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?