In recent years, a sharpened focus has been placed on UK business with regards to diversity practices, and justifiably so. Employers have both an ethical and legal obligation to offer equal opportunities to individuals, regardless of background or protected characteristics.
Diverse working environments are conducive to increased employee performance, heightened productivity and a greater sense of overall wellbeing. That said, they do not materialise overnight; the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion requires an active approach.
In the following article, we’ll explore the fundamentals of equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, discussing their importance as well as best practices when it comes to promoting these values.
What Do We Mean By Equality, Diversity and Inclusion?
At its core, equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) focuses on ensuring that all individuals have access to the same employment opportunities, working conditions, benefits, pay and treatment. We’ll explore this in further detail shortly, but it is important to note that EDI ensures the protection of these rights, regardless of an individual’s protected characteristics.
Although equality, diversity and inclusion are all related to the fair treatment of employees, it is important to note their nuances. Equality is concerned with equal treatment and opportunities, whereas diversity focuses on actively acknowledging the value of individuals’ differences. Inclusion may be viewed as the glue that holds the two together, implementing ideas and resources that champion equality and make individuals from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and valued.
For those looking to nurture equal, diverse and inclusive working environments, understanding the relationship between these elements is crucial. After all, a diverse workforce is not necessarily inclusive; if an individual feels that they have been hired simply to tick a box, it will only exacerbate feelings of otherness.
The Importance Of Equality, Diversity And Inclusion In The workplace
The importance of equality, diversity and inclusion within professional environments should not be underestimated. Studies suggest businesses that nurture these values experience improved performance, increased productivity and a happier overall workforce. Moreover, employers will find that by promoting diversity and inclusion, absences decrease, collaborative projects thrive and employee loyalty and retention strengthens.
Of course, the necessity of EDI measures surpasses moral and ethical responsibility; businesses in the UK must comply with discrimination law, as stated within the Equality Act 2010. As touched upon previously, this legislation means that businesses cannot discriminate against an individual based on protected characteristics. These include:
- Religion or beliefs
- Sexual orientation
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
Implementing Policy and Procedures
For businesses looking to nurture diverse, inclusive working environments, the first step is to introduce clear policies and procedures. These form the backbone of effective EDI practices, clarifying the standards that must be upheld by employer and employee alike. As well as stating your business’ commitment to diversity and inclusion, an effective EDI policy document will ensure that values and expectations are clearly communicated among employees.
Expertly drafted policies and procedures are designed to benefit both businesses and employees, preventing discrepancies or misunderstandings regarding best practice. Failing to implement company policies and procedures will leave your business vulnerable to significant legal disputes with employees. For this reason, employing expert HR assistance when creating these documents is essential.
Of course, the implementation of policies and procedures is only the start; both employer and employee are responsible for ensuring that positive practices are maintained. This requires the tackling of bias, unconscious or otherwise.
Tackling Unconscious Bias
In a professional context, unconscious bias refers to the formation of opinions about other employees without any relevant information or evidence. An individual may form such beliefs based on past-experiences, stereotypes or preconceived notions. Crucially, an unconscious bias is formed when an individual is unaware of their own prejudice.
Examples of unconscious bias include:
- Affinity bias – the tendency to favour and connect with others based on similarities or a shared background
- Ageism – the tendency to judge others (positively or negatively) based on their age alone
- Beauty bias – the societal belief that attractive people are somehow more competent or successful
- Gender Bias – the formation of opinion based on an individual’s gender, rather than their capabilities
The first step in combating unconscious bias in the workplace is developing an awareness of it. This awareness must be formed on both an individual and collective level. Below, we’ll discuss the role of diversity and inclusion training in this process.
Diversity and Inclusion Training
When it comes to the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the effectiveness of well-structured workplace training cannot be overstated. In addition to addressing any unconscious bias that may exist, it is an opportunity for both employee and employer to engage in constructive, open communication regarding workplace culture and best practice.
Aside from the measurable benefits of diversity training, such as increased productivity and employee retention, educating team members on the value of inclusivity and equality is certain to promote feelings of well being and individual value within an organisation.
For businesses of all shapes and sizes, the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion is vital. That said, as an employer or manager, it can be tricky knowing where to start. Here at The HR Dept, we’re well-versed in the development and implementation of diversity policies, procedures and training programmes. Get in touch with a member of our team to discuss your business’ requirements.