Diversity and inclusion in the workplace are important, for everyone. But the topic can seem overwhelming, especially for smaller companies. Where do you start? Are you qualified or prepared to start these difficult conversations? What tactics should you adopt?
It's even more daunting when you don't have a big HR team, Culture Department or Head of People Happiness at your company. So what did we do?
We started talking.
In this article, you will find our key D&I discussion topics. This was just a first step, but we had to start somewhere.
Like a lot of companies who are making D&I a top priority, we were motivated by the realities about workplace inclusion, harassment and equality that are finally gaining traction. Another huge inspiration was attending the European Women in Tech conference in November.
McKinsey reported that 94% of senior execs say that people and corporate culture are the most important drivers of innovation. -McKinsey
Here are the highlights from our first workshop on D&I at Talon.One.
We all have opinions and we are all biased. We must understand how unconscious biases can negatively affect the workplace. We must be aware of our own biases, make other people aware and how they might affect the situation. It’s our role as leaders to teach people and work through these biases together so we can see and appreciate all perspectives.
Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. Being vulnerable yourself is a good strategy to help make people aware of their actions and words. By opening up ourselves we encourage others to do the same and invite a productive conversation. By sharing your experience, others might identify with you - this can help breakdown common fears and anxieties found in a workplace.
What’s it like in someone else’s shoes? Empathy is key for leaders and helps build trust in a team. We can all be more self-aware and try to understand someone else’s perspective. For companies to succeed, leaders and managers need to understand the importance of putting people first, the well-being of your employees should matter most, then the good work will follow.
Tests indicate that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% success in all types of jobs. -Forbes
Advocate for yourself and for each other. If something doesn’t feel right, speak up and let your colleagues know that you don’t feel comfortable. This is a key step for reducing unconscious bias, harassment, bullying or other toxic behaviour in the office.
Be a Learn-It-All. Educate yourself and arm yourself with knowledge. Make the effort to learn about others - different experiences and perspectives can teach you a lot. But don’t let not knowing something hold you back. Take risks.
Invest in people, stimulate continuous creativity, collaboration and learning. Find a mentor or be a mentor, help develop careers, especially juniors. Create opportunities for others to lead within your team. Be a leader, not a manager.
You don’t need to know everything. Teams work better when you embrace each others strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Ask for help. Seek support. Self-care, exercise, meditation, reading, painting, music, etc. Find activities outside of work to give your life balance and avoid burnout. You can’t be a superhero and do it all, and that’s ok.
Trust should be highly valued in all organizations. For a team to be diverse and inclusive, you need to build trust from all sides. Give trust as well. Engage with each other on a personal level and be aware of how members of your team are doing. Lose the 'us' vs. 'them' language. Team's achieve way more when we trust each other.
Assertiveness is another development area. Just do it. Fight the fear. Believe in your strengths. Build a network. Be a leader. It will only change if we make it change.
Be your true self. Don’t try to be something you are not. Create a space where people feel they can be themselves. We must value and encourage different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds, this is what makes us stronger. You don’t have to act like everyone else. We want people NOT like us. This makes us richer, leverage the strength of our differences to drive great business goals and social outcomes.
Harvard Business Review research shows that diversity unlocks innovation and drives market growth and we should embrace the power of differences.
So this is where we started. With a conversation that focused on awareness and these 10 topics.
You might be thinking, “but in my company, we don’t have this problem”. Think again. It is important to consider all perspectives, not just your own.
It’s never too late to stop and ask yourself, was that OK? How does my colleague feel about this? What would I do if I was in their shoes?
For our team, starting the conversation was the first step, but like everyone else, we still have a long way to go.
Since our first discussions, we have implemented a D&I program at Talon.One. This will focus on the following key areas:
Stay tuned for more updates on our progress, challenges and strategies that a small company can make to make the workplace a better place for all.
These ideas were inspired by the European Women In Tech conference and searching the internet. I believe that the best way to make a change is starting the conversation. We can’t wait for the perfect solution. We also acknowledge that there is no single solution, but bringing awareness to these topics is the best first step.