Why it’s time for active inclusion

Why it’s time for active inclusion

It’s a hugely challenging time for businesses. 

They are facing multiple pressures: the impact of Covid 19, the economic downturn, the rise of sustainable investing and stakeholder capitalism and public calls to take a stronger stand against racial injustice and inequalities, to name just a few.   Employers are having to re-think their entire operating models - fast.  Lockdown’s enforced remote-working has led to a massive upheaval of traditional working practices that is being described as ‘the next industrial revolution’.  Furloughing, pay cuts and redundancies are widespread. Business leaders are having to re-consider the purpose of their offices and prioritise wellbeing, collaboration and flexibility. In parallel, employers’ actions are being scrutinised more than ever before.  Well-intentioned public statements aren’t enough: organisations are having to demonstrate that the way they operate is meeting the needs and interests of all their stakeholders, not just their shareholders.

This is directly impacting inclusion and diversity efforts. 

In some organisations, D&I is receding as a strategic priority as attention is focused instead on technology capability, employee wellbeing and future estate and workforce planning. In May, 27% of D&I leaders reported that ‘all of most of their D&I initiatives were on hold’.  Yet the need for inclusion is greater than ever. Pre-Covid and #BLM, many employers focused predominantly on women, working parents and LGBTQ+ employees. Today, they are having to take a much more nuanced approach and consider the needs and experiences of previously under-acknowledged groups of employees such as those living alone, those starting out in their careers, those with inadequate working space or broadband at home, and those silently coping with fertility challenges or domestic abuse. They are also having to urgently address the low representation of black and ethnic minority colleagues at senior levels and on boards.

Despite budgetary pressures, employers can no longer afford to take a passive approach to inclusion. The risks are numerous and highly damaging: losing diverse talent; erosion of company culture and identity; and plummeting employee morale over the longer-term as remote-working continues.

So what does active inclusion look like?  

It’s about putting inclusion front and centre of your current business plans and activities.  How? By gathering and mining your diversity data to identify impacts and trends and to constructively challenge decision-making. By tailoring policies and working practices to the individual and allowing local discretion in how these are applied. By constantly listening - in different ways - to your employees’ experiences and needs and responding swiftly to what you hear.  And by taking targeted, sustained action to address bias.  Businesses can no longer afford to delegate these responsibilities to an individual in HR or the CSR function.  Active inclusion requires shared accountability and a systemic approach where inclusion is woven into all leadership and people programmes and day-to-day working practices.

Actively inclusive organisations are focusing on these 5 things right now:

  • Time: how they are collectively managing working time and what they are investing time in
  • Togetherness: how to create the social ‘glue’ by fostering collaboration and connectivity, and collaborating with clients, suppliers and competitors for mutual benefit and greater impact
  • Testing: drawing on diversity of thought and multiple perspectives to re-design their organisations in an inclusive way
  • Targeted action: setting specific goals around black representation, diverse hiring, closing pay gaps, and motivating employees over the long term.
  • Transparency: mining diversity data, auditing the impact of organisational changes on different employee groups and publicly sharing progress.

This is a real opportunity for employers to invest in an actively inclusive approach.

Those that do will create more adaptive, efficient teams and more creative, resilient businesses that are better positioned for growth and - just as importantly - able to pivot faster in the uncertain times that lie ahead.


About the author

Helen Beedham is a speaker, writer and adviser with over 25 years’ experience in corporate workplaces and professional careers. She helps senior HR and business leaders to create more inclusive, productive workplaces where everyone can flourish.  She is in the early stages of writing a book on ‘The Future of Time: how ‘re-working’ time can help you create more diverse, engaged and productive workforces’.

Category: Expert Advice

Released On 1st Oct 2020

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