A royal arrival: Lessons in engagement and inclusion

With the news about the latest royal baby comes a renewed sense of optimism amid challenging times

The story of two very different people coming together across class divides and racial backgrounds now ushering in the next generation of royals is a powerful message. This showcases what love can do.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs feeling loved and a sense of belonging are of significant importance, once the physiological and safety needs have been met. Would it not therefore be wonderful, if as a result of our employee engagement initiatives, staff felt that sense of love and belonging? It would be a big step towards creating a certain mindset. The ‘make me care’ mindset is often used in storytelling to engage the reader with characters and circumstances. The same holds true for employee engagement initiatives.

If you can make your staff care about the organisation then the vision, mission and strategy are then owned beyond the senior leadership team and come to life, turning nine to five jobs into something new and different. Once the staff feel ‘loved’ or cared for by their employers it is reciprocated, with that sense of belonging morphing into a sense of ownership that unleashes loyalty, innovation and productivity, as the organisation becomes our organisation.

The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is also a real lesson in diversity and inclusion, with someone of mixed race joining the royal family.

Bringing your whole self to the workplace if you are a person of colour should be a given as it is not something that one can hide. And yet so many feel compelled to try to blend in, to anglicise their names, conform with their choice of clothing, playing down religious practices and customs.

In recent times there has been much hatred directed at people who are regarded as different, with increased acts of xenophobia and institutionalised racism surfacing during the Windrush scandal. It is not easy right now to be a minority as a person of (the wrong) colour. Unlike some protected characteristics, I cannot hide my difference to blend in and nor do I want to. Accepting our racial differences and loving who we are is the first step to getting others to love who you are. To quote Oscar Wilde: ”be yourself; everyone else is already taken”.

Nelson Mandela made the point beautifully when he said: “no-one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”.

Talking about race within the C-suite can be uncomfortable; often gender is a far easier conversation to have than tackling BAME representation. One does not need data analytics or focus groups to determine progress made. You just need to look around the boardroom table and at senior management to know how much further we have to go. Not that there is a shortage of research papers such as the Parker Review, the UK government’s Race Disparity Audit or the CIPD’s various reports into the issue, which underscore the problem. Business leaders need to be proactive to attract talent more widely as well as supporting BAME staff to reach senior roles.

I have been very fortunate to have had my life enriched by people of many different backgrounds, colours, faiths and cultures. Those that hated me for my difference have only left me feeling more secure in my identity and the importance of not blending in. If you lose yourself you lose everything that makes you, you. I am already good enough. How do I know? Because the people that matter already love me for who I am.

Shakil Butt is founder of HR Hero for Hire, and former HR and OD director at Islamic Relief Worldwide