Diversity and inclusion are more important to businesses than ever. Equality, Diversity & Inclusion policies are becoming the norm, but how can organisations move beyond ‘box ticking’ and what stands in the way of truly inclusive workplaces? We spoke to inclusion & diversity author and consultant, Richard Bateman, to find out.

Q) Why is diversity and inclusion so important?

The business case for diversity and inclusion is pretty straightforward. Research shows that when teams are led inclusively, they are more innovative, creative and collaborative. Overall there is an increase in performance and a higher quality of decision making. 

It is also generally accepted that a more inclusive workplace is also a more agile one - a business critical trait in these volatile times. 

On an individual level, it is about a sense of belonging. Employees want to feel valued and respected - something that is increasingly important, particularly to younger generations. As the workforce demographic shifts downwards, building a culture that embraces diversity will be a crucial factor when looking to recruit the best talent. 

Research shows that when teams are led inclusively, they are more innovative, creative and collaborative.
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Q) What stands in the way of an inclusive workplace?

The majority of business leaders recognise the need to build an inclusive culture and workplace. Yet, many still struggle to do so successfully, often because they are not prepared to tackle these issues head on. Starting with themselves.

The main culprit is implicit bias - the assumptions we make about the world around us without thinking about it. They are often quite subtle and therefore difficult to pin-point, but when they are recurrently present, they can build up to something much bigger, leaving people feeling excluded or unnoticed. 

For instance, designing an open collaborative workspace for a team of introverts that may need their own space to be productive. Or conversely, creating individual spaces for employees who need lots of interaction to stay on task and deliver.

Another example would be assuming that a new mum who is returning to work, would not be interested in taking on extra responsibility. Or, that she is looking for more flexible working patterns - unlike her male colleagues in similar circumstances.

Implicit bias is present everyday, but for an organisation to promote a more diverse and inclusive working environment it is important that businesses and individuals together reflect on and talk openly about their biases and work towards overcoming them. 

Q) So, how can we overcome these implicit biases & turn EDI policies into action?

Overcoming implicit bias needs to primarily be done at an individual level. The first step is to accept that we all have them and start to recognise the forms they may take. Constantly reviewing the assumptions we are making will help to identify our blind spots and change the way we think and act.

Ultimately though, for diversity and inclusion to be truly embraced in an organisation and not just seen as “box ticking”, it must be firmly embedded in the organisation’s DNA and led from the top. 

This can include using micro-inclusions such as celebrations of religious and cultural events that involve everyone in the business, allowing differences to be appreciated and creating a sense of belonging for all.

Naturally, it is crucial that all employees understand the importance of diversity and inclusion, and the long term positive effect that it will have on the team. 

Another essential aspect is the physical design of the workplace. Again, it needs to be intentionally inclusive with employees consulted on what they want and need from the space.  

Organisations that take an active - and holistic - approach to embracing diversity will reap the most benefits and will be better positioned to compete in our fast moving world. And when leadership starts to turn policies into action, employees will follow. 

Organisations that take a more holistic approach to embracing diversity reap the most benefits
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To find out more on diversity & inclusion, watch our webinar - Design-in workplace belonging. You can also read the report below - The Inclusive Workplace - based on research run in collaboration with CoreNet Global.

Rethinking the Inclusive Workplace Exploring the extent to which diversity and inclusion is currently impacting commercial design.
Marjolijn Verleg EMEA Marketing Communications Manager Workplace, Tarkett Full bio and articles


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