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Q&A – Equality, Diversity & Inclusion: Put your money where your mouth is

q&a edi put your money where your mouth is

The HR World’s webinar on ED&I this month brought together Sandi Wassmer, Chief Executive Officer at Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (enei), René Bujard, HR Director, EMEA at Sunstar, Laura Pettit, Chief Culture Officer at Snag and Cat Wildman, Founder of Powered By Diversity and the webinar’s sponsor.

The discussion was both informative and inspiring, offering HR professionals a great insight into how they could best address this agenda for the good of their people and organisation. The session is available both as on-demand webinar and podcast. And below are a few more responses to questions we ran out of time for on the day.

Q: I work in a small company where there seems to constantly be ‘more important’ things than ED&I. How can I get this onto the agenda successfully and without causing worry or issues with the rest of the leadership?

CW: I think a lot of the commentary about ED&I has become about protected characteristics only. We need to bring it back to what it actually is; EDI is actually a happy, motivated, productive workforce that wants to stay in the company. Once it’s looked at through that lens and not as a series of talks/ training about different protected characteristics, it becomes top of the agenda once again. Our EDI Health Check is like an uber-engagement survey disaggregated by protected characteristics. It’s all about a happy, motivated, productive workforce that wants to stay in the company!

SW: Prioritising diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) is essential for creating a thriving workforce, especially within a smaller organisation. After all, getting your hiring decisions right in a small company can make or break your culture. While it doesn’t require grand programmes, ensuring a diverse team and inclusive culture is crucial for success. Framing DEI as integral to company values rather than an additional burden can help it gain traction on the agenda without causing concern among leadership.

RB: In my past experience, one approach that has worked has been to offer solutions to business issues. Instead of saying we do the DE&I programme or we solve this business issue, is there a way to reframe your DE&I program so that you can say: “one way to address this business issue would be to work on XYZ” (which lo and behold happens to be one key element of the DE&I strategy). In other words you need to be able to articulate how what you propose will help the business.

Another way would be to point to investors or shareholders who are invested in your company and have pushed other companies to improve their DE&I programme. Or a competitor who has been in the press for the wrong reasons about failing at some aspect of DE&I, and point out how much reputational damage this has cost.

Are the any allies in the leadership team you can work with to support you in those discussions? Senior women, LGBT+, racial or ethnic diversity, or someone from Legal, or PR/Comms, etc who also sees the importance?”

Q: There was some mention of ‘ED&I fatigue’ on the webinar. How does the panel feel this can be best combatted? Is there a way of ‘re-inspiring’ people in this area?

CW: Showing progress is the key to battling EDI fatigue. EDI is hard work if done right and it is tiring, but there’s nothing better than seeing results for your hard work to keep you motivated to get to the next stage! Data is key to this. Whatever outcomes you want from your initiatives from “more awareness about x” to “better representation in the x team”; baseline where you start and measure as you go – and show (and celebrate!) progress regularly.

SW: This depends on your perspective towards diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI). If approached as a checklist item or a transactional obligation, it naturally loses its inspirational potential. However, when DEI is embraced as an integral part of your organisation’s culture, creating an environment you want to work within, fatigue becomes a less prominent issue.

RB: For me the fatigue tends to happen when people see more “talk than walk” from management, or more activities than impact, or more and more of the same without a renewal, or a “me too” approach to the work where you copy other companies rather than identify and address real inclusion issues where you are.

Think also whether in your guts you are convinced that management is really committed and engaged to address change or mostly doing the compliance stuff but not much more. If that is the issue, there needs to be a serious discussion with them.

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