Diversity and Inclusion, more than just a policy
When the concept of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI – yes, someone has a sense of humour and/or a love of Star Wars!) is raised, often the default position of most companies is to roll out their shiny, carefully crafted Diversity and Inclusion Policy/Statement and submit it as evidence that they’re an employer of choice.
Companies draft these policies to an accepted format, put it up on their website and, bingo, they’re an inclusive workplace.
The problem, I feel, with creating the “definition” of JEDI is that it becomes formulaic and prescriptive and ignores the fact that what we’re actually talking about is human beings who are part of a business community.
Instead of being about the celebration of togetherness and contribution, it become an exercise of compliance that is used to demonstrate the social standing of corporations.
And much like using quotas to shift the balance of women on boards, it misses the point of the exercise entirely. With quotas as the driver rather than a genuine desire to provide opportunity, women are appointed as board members without the benefit of having held decision-making senior roles and developing the experience necessary to succeed in the role.
Similarly, with JEDI, having a policy that states you are an equal opportunities employer isn’t the objective. Nor is showing that you have all backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, different abilities and cultures on your workforce. Instead, much like the purpose of an organisation, the approach to JEDI should come right from the heart of an organisation’s values and preferably be created by the team as a whole.
It should genuinely form part of your beliefs, either as a business owner or leadership team. An authentic approach to JEDI values people first and creates an environment where tools and mentoring are available to all, tailored to meet them where they are. It gives organisations the ability to open their doors to those who start from a point of disadvantage, such as the young people involved with our charity partner, Whitelion, and have a real impact on society.
It doesn’t mean that everyone is treated equally, it means that everyone on the team has the equal opportunity to perform to the best of their ability and contribute to the company’s success and strive for all positions. And this means that sometimes you need to provide more help and training to some team members than others.
To achieve this, you need to set up a culture that is supportive, engaging and encourages the sharing of ideas from all team members, including providing the opportunity for peer-to-peer mentoring that breaks down the silos. And, having a work environment that creates space for people to socialise and develop meaningful relationships with their team mates beyond the concept of after work beers creates a sense of camaraderie and engenders more loyalty to an employer, reducing overall business costs as well as improving the quality of service.
My longest-standing and one of my dearest friendships has its foundations in an inclusive and forward-thinking work environment where the primary driver was the success of all – employees and organisation.
You need to create open channels for regular feedback and actually acknowledge and take action on that feedback. In short, you need effective and consistent communication within and outside your organisation that allows open dialogue and demonstrates an environment where everyone matters.
JEDI isn’t a policy, it’s how a company operates across the board, making it just as meaningful to micro business as multinationals. Your approach to JEDI informs actions at all touch points. What clients do you work with? What partnerships do you form? What causes do you support? It isn’t just about who you will include on your team and which team members are provided with a smooth runway to the boardroom.
When you approach JEDI from the perspective of values, community and humanity you reap the benefits of a higher performing team that come when drawing from the rich diversity of culture, background and lived experience, making it great for business and society.
If you are looking for ways to engage your team in a meaningful discussion around inclusivity and harnessing the creativity of many, get in touch with us today.