed the Aotearoa Inclusivity Matrix, an evidence-based framework, to help organisations to identify the maturity of their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices across seven components. Learn more on Diversity Works New Zealand website.

Stick with it

In this constantly evolving world, creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace is a marathon with no finish-line in sight. Many of the things that you set out to achieve will not be accomplished overnight; change will be incremental and will take time.

Read about the activities and achievements of other organisations – Diversity Works New Zealand has some great case studies – and consider what could work for your organisation. Take stock of any progress made, remembering to celebrate successes and the hard work and contributions of individuals along the way.”

About Pete Mercer

With 12 years of experience in diversity, equity and inclusion related roles and a penchant for membership bodies, Pete Mercer is responsible for developing and curating a range of resources, tools and training materials, expanding Diversity Works New Zealand’s central knowledge bank and collaborating with subject matter experts to empower their members with the core advice and guidance they need to advance their important mahi. He views employers as not just a reflection of society, but as crucial vehicles for driving both structural and cultural change.

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