Remember those days of Equal Opportunities when we were accused by many of “political correctness”?

The world has moved forward, and we are talking about diversity and inclusion, but do we have a common understanding of what D&I is? The CIPD has released a new report “Building Inclusive Workplaces”

CIPD describe: “The concept of diversity and inclusion should be a joyous celebration of human experience”. However, they go on to say that the most attention given to D&I is when it is a source of embarrassment or legal challenge. It cites a number of cases from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau to Cadbury’s.

One of the reasons we tend to get it so badly wrong is not only our natural unconscious bias, but our assumptions. It is a revolutionary thing to ask our customers and our employees how we can become more inclusive. We don’t have to sit in an office somewhere and try and work it out for ourselves. Many organisations make big promises, and then their customers and employees find that those promises don’t come to fruition, and then question the genuine commitment of organisations. In my experience, many organisations are well meaning in their commitment to inclusion, but the execution is lacking.

This becomes obvious when we look at visibility. The CIPD quote:
“Data from executive search company Green Park last year found that only 52 per cent of the FTSE 100 has non-white board or executive committee members. In fact, the Sutton Trust’s report into those who hold positions of power in the UK shows that privately educated people still make up the majority of judges, 43 per cent of news media and 34 per cent of chief executives of PR firms – despite only 7 per cent of the population attending an independent school.”

The reason that the execution tends to fall down is often because organisations choose an initiative that has worked for another organisation, and they assume it will translate across. This is rarely effective. It may be the principles are transferable, but the method of delivery will be exclusive to each individual organisation, as the constitution of each organisation, its culture, values and internal infrastructures will all be different. Isn’t that the fundamental basis of diversity?

The other reason we aren’t as inclusive as we hope is because we gat caught up in traditional views of inclusion and have a tendency to focus specifically on race and gender. There is more movement towards considering disability and sexuality, but the less visible a difference is, the less we appear to include it. This happens on an organisational level too. It isn’t just protected characteristics that should be considered in an inclusive environment, what about multi-generational working and lifestyle choices?
Jill Miller, policy adviser at the CIPD, says. “In some cases, employers are getting a diverse workforce in but not creating an inclusive culture. You can also have an inclusive culture where the workforce is not diverse. They’ll score highly on inclusion, but not benefit from diverse perspectives on decisions and opportunities, and will miss out on talent.”

The key it seems, is to ensure that we are open to opportunity and we are seeking the best possible sources of talent. In order to do that we need to speak to our workforce to discover what inclusivity means to them and how they would like to feel it. It is also worth checking in with stakeholders including customers to find out how they understand inclusivity, and how the organisational culture in relation to how we represent that, may impact on their perception of our brand. In a social media age, brand is equally important at a consumer and employer level.

So, rather than look for the “next best” initiative around diversity and inclusion, it may be worth thinking about just asking the question…………. What does inclusion really mean to you?