The 2010 Equality Act pulled together 116 separate pieces of existing legislation. It now covers nine ‘protected characteristics’ (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation).
Recent events have brought racial inequality and discrimination to the fore. Most people are agreed that this is not going to go away on its own. We need to openly explore and talk about Britain’s imperfect past. And, let’s be clear, there are going to be uncomfortable ‘messy’ conversations.
However, a lot can be done in the workplace with an inclusive culture with clearly identified behaviours and honest conversations.
How can this be done?
Organisational culture is defined by its underpinning values and expressed in the behaviours of the people – ‘you are what you do’. Consistent behaviours that align with values mean that people are willing to give their best and delight your customers.
The Investors in People Standard provides a great model for highly effective organisations. It aims ‘to help every person be the best they can be’. It talks about ‘living the organisation’s values and behaviours’, seeking to ensure that the values are at the heart of everything the organisation does. At the most fundamental level it requires honest open and leaders who clearly communicate and role model the core values and how they should be applied.
It goes on to state that people (which is everyone) should know and demonstrate the values in their everyday behaviours. Critically, they should be assessed against the values, both receiving and giving feedback on them. And they should ‘feel comfortable in challenging behaviours that are not in line with the organisation’s values’. This is key because it supports the uncomfortable, messy conversations that can occue when discussing race.
Where people have shared beliefs they understand and feel comfortable with doing the right thing. In this way, the culture becomes embedded – defined simply as ‘the way we do things round here’.
So, what can you do about diversity now?
A great start is a review of your current policies, procedures and, critically, explore your peoples’ feelings on race. Do this by engaging with as many people as possible throughout the organisation. In particular, review and revise your core values and behaviours to include diversity. Ensure that people are encouraged to live by the vlaues. If it isn’t already clear, managers must role model the behaviours if values are to be respected and lived up to. For this reason, organisations should facilitate a process by which people give feedback to leaders and managers.
Also, ensure that people are themselves given constructive feedback on their behaviours, including specific links to diversity. One great benefit of this is that it facilitates more frequent and much simplified interactions with people. It becomes very easy to praise people in the moment and give them feedback on how to improve in a timely way.