The danger of neglecting work relationships

By Joanna Gaudoin

Hybrid working: there is no doubt that it has brought many benefits. New research suggests that Brits value personal life as much as – if not more than – work. And hybrid working has done a lot to provide this balance, including making time for home-focused activities, saving time travelling on packed trains and sitting in traffic jams, as well as often providing greater peace and quiet for people to work uninterrupted.

Unfortunately, hybrid working has also been to the detriment of professional relationships. Fewer casual conversations take place as people don’t see one another around the office as much anymore. As a result, they no longer build professional relationships unless they plan their communication and make a more intentional effort.

Furthermore, being away from the office allows people to ‘hide’ from those they find challenging to deal with, and not dealing with issues rarely has a good outcome.

What this means is that people only engage with those they really have to when they have to;  beyond that, people engage only with those they like and want to connect with.  The fall-out of this, of course, is that they are less likely to engage with those who are very different from them, setting back the good work that has been done as part of companies’ Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) efforts.  Without the ability to practise some of the lessons of EDI – such as listening to diverse/adverse opinions and perspectives – inclusive culture development stalls and, worse, might even devolve into pockets or cliques of ‘birds of a feather’.  The more ‘similar’ people stay in their own groups, the more they lose out on the benefits of diversity of thought within their organisation. There is even the possibility of them forgetting the true benefits of EDI and perhaps even questioning the need for it.

In other words, one of the unwanted consequences of hybrid working is the deterioration of EDI efforts and on an individual basis, potentially closing oneself off from diverse thinking.

Given the efforts most companies are making to advance EDI, it is worthwhile encouraging our colleagues to spend some time as individuals considering whether this is what is happening in their own working life.

How to encourage action to work more inclusively

One simple way to assess whether hybrid working is impacting someone’s own working relationships, is for that individual to track who they engage with and how frequently. You might suggest that they try this over a span of two or three weeks and compare it to the circle of people they had engaged with in previous times when everyone was at the office more regularly. You might also suggest that people consider whether there are fewer informal interactions with colleagues, and to also compare the quality or depth of those interactions to previous times.

Once this assessment has been done, and if people find that their circle of interactions has narrowed and perhaps become more homogenous, here are a few steps you can suggest to them to make a change. These actions will help people form closer relationships and be more inclusive whilst still benefitting from hybrid working:

1. Consider overall how you are spending your working time. Are you making enough time to connect with others and collaborate on challenges together?

2. Consider your most immediate relationships at work – the ‘obvious’ people you need to engage with. How positive are they? What are the dynamics at play? If less than positive, what can you do to improve them? Even small things, like calling up someone for a virtual coffee, can make a big difference! Focus on 2-3 relationships at a time.
3. If you are a team leader, are you spending enough time on managing and developing your team, and where relevant, managing upwards too?  It’s vital to understand how your team are getting on at work – how they are working on what they need to do of course, but also any blockages or frustrations they are feeling.  Making time to discuss their career development is also important.  When this doesn’t happen, people don’t feel valued and it is now a major reason why people are easily tempted to move on. Try to make specific time for both these types of discussions; if that is within a regular catch-up, then it’s key to ensure that enough time is put aside.  In terms of managing upwards, remembering that your boss is human too will help build the relationship, as well as considering their agenda and key current focus.
4. Think about people in the wider business who can help you in the broader sense. This might be from a day-to-day perspective like helping deliver a better work product, or from a longer-term perspective like progressing your career. Who are those people?  Are they aware that you exist, and what you do?  Generally speaking, outside your own daily interactions, people won’t be aware of you and of what you do unless you build relationships with them. You should consider that those who don’t know you may ultimately make decisions about what you work on and your next role, so it’s important to focus on these more strategic relationships.
5. Think about whether you are only really making time for people who you like or who are similar to yourself, with similar views and life experience. Are you being less open to the contributions of people who are different to you than you were when everyone was in the office? Is there anyone who might challenge you more and get you to consider new ideas and different ways of thinking? How might embracing a more diverse dialogue benefit the business and your own work? How might this wider circle of contacts benefit in turn from more interaction with you?

Since the pandemic, many people have understandably wanted to focus more on non-work activities, which is important. However, positive professional relationships are vital, as none of us can work alone.  More than that, we can all benefit from connecting with a variety of people with different experiences, values, beliefs and assumptions.  And if people notice that EDI efforts are dissipating as a result of hybrid working, this may be used as yet another reason to recall people into the office on a more regular basis – and who wants that?

As companies are gearing up for a busy time, this is the ideal time to consider the above points and how you can influence  your own and others’ more fulfilling and productive professional relationships, even as we all continue to work remotely for part of the time.

Suggested Reading


How to Make the most of a team’s collective intelligence




5 Steps towards building Inclusion for remote teams

One size does not fit all – Adapting EDI Strategies for all

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

Anyone travelling through one of the world’s major airports in the last five years will have noticed one of HSBC’s ‘Together We Thrive’ posters, advocating a global outlook adapted to local markets and cultures.  When I saw the posters for the first time, they immediately spoke to me.  They said that, although we might be different in many ways, we are part of the same world and want the same from life; that although we’re more similar than different, our differences matter and we benefit from embracing them; that while an idea can be global in outlook, it won’t work unless adapted to local differences.

This is how I think about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy. No matter how big the company – and how global its outlook is on EDI – its implementation needs to take into account local traditions, legal systems and economies. This is as true for international companies with offices across the globe as it is for national companies with offices across the country. One size does not fit all and EDI strategy and practices need to be adapted to take local culture into account. Just as general corporate values that reflect the overall company culture need to be adapted to the culture and behaviour of each office or even team, EDI strategy implementation also needs to be adjusted.

But what does this mean for organisations that are managed centrally from one region?  What do they need to do to appeal locally and achieve their EDI ambitions?

We have worked with a number of global companies that have grappled with these questions and we suggest the following approach:

1. Start with a broad-brush EDI outlook
A good EDI strategy underpins a company’s business mission and vision and reflects its values. In other words, the EDI statement (upon which the strategy will be set) should be as broad and encompassing as the business mission and vision.

Take Apple, for example. Its mission statement is to bring the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software and services.

Apple’s Diversity Statement supports this mission, as follows:

Different Together
At Apple, we’re not the same. And that’s our greatest strength. We draw on the differences in who we are, what we’ve experienced, and how we think. Because, to create products that serve everyone, we believe in including everyone.

From this, Apple might craft a global EDI strategy that focuses on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as a tool to (1) improve innovation and (2) better understand the user experience.

From this strategy focus, its top priorities globally might be: (a) to explore the user experience in top markets (in order to create the best user experience), (b) to improve diversity in its research and development (R&D) departments (in order to develop innovative hardware, software and services) and (c) to improve inclusion and psychological safety across the company (in order to draw on the differences and to benefit from the diversity of its people).

These priorities might then form the backbone of its global EDI strategy.

2. Adopt a ‘glocal’ EDI outlook
Once a broad-brush EDI outlook is formed and the global priorities are identified, it becomes important to identify how to implement them locally.

Continuing with the Apple example, then, and following the 3 suggested priorities, it would be important to understand how each of these 3 priorities is going to be implemented locally:

Priority 1: Understanding user experience in top markets.
This is an exercise that will need to be localised to each one of the top markets. For instance, it might involve understanding what products are selling in each of the top markets, what the most common use of those products is in those markets, and how local conventions influence this use. It would then be more feasible to identify any gaps between what users need or want and what the experience delivers.

Priority 2: Improve Diversity in R&D.
This priority will need to be adapted to the markets in which R&D takes place. In this case, the strategy may begin by understanding the R&D region and its demographic, and an assessment of the representation of that demographic in the R&D departments. This analysis will allow the company to put measures in place that are specific to the R&D region in order to improve the Diversity of those departments.

Priority 3: Inclusion and psychological safety for all employees.
This is a truly global priority that will be implemented very differently in each of the countries and even the individual offices of the company. This is also where most companies fall foul of Inclusion. In many cases, Inclusion and psychological safety are defined by the understanding of those concepts in the country from which they originate. So, in this case, these concepts might be defined according to the understanding of them in the US, where Apple is incorporated. It would, however, be a mistake to apply the same definition and ambition for this priority in each of its other locations.

Adapting Inclusion to regions, countries and even offices is an exercise in listening first. It’s important to understand how these concepts translate, what it means to people there to belong and how feasible some of these concepts are. For instance, it might be difficult to openly declare one’s sexuality in some countries as it might be punishable by law. In this case, insisting on certain Inclusion standards in the office might in fact put some people at risk! This policy, therefore, would need to be adapted by reconciling the global position with the local environment.

Similarly, in countries where most people look the same and have similar backgrounds, it would be difficult to impose measures to increase ethnic representation without additional efforts that may not be usually expected.

In other countries, it might be that people are more pre-occupied with basic needs such as food and shelter, and the idea that people are different and may need to be treated differently is not something that people may have had time to contemplate. In this situation, therefore, things may move more slowly in embracing some of the practices and policies that lead to Belonging.

In all these cases, global ambitions need to be seen through a local lens and be ‘glocalised’, just as implied by HSBC’s ad campaign. By localising global EDI outlooks, EDI becomes more meaningful to people. Bearing in mind that we’re all similar – and yet different – it will allow us to focus on our commonalities while respecting our differences. An approach that is adapted to each country, office and even department while staying true to the overall EDI company message runs the greatest chance of success.

Taking Everyone Along in your EDI Approach

By Sara Bell

If you work in or are interested in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), you’ll see the value in EDI initiatives that create a more equitable and fair workplace. Unfortunately, as advances are made by some, often backlash erodes the gains for all. I would argue therefore that it’s essential to find, establish and maintain an approach to EDI that takes everyone along, rather than creating dividing lines or feelings of anyone being side-lined.

Specifically, I consider the interconnected nature of multiple, overlapping identities or intersectionality as the key concept driving why it’s now more important than ever to take everyone along. Intersectionality means some people are more likely to experience unique and greater forms of exclusion, discrimination and marginalisation. This term was created because of a legal case which examined how a group of workers who were made redundant ended up worse off, not because they were women and not because they were Black, but because they were Black women. So Diversity initiatives that focus on gender or ethnicity alone are unlikely to create a culture of Inclusion for everyone.

I would like to share some strategies for establishing and maintaining an EDI approach that benefits all employees, avoids dividing lines and feelings of being side-lined, and takes everyone along on the journey.

1. Avoiding Dividing Lines
Diagnose the status of your diverse representation using data to ensure you are talking about the real situation in your organisation. By understanding where there are gaps in representation (e.g., the hiring of disabled employees in mid-level sales, promotion of Black women to senior manager positions in technology, retention and engagement of LGBTQIA+ staff in line management positions in finance), you can be specific and factual about where interventions are needed. Focusing on one aspect only will most likely disenfranchise other employees.

Client Example
I recently worked with a tech organisation that had a hiring target for women in engineering. Many of the line managers were disillusioned with EDI and what felt to them like an equation for EDI with a focus on just hiring women. When we looked at the detailed data, women were clustered in one department and there was a lack of Black men as well as women in line management and leadership. I facilitated a data-led workshop with the extended leadership team, for them to determine the targets for hiring as well as retention. The main focus was a detailed heat-map showing the demographics in each team. By looking at more aspects of Diversity and setting more specific targets for areas of the business, the leaders engaged with the process in a way they would any other business issue. The inclusive workshop process helped to include white male hiring managers in the conversation and they started to look beyond the different aspects of Diversity in hiring, and focused on inclusion of all in the engagement and retention of their people. The data and process engaged and included them and removed the binary male or female hiring focus which had caused a backlash.

2. Include those who are feeling side-lined
Oftentimes white educated men in organisations feel excluded from Equity, Diversity and Inclusion efforts, yet they hold significant influence over the culture and practices in organisations. We have spoken about true allyship and the role of all leaders in creating Inclusion. Along with a focus on diverse representation and inclusive culture, your EDI approach will be more impactful if you are deliberately including the white majority in your organisation (read here about the Global Majority). Reframing narratives and identities can be unsettling, so why would you not support those you are asking to share power, identity and established ways of working? Support those in positions of privilege to do the work to create Inclusion for everyone. Some examples of ways to do this include coaching and training of senior leadership teams as well as facilitated reverse mentoring programmes for leaders to understand the lived experience of others in their company.

3. Take everyone along on the EDI journey
Genuinely taking everyone along recognises that every person and organisation is at a very different starting point. So the action for the EDI approach is to think about how agile, empowered, viral changes can be part of meeting everyone where they are, and encouraging everyone to move in the same direction of Inclusion. In addition to top-down approaches, bring your employee body onboard and empower employees and supervisors to amplify their voice and experience. One way to do this is to create safe or brave spaces for employees to engage in real discussion, for example in employee forums or network groups. Facilitating experience sharing and telling these stories more broadly in the organisation can help others to understand the impact of their language and behaviour on colleagues with different lived experiences, and they will want to act differently rather than being told to.

We have been speaking this year about the EDI journey, how there are phases to maturity that organisations go through to benefit fully from the creative genius of each and every employee. It requires concerted effort from everyone in the organisation to get there. Wherever you are on that journey, I am sure your EDI strategy can take everyone along. You can progress by ensuring you are using data and listening to everyone’s voices where everyone is taking action each day for a more inclusive culture. You know this creates a more positive and productive workplace that benefits all employees, and helps to promote greater equity and fairness in the broader community beyond your business. Taking everyone along is not just the right thing to do, it is also the safest way to ensure that EDI strategies are implemented successfully.

How has your organisation managed to bring everyone along?

The Best Advice I Ever Received

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

August is a quiet month for many of us.  This gives us a chance to spend time with friends and family. It gives us an opportunity to have fun and perhaps to recuperate, to reflect and regroup before things get busy again in September.

To reflect the more relaxed mood, we bring you a slightly different blog, one that will get you into summer’s laid-back flow.

Today we share advice that 8 members of the Voice team had received and heeded over the years.

Are there any here that will help guide you?

Calming Nerves

I was once given this reassuring advice: ‘When delivering a talk or doing any public speaking, don’t feel the need to apologise for being nervous, especially if it’s your first time. Remember that the audience don’t know what you’re going to say anyway, so just speak and it’ll be enough!’


Chasing the Dream

The best advice I have ever been give is, ‘Don’t chase the money; follow what you want to do’.  Leadership opportunities materialise everywhere.  All you have to do is take them and do the best with them.  The money will then come to you more naturally and you will be a happier person for following your purpose.


Impactful Self-Talk

Instead of saying, ‘I can’t, I am not good at that, and besides that’s just not me’, say ‘How can I do it in a way that works for me? How can I learn to do it in a way where I can bring my authentic self and still achieve those results?’.

For instance, instead of saying ‘I am just no good at writing blogs’, reflect on things you are good at and ways you achieve things in life, then draw on those to find a way you can write blogs. This might be by using voice recording, by writing short blog sections, by using images or a line of poetry to inspire you, or by writing 8-12 pieces in one day.

Strategic Choices

One of the best pieces of advice I was given, and one many of you will also have heard, is to pick your battles. This applies both in the workplace and in family life. Decide what’s really important to you, that you really feel is worth the “fight”. If you try and fight every single battle you will exhaust yourself. Sometimes it’s ok to let the little things go, and to make that decision in itself can be a personal victory.

Free Spirits

‘Learn to let go and see what happens’. This is a version of “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you it will be yours forever, if it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with”.

The Most Precious Gift

The best advice for life I ever received was from my father, over 30 years ago. He told me ‘In all your relationships – your friendships, romantic relationships and at work – the most important thing is always to try to be kind.’


‘Make sure you appear on your own to-do list, because if you don’t, eventually nothing on the list will get done’. We are often not a priority to ourselves, and this can often lead to burnout. Like putting on the oxygen mask on yourself first, by actively making time for ourselves, we can help to ensure that we can continue completing our never-ending to-do lists.

Inclusion from a Different Perspective

Although it is difficult to capture in English the simplicity and beauty of these words from a haiku poem, it goes something along the lines of, ‘You are you, I am I, still get along’.  If I remember correctly, there is a picture of a Japanese pumpkin (so sweet and nostalgic) and an onion side by side.  The words particularly resonate with me as we all know (especially as EDI consultants) how delicate and important this balance is – to respect yourself as well as other people, whilst finding a connection with others.


I hope you have enjoyed this wide-ranging collection of advice. If you have a favourite piece of advice, please share it with us!

Discouraging Bias, Encouraging Inclusion

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

In my first blog of this month, I spoke about starting to build a foundation for a company-wide culture that reaps the benefits of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).  I also posited that, once you get to this coveted stage of the journey, you won’t need to invest as much in EDI resources as previously, because EDI at this stage is becoming a part of everyday business.

There are, however, a couple of EDI interventions that need to be continued on a long-term basis.  Luckily, they are not cost-intensive and, with time, become part of the usual checks and balances included in the running of organisations.

Bias Monitors
We know that being human also means being biased.  Acknowledging this is the first step to making more meritocratic decisions, free of (or at least less burdened with) bias.  The obvious challenge with bias is of course that most of it is unconscious.   So, subconsciously, we assume an idea is not worth listening to or that someone is less capable, even though we have no evidence to support this. Without thinking, we ask the usual suspects to serve coffee at a meeting or take notes. We make jokes or share sweeping generalisations about entire cultures without realising the impact on others.

A Bias Monitor can help us keep bias at bay.  A bias monitor is a volunteer (or someone who is asked to be one) who takes the role – usually in meetings – of drawing attention to bias, as and when it arises.  When the bias monitor sees or hears an assumption or rash judgment or a statement that conveys a hidden bias, they draw attention to it by simply stating what they see.  In this way, everyone becomes more aware of biases, and the team can work together in  addressing them.  Having a dedicated bias monitor also takes the pressure off those who tend to experience bias – usually members of an underrepresented group at work – and makes it easier for everyone to take the comments more seriously, seeing them in a neutral, well-intentioned light.

Appreciation Monitors
Just as we want to minimise biased behaviour in the workplace, we also want to encourage inclusive behaviour.  Statements such as ‘Please challenge my viewpoint’, ‘What do others think?’ or ‘Isn’t this what you were trying to say before as well, Joanne?’ are all examples of behaviours that aim to include others’ views and perspectives.  These types of behaviours may go unnoticed, so it is helpful to have an Appreciation Monitor who looks out for them and points them out, so that others might copy them.  In a similar way to the Bias Monitor, the Appreciation Monitor keeps their eyes and ears open for inclusive behaviours and draws attention to them as and when they appear.

Continuing to remind ourselves of what bias looks like and what inclusion feels like reinforces a culture that’s mindful of EDI long after we have stopped thinking about it.  Monitors ensure that EDI doesn’t dissipate and that organisations that have invested time and resources into creating a strong EDI foundation maintain the value and rewards of their investments.  After all, we are all human, and sliding back to familiar territory can be easier than we think.

Our Top Six Articles in Six Months!

By Suzanne Bird

Why do you read our newsletters? Is it for our practical tips for leaders trying to make workplaces more inclusive? For our insights into Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)? For our guest blogs based on case studies, research or lived experience? Hopefully you enjoy our newsletters for all of these things!

We aim to help you build your EDI know-how by providing interesting insights or useful information. This is why we include a new article each week, linked to a monthly EDI theme or based on a guest blogger’s unique perspective.

In the first six months of 2023, the six most-read blogs in our newsletters covered a wide range of content, from practical EDI advice to more personal reflections on experiencing bias and a hard-hitting report on the career realities faced by women after having a baby. Here’s a summary of those top six newsletters.  We hope you enjoy the look back, as we move into the second half of the year.

Hitting the target
In May, Rina  posed the question whether EDI targets are a good or a bad thing – and described how to set good targets that are truly effective. Rina suggested that setting targets can be helpful, but only if they are linked to an impactful initiative, providing a useful measure with which to gauge the success of EDI efforts. This is why Rina recommended setting impactful Diversity targets that resonate with the business and are linked to purposeful action.

Following on from this, another highly popular blog from Rina proposed three practical actions that move the needle on EDI and help organisations to hit those targets. It will come as no surprise to you that action number 1 is all about understanding and communicating the business case for EDI, but it’s worth reading on to understand how to tackle this – and the remaining actions!  As Rina suggests, addressing EDI like any other business challenge will yield effective change, but only if the business benefits of greater Diversity are understood and EDI is not treated as an add-on to ‘real’ business issues.

Practical pointers
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), also known as staff networks, can make a real difference to EDI in organisations and provide vital support for people who aren’t in the dominant group in the workplace. Not all ERGs have the impact they set out to achieve, however, and they can only succeed in this if they function well. In April, EDI consultant Inge Woudstra wrote a guest blog offering five valuable tips to help ERGs get off to a good start – with a clear vision and realistic objectives – and to ensure they continue to thrive and have a positive impact.

Lived experiences
In March, guest blogger Jessica Heagren shared some deeply concerning data with us in her blog about Careers After Babies: The Uncomfortable Truth.  This was the title of a survey conducted last summer with almost a thousand women, prompted in part by Jess’s own experience of how difficult it is to maintain a senior role whilst being a mother of small children. One snapshot of data is that 85% of the surveyed mothers left the full-time workforce within 3 years of having their first child. Jess contends that we cannot keep allowing women to have to abandon their careers, and offers some suggestions for employers wishing to do better by working parents, including signing up to the Careers After Babies accreditation. This blog contains some truly dispiriting statistics, but it also carries a sense of hope for the future of mothers in the workplace and is well worth a second read.

‘Where are you really from?’ This is a question that EDI Consultant Joyce Osei has often been asked, and in her experience as a Black woman, it is rarely a simple question and is often, as she puts it, ‘fully-loaded’. In this blog, Joyce explores the possible reasons why people feel the need to ask this question, and offers three suggestions to consider for a better approach to learning more about someone without putting your curiosity above the level of comfort of another person.

Earlier in the year, Rina dedicated one blog to providing a taste of the most frequently asked questions we receive about our approach to working with an organisation. These questions range from the straightforward ‘How can you help us?’ to more nuanced questions about how we see the difference between consulting and training, and how we can measure a client’s progress in building a more equitable, diverse and inclusive workplace. These questions are naturally focused on the support we offer to organisations, but Rina signs off by saying that our job is to get clients to a place where they don’t need us anymore: ‘However we help you, our aim is to partner with you for as long as you need us and to help you progress successfully without the need for further external intervention.’

I hope you’ve enjoyed this round-up of our most-read blogs so far this year. We value your readership and hope that our blogs inspire and enlighten you.  To keep us on the right course, please take a moment to respond to our survey where you can let us know what type of content you prefer.

Our talent management is not the meritocracy we think it is

By Inge Woudstra

In talent management, we like to believe that our processes are fair and our workplaces are a meritocracy. Yet in reality, there is ample space for subjectivity and therefore the potential for (unconscious) bias to play a part in who gets invited, hired, promoted, or simply preferred for any career-enhancing opportunity.

To ensure that opportunities are truly fair for all, it is crucial to strive for transparency and objectivity wherever possible. Here’s what this means in practice:

Inclusive Attraction
If we do what we have always done, we end up hiring people who are just like those we already have in our team. Instead, we need to broaden our channels of outreach, ensuring that we connect with a wide range of target groups.  Looking at a wider range of universities, for instance, or at compatible yet slightly different industries, or different geographic areas.

Next, we need to review the wording, images and job descriptions we use, asking ourselves how we can make them more appealing to a more diverse range of target groups.  Are the types of people we would like to attract represented in our imagery?  Is the language we use relatable to them?

By taking just these steps we immediately become more inclusive in our attraction and more able to reach previously untapped talent pools.

Once we have successfully attracted potential candidates with a more diverse range of backgrounds or demographics, we ought to ensure that our selection process is fair and transparent, offering everyone an equal chance at securing a position. This includes:

  • Providing clear information about the selection process with every candidate so there’s no benefit to those with inside information from a friend or a relative who works there, for instance
  • Giving people resources for preparation, so they all have the same opportunity to prepare
  • Providing every candidate with opportunities to get to know the organisation and the role; this might include open days or even just inviting people to get in touch with any questions. This lowers the barriers for those who aren’t sure about the position yet, for instance young women looking at a role in engineering or technology, or a position of seniority that seems out of reach for someone who would be perfectly capable.

For interviews, interviewers need to agree selection criteria in advance and communicate those to candidates. Assessors should expect to provide evidence for their scores, thus diminishing the impact of any lurking biases. Ideally, the interview panel itself will be as diverse as the candidates,  offering candidates the opportunity to meet people they can relate to.

Beyond  interviews, it can be very  helpful to add assessments that more objectively measure learning potential, skills and capabilities. These measures help us to be more meritocratic in our evaluations, comparing apples to apples.

Learning and Development
Unconscious bias in managers and recruiters means that underrepresented groups are often offered fewer opportunities for training and development.  Opportunities like presenting to a more senior group, speaking at an event or attending a more exclusive training course, to name but a few.  To counteract this, we need to equip leaders with the tools and knowledge to mitigate bias. By providing comprehensive training to managers on how to address unconscious bias in work allocation, review processes, development initiatives and assessments, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and supportive environment.  One example of this is to require managers to list all the opportunities for development available to their teams – from the formal to the informal – and pay attention to who gets these opportunities and, more importantly, who doesn’t.

At first glance, progression within organisations may appear to be based on objective performance reviews. Yet upon closer examination, we often find that these reviews are influenced by subjective viewpoints.  Progression opportunities tend to favour those who have a greater understanding of the “hidden rules”, excel in networking, or are good at sharing their achievements.

Moreover, research has found that, when comparing written reviews of employees, those from underrepresented groups tend to receive more mentions of mistakes and commentary around their personality rather than their skills.  Women, for instance, have been found to be judged on the basis of their experience (or lack thereof), whereas men are more generally judged based on what is perceived as their potential.  A simple fix to this is to provide a format or template for written review assessments that guide the reviewer to look at the same criteria for all.

Identifying these inequities makes it easier to then address them, by developing more objective progression processes.  Starting with (as referenced above) structured interviews, where candidates are evaluated against pre-defined criteria, requiring evidence for the scores given; requiring that shortlists for roles are balanced and that job descriptions and requirements focus on measurable skills and competencies, eliminating factors such as length of service or specific experience.

In addition to a more objective process, a more transparent process can also contribute to creating a more level playing field. We can achieve this by broadcasting roles far and wide, and by being clear about the process steps and salary expectations. In addition, transparency about criteria for promotion, showcasing a variety of career pathways and increased visibility of a wider range of role models are all ways to bring more equity into progression processes.

Evidence shows – as we have also experienced with  our own clients – that implementing some of these changes has made a remarkable difference to bringing greater fairness and objectivity to talent management.  After all, if we believe our work is a meritocracy, then it only makes sense to identify these inequities so that we can eliminate them.

Building the Foundation for a Stronger Tomorrow

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

We’re looking at Stage 5: Building the Foundation for a strong EDI culture, and it took us only 6 months to get here!  Of course, in organisations, this is a very mature stage of the journey and there are not many organisations who have managed to reach it.  If yours is one of the organisations that has persistently worked on embedding EDI in its culture, I congratulate you on achieving this stage.  For many others, this stage might be their long-term goal.

But how do you know when you’ve reached it?  A simple way of checking this is to gauge whether, on the whole, when decisions are made, EDI is made part of the decision process.   This will look differently in the different levels of the organisation.  Let me show you.

EDI at Leadership Level
Leaders have achieved this stage of the EDI Journey when they ask themselves EDI-related questions as part of their decision-making process.  From hiring, to approving a new office design, to setting business strategy for the next 5 years, all these decisions should have an element of EDI.  Here are a few examples of the types of questions leaders might ask:

  • What will be the impact of our decision on all stakeholders, within and outside the organisation? e.g., inside the company, on women, people with disabilities, those who don’t have the same opportunities as the dominant group; outside the company, on suppliers, customers, shareholders, future investors/supporters/talent
  • How will the decision impact the diversity we’re aiming for? e.g., the hire of a new leader who looks exactly like the rest of the current population of the team, while actively trying to onboard people from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • What impact will our decision have on the future of the company? e.g., what will set us apart in the future and how is this decision going to support this?
  • How is the decision-making process different from before? e.g., if we employ the same process as before, is it likely to yield something different?
EDI at Team Management Level
Team leaders have a slightly different task from those in senior leadership.  They have to ensure their team is performing to the best of its ability and producing successful progress or results.  For this reason, when making decisions that will impact this, team leaders might have to consider a slightly different set of questions for EDI purposes.  Questions like the following:
  • How is the new hire going to enhance the collective intelligence of the team? e.g., although they might not be the front-running candidate, can they do an excellent job with some time and support, and add value with perspective, working style and/or experience that’s different from the majority on the current team?
  • What systemic biases might have crept into the career progression cycle in the team? e.g., an analysis of the metrics for development and progression opportunities, as well as formal feedback and support provided to the team might disclose subconscious preferences for certain groups of employees.
  • How do I maximise the collective intelligence of the team? e.g., what needs to change to ensure that everyone contributes openly and freely, so that we hear that contribution regularly and that the team feel safe to challenge me and each other?
EDI at HR Level
Human Resources is the team that is responsible for capturing policies and setting the written tone for the culture.  It is also responsible for compensation – financial and otherwise – and in many cases, learning and development.  As almost every aspect of the work of the HR team will impact each person within the organisation, this is where EDI should be inseparable from every aspect of the team’s work.  EDI-related questions might take the form of these examples:
  • How is this (new) policy going to affect every group represented in the organisation and the groups not yet represented but we’re striving to reflect? e.g., a training and development policy that sets parameters for eligibility.
  • What policies might counter our company’s EDI efforts? e.g., a referral policy rewarding the introduction of potential new employees that, in this way, promotes the hiring of the same type of majority already in existence, as opposed to opening new channels that allow greater diversity of backgrounds and demographics.
  • What non-financial benefits might be attractive to different groups of stakeholders/employees? e.g., time off in lieu might be a more attractive proposition for parents with young children than a free gym membership.

I hope that by looking at the questions above, you can see how taking EDI into account every step of the way will start building the foundation that will enable the organisation to reap the benefits of its collective intelligence, i.e., realising the true rewards of EDI.  When you have arrived at this stage and start incorporating EDI into the everyday decision making, something else happens:  EDI stops being a separate agenda item that needs to be discussed and reinforced, and merges into the everyday of business.  In addition, as EDI becomes part of our routine daily operations, the resources allocated to embedding EDI can begin to come down.  And, with a purported total spend of £6 billion per year on EDI-related initiatives already, isn’t that enough of an incentive?