From education to employment

An EDI ‘Brand’ Not Backed Up With Action – Big Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Mistake: Number 4

Creating an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion brand is something that many organisations choose to do, as a way of promoting intentions and goals around Equality, Diversity & Inclusion good practice.

It can be a costly enterprise, so you’re more likely to see it as part of the Diversity & Inclusion strategies of larger organisations with bigger budget

You know the type of thing. It tends to start off with a lot of meetings, some sort of committee and the hiring of a design and marketing agency. The whole exercise can bring up some great ideas and help identify the gaps in your Equality & Diversity training.

The next step for the business in question is the creation of a company Diversity & Inclusion brand name, such as:

“Same Difference!”

“Equally Different!”

“Dynamic Diversity!”

Then come the logos, flyers, leaflets, posters and the website and intranet enhancements. These will be issued, under that catchy Diversity & Inclusion brand name, and probably communicate messages such as:

  • Goals and intentions
  • Company values
  • Contact details for designated Equality, Diversity & Inclusion support

…and of course lots of images, showing a diverse range of team members, happily working together.

Diversity & Inclusion overhaul

One of my clients began a much-needed Diversity & Inclusion overhaul with this process. They did it because they knew they were struggling a bit, reputation-wise.

They were part of a male dominated industry with a management team that seemed to come from a narrow demographic. Increasingly, it was looking as if the business was unrepresentative of the world they were working in.

It was starting to create recruitment problems, plus there had been a few hiccups when it came to some lucrative contracts.

The company knew that they needed to make a change in order to keep step with partner organisations, stay ahead of competitors, improve high quality recruitment and to secure some important high-value contracts.

They decided on creating an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion brand, so that they could showcase all their good intentions, towards being a diverse and inclusive organisation. It would be a loud, proud statement of the company’s determination to build a genuine and outstanding Diversity & Inclusion culture.

The Diversity & Inclusion branding was very popular when it was rolled out. It looked dynamic and contemporary and seemed to point to the building of a more vibrant organisation with greater opportunities for business growth and personal progression. There was a noticeable increase in staff motivation.

But three months after that brand roll out, staff received another communication. It gave details of an organisation restructure and guess what? The allocation of senior roles reflected a mindset and practice that had not changed a bit.

Some very able candidates who were not in the existing management mould seemed to have been inexplicably overlooked and the narrow demographic of management was very much in place.

Now, I don’t know where you were at the time. You may have been anywhere in the UK. Or perhaps you were working overseas. Or enjoying a well-earned holiday somewhere sunny.

But no matter how far away you were, you probably heard the noisy ripping up of those expensive flyers and posters, along with a few muttered expletives, as a very disgruntled workforce realised it was just same old same old.

Old habits are hard to break

As in so many of these cases, I don’t think there was any deliberate intention to exclude anyone. In fact, subsequent work on building real change in the business showed that there really was a genuine intention to improve Equality, Diversity & Inclusion. It was just that old habits can be hard to break, and there had been an attitude of ‘job done’ for Equality & Diversity, once the branding exercise was complete.

If you’re going to have an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion brand you need to think about what you’ll actually do to back it up. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start with six action points on one side of A4.

It’s also important to remember that improving Diversity & Inclusion practice needs to happen at all levels of an organisation. If it’s something rolled out from management to teams, but without the buy-in of everyone at all levels, then it’s never going to work. If a senior management team decides that a change is needed, but doesn’t look at what changes they themselves need to make, then the process is doomed.

Things like an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion brand, alongside the Equality Act 2010 and other legislation, provide a framework for improving good practice, but it’s actually everyday behaviour that makes the difference.

You need to take action if you want to change an organisation’s culture. You need to help your staff do this by informing, supporting and listening to them.

This doesn’t mean that you and your teams must spend every day thinking about adding Equality, Diversity & Inclusion to your work to-do lists. Let’s face it – those lists are long enough already and the last thing you need is another load of tasks to get through.

When we talk about focussing on daily behaviour, what we mean is the importance of everyday thoughtfulness such as considering others and stopping to think if anyone has been left out of something and if so, why.

Good everyday behaviour won’t slow down the wheels of industry – actually, it’s the oil that helps them to run smoothly. It’s about working together, helping each other and not feeling afraid to speak up if something is bothering you or if you’re unsure about something. It’s about being able to learn and continually improve without fear of judgement or penalisation.

It’s about thinking ‘I know this is what we’ve always done, but is there a better – and maybe easier – way of going about this?’

So, if you’re an organisation with an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion brand, look at the brand messages and information again. Once you’ve read them, think about how you and your teams can really live them. If you’re uncomfortable with anything, then get a conversation going with your team and managers. Equality, Diversity & Inclusion is an ongoing process. It’s never ‘job done’.

Johnny Johnson works with training providers, delivering Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Safeguarding training that’s straightforward and effective. If you’d like more information plus some handy free resources, contact [email protected]

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