Making the personal possible: inclusion at the heart of HR

Management consultant Lauren Touré offered guests a three-step process to help create more inclusive workplaces in her address to guests at Relocate Global’s celebration of International Women’s Day at the Institute of Directors.

Aimed at overcoming entrenched views about women, both those with children and those without, the address set out practical tools to help people take back control and level the playing field for everyone at work.Lauren Touré ended her address with a call to action, challenging us all – individuals, employers and customers – to make changes and become more inclusive. 

Step one: Understand why inclusion is vital

Working alongside Stephen Frost at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – both global events that sought actively to include all of the UK and its communities and that gave the Paralympic Games its breakthrough equal-billing with the Olympic Games – Lauren has been part of a team that made its diversity a strength (Lauren is registered disabled) and delivered stand-out summer Games as a result. As she pointed out, the idea of strength in diversity is not new. Reflecting a current and growing body of research that shows more diverse teams are more successful in business, Lauren highlighted how the first chapter of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species discusses the role of diversity in growing resilience.Conversely, a lack of diversity can be a real threat. As recent history shows, having like-minded people making key decisions can be both catastrophic and limit opportunity. Companies looking to mitigate risk in these uncertain and volatile times would therefore do well to consider different perspectives in big decisions as this can lead to higher chances of success.

Step two: Lead by having people who model inclusive behaviour

We all have influence and power, whether they are people who report into us or our peers. Women also need to bring men onboard to meet the challenge of taking back control and working on her terms. Pushing forward and managing the good behaviours while recognising and tackling bias are key.We should all be asking ourselves who hasn’t had a voice in key decisions and discussions. In-groups at work are really important, but they have their own bias and are often made up of like-minded people who get on well. We need to be asking if a decision is going to work for everyone and agree to give permission to one another to disagree. Recognising and understanding cultures is important too. We need to walk the talk on inclusion and proud to do that. We also need senior people to take the lead on actions like leaving the office on time and for that to be ok.For this, we need everyone – including men and women at senior levels – to be ok about making themselves vulnerable by being honest. This is vital if the challenges facing women and men at work are to be overcome, for example, around the currently-missed opportunity of fathers taking up their right to shared-parental leave.

Step 3: Deliver interventions that change environments

For the workplace to be truly inclusive, employers need to make interventions, like:

  • Sponsorship, including male to female

  • Reverse mentoring, so everyone can learn from each other

  • Board-shadowing, which means people in the business can see how decisions are made and what the key issues are

  • Report reading, where the author of any board report presents it to committees and meetings and so gets the exposure and recognition from the wider business

  • Revolving chair-people at meetings so everyone gets a chance to direct discussions and set the agenda

  • Change policies and processes, for example to support gender pay gap reporting, agile flexible working policies and shared parental leave, to make sure they are fit for purpose, and give men and women choices and opportunities.

Breaking out of comfort zones

“Many cultures are broken because they are comfortable,” concluded Lauren Touré. “But who are they comfortable for?“Often, they are comfortable for the people who made them, ie men. As we become more diverse as a workforce and expect more of a work-life balance and more for our health and wellbeing, we will become even less comfortable.“Getting it right means we can attract the best talent, engage in long-term retention, upskill and get the best out of the talent we have, and make the workforce more agile, productive and resilient to change.“We need to adapt to global change. We need to be sustainable through the unknown. Goodness, it’s an uncertain world out there: Brexit, Donald Trump. These are things that weren’t expected or predicted."This is a time of great change, but we can manage this if we change together.

Sharing responsibility and taking action to include

“Success comes from shared responsibility,” Lauren concluded. “Disabled athletes are now household names. This wasn’t because disabled people just started doing their thing. They just weren’t being given the time. But Channel 4 used their expertise and launched it [prime-time Paralympic Games coverage].“ The MeToo movement wasn’t just down to more women reporting it, even though they did. But when they did report it, everyone started to get it – men got it, the media got it – and more women spoke out. Things are now starting to change.“We’ve all got a responsibility to include. We will all personally gain from this. Diversity is a reality whether we like it or not.“ It’s what we choose to do about it, because inclusion is a choice. Let’s help people make that choice. Take one thing away with you today that you can do; one thing you can ask your team to do; and one thing you can ask your customers to do.” The question is, what will you do?

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