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Not seeing the wood for the trees? Three top tips on how to make visible change in your workforce.

If you have recently been tasked with improving equality, diversity and inclusion in your organisation, be it as CEO, Board Member, Non Exec Director or EDI Lead, you have probably felt overwhelmed by the size of the task in hand facing your organisation.

For many of us, the metrics around increasing diversity of applicants and appointees, ensuring proportionate and fair progression and securing retention of our talent pipeline are an ongoing struggle, with many people not knowing where best to start.

There is some good news to share, in the midst of Race Equality Week #actionnotwords, and looking forward to the United Nations Anti-Racism Day #FIGHTracism coming up in on 21 March 2022, lets hone in on a few tips on what we can do to support our HR departments and their divisions to move forward positively to make visible change.

Tip 1 – Understand the law

In the UK, we are fortunate to have the Equality Act (2010) which provides legal protection from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.

It features a list of nine protected characteristics and protects you while at work, in education, as a consumer, when using public services, when buying or renting property, and as a member or guest of a private club or association. By understanding the legal context your organisation is operating in, you can start to move confidently towards fulfilling your duties and making change happen.

Tip 2 – Positive Action is legal, use it!

It is important that organisations reflect the communities they serve at all levels, however many organisations from businesses, charities and public sector organisations tend to become more monocultural the further up the hierarchy you go.

For example, Business in the Community, the group founded by the Prince of Wales to support responsible business, said black people held just 1.5% of the 3.7m leadership positions across the UK’s public and private sectors in 2019, compared with 1.4% in 2014.

Positive Action as laid out in the Equality Act is a tool organisation can use to make visible change and tackle these issues head on. It encourages us to take specific steps to improve EDI in the workplace, for example to increase the number of people with disabilities in senior roles.

To be compliant, you must understand your data and ensure that the actions are appropriate and well thought out. Although using positive action is voluntary, it is a great way to help you activate your ambitions, and helps you comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Tip 3 – Be Creative

Seek examples of what other organisations have done creatively to positively approach advancements in EDI and workplace diversity.

The challenge of attracting, progressing and retaining staff from minority backgrounds is real. Structural barriers have developed over a very long period of time, and it’s important to be bold and positively disruptive to ensure the barriers can be chipped away at, and eventually, removed altogether.

I was recently interested to hear about ‘externships’ which are different to internships and more widely used in America. The purpose of an externship is to give students a short, special and sometimes fully remote experience and exposure to a job, company, networks, or industry. It takes some imagination from employers but delivered in partnership with schools or community or faith based organisations, if could build a brand new employee pipeline, sending a strong message that you are open for change. This type of pipeline programme can be mutually beneficial for everyone if co-produced effectively.

There are lots of other examples out there which you can discuss with your HR departments to explore which would work for you, and how you can adapt them to help create change and move towards being more inclusive for all.

  • Targeted job adverts – have you tried accessing media platforms the specifically reach certain communities?

  • Being crystal clear in your adverts – can you add a statement to encourage applicants, and is this in the language that would appeal to people? Have you trialled and measured the impact and made changes where needed?

  • Speak to staff to understand any lack of progression – tackle any poor practice by managers or micro behaviours that are halting progress and leading to talent loss and actively put underrepresented staff forward for development opportunities.

  • Organise tailored recruitment events – work in partnership to build trust and reach new audiences

  • Opt for a candidate from an under-represented group, where you can demonstrate they are ‘as qualified as’ each other

It all starts with being well informed about your duties, and taking a step in the right direction #actionsnotwords

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