This is the first in a series of articles on Diversity and Inclusion based on conversations with Hilary Harvey, Partner of TPC Leadership UK. Today we begin by addressing the current global D&I landscape.
“Businesses can no longer ignore that the world’s attention is on the need for greater inclusion,” says Hilary. “Whether they agree with it or not.”
Previously many businesses have been able to put Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) to the back of the priority queue. But, in part due to a rise in global awareness, the voices in this discussion have become louder. This has led to more businesses looking to break down uncomfortable barriers in order to tackle the deeply rooted challenges that contribute to D&I issues.
Pandemic pushing responsibility
The pandemic has heightened the momentum behind confronting D&I issues. One reason is that work and home lives, which were once separated, have now been merged and the discussion around D&I has become more widespread.
“Before, it was easy to differentiate between the two environments, allowing people to avoid challenging the issues in one environment or another,” says Hilary. “But now professional and personal lives are interconnected, the conversation is inescapable.”
Remote working has seen employers having to evaluate the importance of not just focussing on targets but the people behind the business. This compels directors and business leaders to consider the environments that their employees have to face, which affect their wellbeing and career progression.
“It used to be okay to only care about the work,” says Hilary. “Leaders could afford to simply focus on productivity and shareholders. But that kind of thinking isn’t viable anymore.”
The murder of George Floyd provoked uproar to support the Black Lives Matter movement globally. Although the BLM movement existed before this moment, the energy from supporters has since become stronger and more sustained. Even a year later, people are more committed to using their own voices.
“The luxury of ignoring these issues is gone because of the rise in global awareness,” says Hilary. “It’s not that everyone’s suddenly caring, but it’s much more in the mainstream.”
So the responsibility of having this conversation bears down on everyone speaking out and challenging D&I. Especially leaders.
“I am taking more accountability myself,” says Hilary. “I’m taking the opportunity to use my voice to educate others and open the conversation.”
Questioning inclusivity and diversity measures
We’re nine years away from 2030, the end of the UN sustainable development goals. Businesses must take steps in order to achieve the aim of reducing inequality, starting with D&I to give everyone opportunities to grow and succeed.
Hilary has worked with companies in Southeast Asia that are located in communities under threat due to these global challenges.
“The companies that will find sustainable solutions are the ones that are taking responsibility to listen in their community,” says Hilary. “And the ones who bring local diverse talent on board are the ones who access the creativity they need to find sustainable solutions.”
Another global company Hilary works with has recently decided to integrate D&I into all their training. They’re proactively putting concrete actions in because they recognise that the former business-as-usual is not enough in the eyes of emerging leaders.
“They can’t just say it’s a great place to work because of the salary,” says Hilary. “Now they’re actively making their workplace diverse and inclusive because they realise that those are essential to attract and retain talent.”
All organisations must face the challenges head on and recognise that in terms of inclusion. It really is life or death for not only businesses, but the people that form them.
“The companies that bring onboard diverse talent and creativity to their teams,” says Hilary, “are the ones that will survive.”
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