In the United States, we've seen time and time again that racism and violence against the Black community is still alive and well. Fortunately, there seems to be a trend towards change, and one of the biggest changes has occurred in the business world. Business leaders are speaking out more readily than they ever have and are using a tool to ensure that their companies are engaged in this conversation: The Equality and Diversity Policy.
What are equality and diversity?
Equality is the idea that everyone, regardless of their gender, race, religious belief, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, amongst others, have an equal opportunity to procure services, gain employment, and have equal opportunity within an organisation to advance and be paid for those services as everyone else. Diversity applies those differences to the makeup of the company, team, or product offer.
Equality and diversity are often grouped together when setting policies; however, they are very different. It is possible to meet the standards of equality with a completely non-diverse group of people. A company comprised only of women over the age of 50 can meet the standards of equality, but without the added value of a younger generation or even men, the company is not diverse. Equality can often be a legal standard, whereas diversity tends to be a best practice.
Diverse companies will have staff and management from all different backgrounds, genders, and ethnicity. Ensuring that everyone is well represented is advantageous commercially because it gives a company the ability to make decisions after taking feedback from many perspectives, and it also is good practice socially because it confirms the company's commitment to their customers' beliefs.
Setting an equality and diversity policy
Every company should have set policy clearly explaining the approach to equality and diversity and how operations are impacted (e.g. human resources, sales). These policies help the company by:
Confirming compliance with regulation. This is usually the most basic reason for setting a corporate policy. The policy ensures that the company is protected against lawsuits and sets out clear position for how it maintains equal opportunities for all who wish to be a part of the company, including: employees, suppliers, and customers. The policy can be used to prove compliance.
Promote a culture celebrating diversity. Policies are the company's official way of communicating its values. A vague policy may imply that a company doesn't take equality and diversity seriously, whereas a more detailed policy ensures that every area of the company implements it in some way.
Providing an avenue to escalate problems. The equality and diversity policy should have an way for anyone who feels that they have been violated to escalate their concerns and complaints safely and confidentially. The policy confirms that the company cares and what action it will will take.
The policy should be approved and set by the Senior Leadership (such as the Owner or Executive Board) with someone assigned to implement it and monitor compliance. This person should request feedback and update the policy from time to time based on changing circumstances and feedback from stakeholders, such as employees and customers. In smaller companies, the policy should be owned and reviewed by the owner, but including other staff in its development is a good way to put those principles into practice.
Implementing the policy
Equality and diversity policies are different because management expects implementation to be included as part of every department's practises. This policy is not one which necessarily stands on its own. HR should include it as part of their recruitment polices. Sales should include it as part of their sales strategies, and operations should include when developing and updating procedures.
Many companies include a requirement to assess a series of policies and procedures to ensure it meets the equality and diversity policy. This ensures proper evidencing of compliance and provides metrics as to how the policy influenced final decisions made as a result of the policy's application. By including the equality and diversity policy in all other reviews, all staff are aware of the policy and the company's maintains transparency.
It's also important to consider the equality and diversity of the policy within the company itself. How will some staff react to the policy? Is there anything that goes against their personal values? Before implementing something like this, staff also need to be comfortable with the statement, and hear what they have to say if they are not. Implement this feedback.
Making is a part of corporate culture
Setting a policy is not enough. The real implementation happens when it becomes part of corporate culture and becomes a real part of business decisions. While there are many factors affecting implementation, there are a few things management can do to encourage new or changes to behaviour:
Make it a deliverable. Make everyone accountable for delivering diversity and responsible for promoting equality. Managers should require their staff to choose something that promotes diverse culture and deliver it over the course of the year. It could be as simple as attending a seminar to something for formal as changing a process to allow certain groups to participate that may not have been able to before.
Require training attendance. Have staff apportion their time into equality and diversity. This, again, could be as simple as reviewing the policy together, taking feedback, and talking through concerns or as advanced as going to participate in a full day's activity on promoting diversity and culture into the workplace.
Include it as part of the approvals process. Has the business and sales process been screened for equality and diversity? Is the offer going to something everyone should have access to? Should it be something everyone needs access to? While these steps sometimes require additional resource, they almost always yield to positive changes and increased business prospects.
Equality and diversity are very important to the success and future of all business. By setting a policy, the company sets a tone as to how they approach equality, and diversity ensuring that everyone who works with or works for the company is treated fairly, and that the people sitting together bring a wide amount of experience furthering the overall objectives.
Contact Chayim Messer Consulting for a free consultation and for support in developing your company's Equality and Diversity Policy. We can help you develop the policy and make it a part of your corporate culture.