Inclusivity is a hot topic in Procurement, as it is for all employers. Last year’s Policy Exchange survey showed purchasing managers to be the eighth least ethnically diverse role in the UK, while other reports highlight the benefits of diversifying both Procurement’s core workforce and the supply chain.
Many companies are working hard to attract a more diverse workforce – but widening your pool of prospective employees is just the start.
So how do you create an inclusive culture that supports all employees to achieve their potential, and get people from diverse backgrounds working as a team?
Inclusivity starts from the top
I am the Bramwith Diversity & Inclusion Champion – I’m also a white man. This may seem counter-intuitive but we felt it was important for one of the business owners to take on this important role, giving a visible commitment to inclusion from a majority group and a company director
It turns out a lot of successful businesses agree that senior and respected people in the business need to actively promote inclusion – perhaps by hosting forums on representation, attending events like Pride or writing blogs on the benefits of diversity. With seniority comes some internal clout, financial budget as well and ability to drive the change needed internally and then externally with clients.
At Bramwith, I also oversee all our internal recruitment so for me it makes perfect sense that the D&I Champion is at the coalface ensuring we are proactive in drawing candidates from a wide variety of sources and then engaging them so they want to join and flourish with us.
Joining equality forums and charities like Business in the Community (https://www.bitc.org.uk/) will also ensure you hear about innovative ways to drive a diverse culture in your business.
Create an inclusive culture.
Harish Bhayani, the Senior Partner from diversity consultants PRM, points out that if your company culture is not inclusive then diverse hires will simply “leave or languish.”
He suggests senior managers ask mentors or trusted colleagues to assess their own attitude to inclusivity – do they tend to stick with people are familiar with? Conducting surveys at team, departmental and organisational level to assess how much staff understand about inclusion will help uncover any issues.
It’s also vital to establish a transparent and meritocratic progression structure. At Bramwith we have clear and quantifiable targets for promotion, pay rises, company incentives etc so everyone can see people are succeeding purely on merit. If you are hiring on merit from a wide and diverse candidate pool and you have clear targets for progression, then you should have no need for quotas to help people rise through the ranks – our current staff ratios are 42% women and 39% BAME, with a 75% BAME management team.
Find common ground
I’m not saying don’t embrace differences. People should feel comfortable being their authentic selves at work, whether that means being able to take days off for religious or cultural celebrations or inviting colleagues to their civil partnership ceremony. No-one should have to conceal things that are important to them in order to fit in.
Cathy Wellings is the Director of the London School of International Communication, which provides cross-cultural team-building.
She said: “People often fear asking questions, particularly around subjects such as religious beliefs and practices. But being curious is a way of showing interest and building rapport, so try and enable your teams to learn about each other.”
To get the best out of a diverse team, you also need to build a common culture and sense of purpose. In the office this means making sure staff don’t divide into sub-groups – always sitting with people they have more in common with – and ensuring they feel ownership of the business, as well as team-building social activities that proactively mix people up and break down barriers. This time spent building rapport will pay off when you’re back at your desks
Inter-cultural coach and trainer Marina Ibrahim believes that assessing attitudes and helping people develop awareness of their own unconscious bias is also essential to building an inclusive culture.
Marina said: “Cultural intelligence is about helping people step beyond their initial perceptions. Look at unconscious biases and help people see how their own culture impacts the way they approach people from different backgrounds.”
Provide opportunities for engagement and feedback such as reverse mentoring, cultural meetings at which employees can voice suggestions and concerns and anonymous surveys.
Ultimately, if you forge a truly inclusive culture your business will benefit. Diversity can improve innovation and financial performance – so create a space where people from all backgrounds can flourish.
Get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want advice on widening your talent pool and reaching more diverse candidates.
(An edited version of this blog was originally published on the Procurement Leaders website)
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