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Diversity and inclusion: don’t underestimate those quick changes 

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In the last few years, diversity and inclusion (D&I) has risen fast on the corporate agenda. From discussions around pay equity, to board-level diversity to creating a culture that supports neurodiverse teams, it’s become front-and-centre for many businesses.

From experience, I know it can often take months, if not years, for the impact of longer-term D&I initiatives to be realised, particularly in larger organisations.  

While it’s clear that the best strategies and plans take time to implement, smaller changes can send positive signals to staff and showcase the company’s ‘bigger-picture’ vision.   


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Long-term changes with shorter-term staff 

With so much discussion around D&I, there is a danger that employees won’t see how these longer-term strategies are being translated into meaningful action. 

Employees in the UK will typically change their employer every five years. So employers can’t afford to rely on longer-term strategies alone to demonstrate their commitment to D&I.

Staff churn may naturally mean individuals leave before these plans are put into action. This can create a perception with shorter-term employees that the business is not fully committed to D&I, simply because they are no longer there to see these practices go live. 

How to make diversity impactful 

It’s easy to think of these shorter-term measures as ‘quick fixes’ and less valuable than larger initiatives when compared side by side, but used well, they can keep staff engaged and emphasise the business’ commitment to inclusivity.  

For example, employee engagement surveys are a simple and effective way for HR teams to gather feedback from staff and pinpoint priority areas for focus.

Focus groups and roundtable discussions can also shine a light on the experience of employees across the organisation and can lead to improvements being made.  

These smaller adjustments are especially vital to address the less well established D&I priorities in the workplace – such as those strategies that specifically support neurodivergent individuals.

With one in seven people being classed as neurodivergent, companies can’t rely solely on longer-term strategies to address the immediate challenges these employees face. 

Implementing inclusion tools as part of a wider D&I campaign, for example, can go a long way to making a positive impact and making those employees feel valued.

For example, an organisation-wide software rollout designed to support neurodiverse employees who struggle with reading and writing bypasses the need for employees having to self identify and avoid any associated stigma as a result.  

D&I and why?

Companies can demonstrate that they’re thinking about D&I by making a concerted effort to support underrepresented groups, like those who are neurodiverse.

Moving neurodiversity up the D&I agenda can have an immediate impact for employees and still allow the business to address other key issues such as diversity in gender and race.  

For established businesses with a less mature attitude to D&I, or a multinational organisation working across various regions, for example, a transition can take a lot of work.

Yet, businesses who take steps to value the smaller initiatives and practices can make employees feel included and equally able to contribute and reach their full potential.

 

Cathy Donnelly is chief people officer at Texthelp

 

If you have a pressing D&I problem you can't get to the bottom of, send in your query here where it will be be answered by our resident D&I specialist Huma Qazi in the next issue of HR magazine.