Expectations vs reality of supporting workplace inclusion


Diversity & inclusion is a way of promoting and embracing all the differences that we see around us, so that our workplaces engage and include everyone. The most common reason for adopting diversity programs is to broaden the available talent pool. In doing so, you ensure that your company benefits from a broader set of perspectives that better reflect the world beyond the office doors, and the people you will inevitably do business with.

While most companies are already aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion, they might not be aware that old models of D&I have changed considerably in the past few years. As employee demands shift towards learning & development, wellness-focused entitlements, and flexible working hours, the onus is on employers to change. To ensure your business is fully aligned with current expectations, we’ll look at five typical scenarios you are likely to encounter as you improve your diversity and inclusion strategy.

5 expectations of workplace D&I

 1. Using outside agencies to hire

While it’s tempting to completely delegate hiring to recruitment agencies, even ones who make a big deal out of being proactively inclusive, hiring is something you need to be involved with at every stage. This is particularly true if you use an agency to design a diversity & inclusion programme for you. Although this can be helpful as a guide, again, you need to make sure you implement your own processes which are right for you, every step of the way. A good way to implement a hiring strategy is to involve managers from the start. This will ensure each candidate is hired in accordance with the requirements of each team, and not just the company as a whole. 


 2. Measuring diversity via the old methods

Typically, diversity has been measured by gender, ethnicity and race. While these metrics are still important and definitely shouldn’t be ignored, you should not exclusively focus on them either:  in the current climate, you should also incorporate diversity of thought, personality, and the age of prospective candidates. These are all factors routinely overlooked, but equally as important. Leaders and managers can benefit by listening to people who think differently, since they are more likely to bring a fresh perspective. Likewise, the experience that older candidates bring with them can be invaluable, and should not be underestimated either.


  3. Expecting employee wellbeing to take care of itself

Another growing area of focus in workplace dynamics is mental wellbeing. It’s easy to forget that inclusion doesn’t just mean including a certain type of person, but supporting all employees where they need help. Statistics bear out the importance of committing to a healthy workplace. Wellbeing was the top-ranked metric in the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends study, with 80% of leaders identifying it as important or very important to their organisation’s success. To ensure you don’t get left behind, make sure your D&I programme includes provision for a healthy work-life balance, flexible hours, and counselling support.


  4. Show an understanding of diversity and inclusive practice

Although ensuring hiring processes are fair and equal for all applicants, there is an expectation that this is all that’s required for diversity & inclusion. In reality, however, equality is an ongoing process.  It’s essential to ensure that everyone in the workplace has the same opportunities within the company as well. This means double-checking that  promotions (not just new hires) conform to diversity metrics, and that teams within the organisation reflect the inclusion policies of the organisation as a whole. Lastly, social events and afterwork activities should reflect the values and interests of everyone.

  5. Implementing a one-size-fits-all approach

It might be tempting to implement strategies followed by other businesses, and you can certainly take advice and inspiration. But it’s not best practice to take a one-size-fits-all policy and apply it to your own business. Organisational context should be kept in mind. You may have different offices in different countries, in which case the breakdown in demographics may be different and require fine-tuning. Likewise, the nature of your business may require a greater emphasis on a particular kind of person (e.g. someone with foreign language skills), and this may have to be taken into account before any other preferences you might have.

5 realities of workplace D&I

  1. Acknowledge that improving D&I requires research

Improving diversity and inclusion in your organisation won’t happen overnight. D&I is a complex process that impacts every individual. It's, therefore, crucial to take time to slow down and plan things as much as possible. A survey or questionnaire is a perfect place to start. You can begin by asking employees questions to get to their needs. This might include their personality traits, their personal concerns, and where they think the company might improve. All these things should be taken into account before devising a diversity & inclusion strategy.


  2. Localise your strategy to stay ahead

As organisations go global, geographic diversity is becoming increasingly important. But the reality is that a global reach, perhaps counter-intuitively, requires more localisation, not less.  Apart from gender, which is a universal issue, diversity discrepancies will vary from region to region, country to country. You may need to focus more on ethnic diversity, in other places age or diversity of thought may be primary. It’s, therefore, crucial to assess your company by location, not just by overall targets set in place by those based at your organisation’s headquarters. This also falls in place with incorporating strategies to lead a cross-cultural team.


  3. Why everyone must be involved, not just HR

Although it’s tempting to leave diversity & inclusion initiatives to your HR department, it’s important to ensure everyone in the company makes decisions according to your D&I assessments. If it is only your department that’s involved in the process, it is unlikely to reap long-term rewards. Additionally, you may have an inclination to focus on corporate hires. But in reality,  as with compliance, IT, and security, it must be practiced by all line managers at every level. Only then will your business commitments be aligned with diversity and inclusion in the workplace.


  4. The importance of an adaptive strategy

Even where you are aware that diversity planning requires preliminary research (e.g. employee surveys), it may be easy to lose track of the fact that it’s part of an ongoing process. In order to achieve long-term success, metrics must be measured continuously. You can do this by setting up regular meetings to reassess your performance with managers and stakeholders. It’s also a good idea to hold Q&A sessions with your team. This can either be 1-on-1 sessions, or group seminars where issues can be discussed collectively.


 5. Fostering public trust by measuring accountability 

Demonstrating your commitment to accountability is fast becoming the norm. . By comparing your diversity targets and outcomes to those of other companies, and sharing them with key stakeholders, you increase your accountability and improve your reputation in turn. Of course, putting public accountability at the forefront of your strategy will only work when D&I data is appropriately measured, with progress and potential setbacks are continually assessed. Both approaches, in fact, go hand in hand.

Enhancing your diversity & inclusion strategy

We hope we’ve now shown what a modern, forward-thinking D&I strategy should look like. By focusing on emerging metrics like diversity of thought and seniority, by adapting diversity to each of your divisions and corporate locations, and by running regular assessments to make sure your strategy is up to date, you should succeed in making your workplace one that meets all current expectations. In the long term, this will ensure you not only attract a diverse range of talent but retain the valued staff you already have.


Busuu for Business: cross-cultural training via language learning

At Busuu, we provide award-winning online language training that connects culturally diverse teams, and as a result, encourages inclusion. We offer study plans which allow learners to study in small increments per day/week. And because our platform can be accessed anywhere, from any compatible device, we’re much more efficient than traditional learning routes. With Busuu you gain access to flexible scheduling, analytics, and insights, helping you to monitor the progress of each module and secure the return on your investment. Join over 500 leading organisations including Puma, Uber, OECD and DHL who use Busuu to grow their business. 

Get in touch to see how our language training on Busuu can help you run a language e-learning programme that encourages diversity & inclusion.


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