One of the most searching questions business leaders need to ask, is how genuinely inclusive they are. 

Have you created a culture in your company that leaves no room for inherent and passive inequality or inadvertent prejudices?

It’s not about compliance. It’s about having policies and training in place to root out all forms of bias and to support an authentically diverse workplace.

Being a good role model and being thorough on this topic makes commercial sense too. It’s the only way to ensure that your staff are truly the best fit for their post and supported in an individual way.

The popular phrase for this is ensuring staff can bring their “whole self” to work, which significantly increases the chance that they are engaged, loyal and productive.

No room for complacency

Prejudice and preconceptions in your management team may not be your enemy. The most insidious problem is likely to be complacency.

It’s easy to point to your work to tackle the most obvious sources of discrimination and equality and believe you’ve ticked all the boxes.

The truth may be that you have limits and checks on recruitment and staff development that go unnoticed.

For example, studies have shown that putting management teams on “equality” training courses can be counterintuitive. The result is a heightened sensitivity to the subject of bias. This leads to unconscious avoidance of interviewing or interacting with women, older people, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities. This is the default mode to ensure they don’t show favour or prejudice.

Also, you may have made your workplace accessible for people with physical disabilities, but how willing is your company to consider applicants with a history of mental disorders and problems?

Women and IT

Another example of this vital topic is outdated views on women in certain job roles.

UK organisations are competing in a dwindling talent pool for staff with IT related skills. If you ask some business leaders why they have so few female IT personnel, you may get the answer “they don’t apply”. But how credible is that anymore?

Could recruitment policies show inadvertent bias?

Words matter

In recruitment and staff communications, content makes a substantial difference in the type of people who apply for jobs or promotions.

One piece of research analysed hundreds of millions of job ads. It found that the requirement to “manage teams” meant women were less likely to apply than men. If the wording was changed to the more nurturing “develop teams”, the number of female applicants may increase.

One Australian software company used the system behind this research to create job ad wording over a two year period. It reported an 80% increase in the hiring of women in technical roles.

Leaders as role models

Business leaders need to give inclusivity a great deal more thought and find strategies to make diversity a natural part of company culture.

To discuss leadership skills to create authentically inclusive workforces, contact Anthony Gregg Partnership.