Inclusivity and diversity within a workplace go hand in hand with each other, however, a workplace can be diverse but not inclusive and vice versa.
It is often said that when searching for a job it is who you know rather than what you know, and this is often a barrier to individuals from diverse backgrounds face when trying to start out in their careers.
This comes as it can be said that it is easier for young people with parents who are well connected and are in a professional role to gain experience and paid internships, unlike young people who do not have access to that sort of network through their parents to gain experience paid or unpaid. Therefore, when businesses are expecting individuals to have so many years’ experience it is excluding individuals who do not have them connections due to their backgrounds and up brining. This causes issues around social mobility and in turn, creates a less diverse and inclusive workforce.
Where do businesses go wrong?
A lot of businesses focus on bringing new people into their business in order to be diverse and inclusive but then do not focus on the environment in which they are bringing the individual into. This often can be counterproductive if the environment isn’t also inclusive as they may feel excluded when at work.
Therefore, is it important to have inclusivity and diversity embedded into the company culture and for employers to take steps to improve that culture on a consist basis. It’s more than a simple statement or a policy, it must be entrenched into the culture and the employees must all practise what is preached.
What can businesses do to be more inclusive and diverse?
A starting point for business is always going to be culture, getting that right and being clear on your values as a company and ensuring your entire team also buy into these and they truly reflect the organisation, is important to attract a diverse workforce which is also inclusive.
Once you have worked on the culture you could then start offering experience and internships to individuals from more diverse backgrounds, actively recruiting in the BAME community, for example, could be a positive form of discrimination, which is permitted under the equality to help tackle issues around diversity and inclusion. You could also approach schools and offer work experience or take on apprentices rather than accepting any one because of connections. Firm up your processes in this regard to ensure you are only accepting people on merit and attracting a diverse workforce.
At Thrive we have teamed up with local schools and universities and offer placements this way through a short interview process. They assist us with the applications, and we interview them at Thrive. The difference with this approach is they tend to come in for a bit longer and get to know the team over a longer period of time. This acts as an interview so when the time came for us to recruit, they were the obvious candidates. We have taken both of last year’s students on as full-time employees too!
We also took on an apprentice who is a now finalist at the BAME apprenticeship awards with Thrive also being a finalist for the employer’s category.
We also worked with a charity to provide work experience to neurodivergent employees, many workplaces are not set up to attract someone who is neurodivergent and even the interview process can be a huge barrier to many people. We trained all of our staff and adjusted the workplace accordingly. The work experience students came in with a coach who helped them with the role and the learning during their placement.
For a business to be more inclusive within the workplace they should create a safe space for employees from diverse backgrounds (whether this is from race, gender or sexuality etc) where they feel comfortable. This comes down to the company culture but also consider networking is this inclusive? Social events are they always focussed around drinking? If so, this excludes many people because of religious or medical reasons.
Another suggestion is to have a specific individual within the workplace as a point of contact who is responsible for the diversity and inclusivity within the team to ensure individuals who are from a diverse background feel included and accepted within the workplace. When it comes to diversity and inclusion you need everyone on board for a truly inclusive workforce, make sure you ask everyone and listen to each person’s perspective, avoid assuming what people need and want.
The black lives matter movement and having an anti-racist workplace
After the Black Lives Matter movement, a lot more businesses now want to be seen as much more inclusive. As businesses become more diverse and inclusive, they also have to prepare for the difficult conversations which may occur.
We have recently listened to a podcast on this topic and Arit provided this helpful five-step framework (LATTE) to support efforts to be anti-racist which is:
L – listen, then you learn what the other person is going through
A – apologising, just acknowledge that it wasn’t your intention
T – take action, what can you do to move the situation forward
T – tell the rest of your team, so you filter the experience and what you have learnt from it down to the rest of them
E – educate, yourself and wider and team around the issue which have been brought up i.e. race, gender and sexuality
You can find Arit Eminue’s full framework and how it works here.
At Thrive inclusivity and diversity are at the heart of everything we do
We are truly diverse and flexible. Our people, our culture and our shared values make us who we are. At Thrive we believe that everyone should be enabled to ‘Thrive in the workplace’ and we work with employers to ensure they understand their employees from their wellbeing needs to specific disabilities or protected characteristics (race, gender or sexuality). As a firm, we promote workplace equality by empowering others with the knowledge on how to achieve an inclusive and diverse workplace and by practising what we preach.
We actively campaign to improve awareness and understanding of mental health and D&I issues. We understand that for employers there is so much on the agenda that equality, wellbeing and inclusivity can be pushed to the bottom of the list, especially during a recession and global pandemic. But now more than ever these issues should be at the top of the business agenda. Our aim is to ensure equality stays at the top of the agenda. We will continue to be proactive in our approach to D&I and encourage other businesses to do the same. We have our networking events Thriving Minds and Thrive Women groups which provide support, networking, training and advice (all online at the moment but events coming again soon). We are supporting businesses through our tHRive club where we share best practise on all areas of HR including D&I.
As a business, we are always looking for ways to engage and empower even more people and raise awareness of these important issues whilst constantly evolving and learning ourselves.
We were featured by the law society last year for our positive culture for mental health and we are a mentor firm for the Solicitors Regulation Authority on the Equality and Diversity Mentoring scheme, where we will be mentoring other firms on these important issues.
Last year we won awards for both Diversity and inclusion and social mobility and this is only the start!
What will you do differently after reading this?
How to get in touch
Throughout lockdown we opened a free helpline which remains open if you have any enquiries please email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can get in touch through our website if you need support with diversity and inclusion training, policies or any general advice we are here to help.
We have also set up a free support network for who may have experienced race discrimination at work, all you need to do is email our confidential free helpline on BLMsupport@thrivelaw.co.uk
By the Thrive Tribe
Anything within this article should not be taken as legal advice. Any information provided will be general advice and for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action. If you wish to obtain specific advice to your situation and your decisions, please contact us and we will thereafter be able to advise.