As last week drew to a close, I started to notice parallels between these (partially?) post-Covid 19 times, and the global financial crash 12 years ago. It’s left me feeling pretty frustrated and disappointed. Let me explain why.
Back in 2007/8, we all watched on as the effects of long-term excessive risk-taking, and deregulation across financial markets created the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. For years, those at the helm of powerful financial institutions, investors, big businesses and global banks had played the game and reaped the rewards. Compliance? Whatever.
Then, in the space of a few weeks, financial leaders found themselves sinking deeper and deeper. They had allowed – and actively encouraged – risky, exploitative and unethical practices to become the norm, and compliance had long since dropped off the radar. They awoke to the reality that when it all hit the fan, they would carry the blame.
Playing by the rules
In the aftermath, as the great ‘clean up’ of the financial industry was under way, compliance became a tick box exercise in the rush to be seen as ‘playing by the rules’. It became just one more thing to swiftly check off the list to ensure your tracks were covered.
Right now, it seems that diversity and inclusion are being managed in the same way. There are a lot of white, middle-aged, C-Suite men realising that they’ve not been doing the right things. They’ve not been recruiting from a diverse talent pool. They’ve not been actively looking at inclusion and equality across their staff. It’s been the same old, same old. In the context of Black Lives Matter and Covid-19, it’s blindingly obvious that organisations have been caught napping.
As a quick-fix, I’ve seen businesses are now frantically scheduling in tick-box, off-the -shelf ED&I training for their teams. The recruiters are copping it as HR Directors ask, “Why haven’t you given us a more diverse range of candidates?”. The low ambition of these organisations is disheartening to see. When businesses take the short-term, one-dimensional approach to levelling up diversity and inclusion, they will only ever see short-term, one-dimensional results (if they’re lucky).
Staff may be slightly more knowledgeable and have a better grasp of the language around diversity. Marketing teams will make the appropriate noises on social media. Recruiters may be satisfied that there ARE NO BAME WOMEN OUT THERE FOR THIS DIRECTOR POSITION.
But guess what? People are genuinely smart. Consumers and clients are scrutinising businesses more than ever. They know that if something sounds hollow, then it probably is. Your clients and customers will not be fobbed off. Plugging a void for the time being just won’t work anymore.
Change the story
What makes this so disappointing, is that businesses today are in a unique position where they can help to bring about phenomenal change – not just in our workplaces, but in society also. If your recruiters aren’t presenting a diverse range of candidates, then change the story: go out and actively find that talent pool of BAME and LGBTQ+ professionals. Rethink those person specifications that subtly yet purposely filter out anyone from a certain socio-economic background. Raise your game, and consciously make your working practices accessible and flexible for everyone, so that you attract applications from those with disabilities and health conditions.
A shake up of diversity and inclusion practices in businesses is long overdue. For leaders who aren’t sure where to start, think about where you want your organisation to be in 5 years’ time. Set your strategy, and commit to long-term changes that are embraced by every single member of staff. Consider your level of maturity around D&I. If you’re leading a workforce of 500+, then your level of commitment and resources will be different to a small business of 20 employees. Nevertheless, the end-game remains the same: an inclusive workplace culture that values – and positively seeks – the contribution of all groups. Once you reach that point, your people and your business will be flying – and you won’t look back.
We’d love to hear about where your business is at with all things ED&I, so get in touch.
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