The EDI journey is a long one, with several levels of maturity. Each level of maturity requires a different type of intervention that will help organisations move on to the next level.
But how can you tell at which stage of the journey your organisation is?
Below we share some tell-tale signs to help you genuinely assess where you might be.
Stage 1: Don’t Get It!
If you’re one of the few organisations out there who are still struggling to see the benefits of EDI, there will be lots of signs that indicate this. For starters, you might still have an all-male, all white Board. (You may have come across criticism of listed companies with these characteristics, particularly in EDI reports, such as the Hampton Alexander Review.)
Other indications are a complete lack of diversity representation on your website, both in pictures and/or words, no mention of diversity or inclusion in any of the company values, mission or vision. There might even be an occasional, sometimes public, statement by a C-Suite representative that indicates a lack of understanding of the benefits of EDI.
It’s fair to say that there are not many companies currently at this stage, but they do exist.
Stage 2: Window Dressing
At this stage, a company understands the need for EDI, but hasn’t quite bought into its benefits. So it puts on a show for stakeholders like clients and employees, to say the right things without actually believing in them.
Tell-tale signs include EDI-related announcements without any evidence of a genuine belief in them. An example of this is a law firm that has vowed to do more about diversity and failed to list any female lawyers on its expert team for any high-profile project such as Brexit.
Look for conflicting messaging and actions to see whether your company might be at this stage of the EDI journey.
Stage 3: Let’s Fix It!
Here, the focus is on equality. We recognise that, socially speaking, it’s important to do the right thing and have a diverse representation in the business, one that reflects our society.
Indications that your company is at this point of the journey include statements made about society, equality and values. There’s a focus on eradicating (or at least addressing) ‘ism’s’ such as sexism and racism. There’s a hint of activism or politicking to the EDI declarations, and a desire to right a wrong.
While the desire to do the right thing is not misplaced, EDI initiatives that are motivated by it will be less successful.
Stage 4: Diversity as an Opportunity
At this stage, there is active recognition and acknowledgement that EDI is the way of the world of business, that no business can succeed without fully embracing EDI values and actions. This stage is manifested in narrative that aligns EDI efforts with an organisation’s purpose, mission and/or vision. An example of this is Google, whose EDI statement acknowledges its business ambitions:
Stage 5: Building the Foundation
At this stage, the leadership is doing a lot of work on understanding and personally engaging with the EDI journey of the company. In teams and one-to-one sessions, leaders are working through their own biases, perceptions and understanding of the world; they challenge themselves and invite challenge from others; and they weave EDI into their conversations with their respective teams and team leaders. Leaders are on the journey to becoming Inclusive Leaders by being cognisant of their own shortcomings and including EDI in everything they do.
Stage 6: Growing and Nurturing
This stage is indicative of diversity targets that are realistic and address systemic biases. Support teams are working on changing processes and models to mitigate biases that have crept in. Managers and leaders are trained on inclusive behaviours, bias recognition and inclusion nudges.
Stage 7: Immersed and Fully Benefitting
Only a handful of companies might find themselves at this stage. These are organisations that have a tried and tested process of spotting and addressing bias in their systems, they have a leadership team that is well-versed in the characteristics of Inclusive Leadership, and they have succeeded in attracting and retaining a wide diversity of people at all levels.
Examples of companies in this stage may include Diageo, the 3i Group and Easyjet.
I hope the explanation above helps you determine where your organisation is. In coming issues of our newsletter, we will be sharing relevant initiatives and interventions that help organisations to progress from one stage to the next.
That said, what’s most important is to remember is that there is no shame or blame for being at any of the early stages of the EDI journey. The stages are merely a reflection of levels of maturity and every company will be on its own trajectory. We’re all part of the same society, with different influences on how we evolve and how quickly we progress.
What is more important is to be honest with oneself and to genuinely embrace that stage, so that constructive steps to move ahead can be taken.