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Why inclusion initiatives shouldn’t sit with HR

Inclusion initiatives and why they shouldn’t sit with HR

True inclusion initiatives can only be achieved through commitment from individuals across business functions, starting with leadership


In part five, ‘Why inclusion initiatives shouldn’t sit with HR’ of our ‘Driving genuine diversity and inclusion’ six-part blog series, we discuss the role of HR when it comes to ensuring inclusion across organizations and why this shouldn’t specifically be a HR responsibility.

2020 was the year diversity issues cut through. As global protests against the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis surged, business leaders were forced to react. Some issued public statements of support, others donated to the Black Lives Matter movement, and many pledged to change how they recruited and engaged with under-represented groups. 

Most often, this resulted in the hiring of a chief diversity officer. In the 45 days after the Black Lives Matter protests began, postings for diversity and inclusion (D&I) roles on LinkedIn grew 100% and more than 60 organizations hired their first-ever diversity chief, according to an analysis by DiversityInc. Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Apple are just some of the major brands that have hired senior D&I leaders in the past year. 

However, creating a dedicated D&I division or hiring a Head of Diversity is no guarantee of a more inclusive organization, especially with diversity chiefs being one of the least secure C-suite roles, lasting an average of 3.2 years in a post, compared with five-plus for chief executives. 

“Diversity isn’t a thing in and of itself and it’s not a number-counting game where you tick off how many female leaders you have in the business. Instead, it’s an approach to talent that allows you to achieve strategic objectives,” says Simon Fanshawe, co-founder of Diversity by Design. 

“This means it can’t be an add-on to the business, but has to be central and everybody has to be engaged. If you only see diversity as something about minorities and your approach is based on numbers, it’s a zero-sum game.” 


Top-down engagement 

So how do you ensure your entire organization buys into inclusion initiatives? For most, it starts at the top with the C-suite. It’s no secret that company boards aren’t as diverse as they could be – the Fortune 500 list has only ever featured 18 black chief executives since its founding in 1955 – so mentoring high-potential leadership candidates and providing a pathway for development is vital.


Why inclusion initiatives shouldn’t sit with HR


Some organizations are even choosing to hit executives in their pay packets for failing to take diversity seriously enough, with Nike announcing in March that executive bonuses would be contingent on hitting diversity targets by 2025. 

However, this is just the start. While building a culture of inclusion requires senior leaders to role model behaviors and empower managers to make changes, no D&I strategy can succeed without buy-in from employees. But this requires thoughtful engagement and good management. 

“We engage people by not imposing on them. Inclusion has to mean something to everybody on the team and it’s about valuing the difference people bring in combination with each other. Everybody has something to contribute,” says Fanshawe. “Inclusion isn’t about telling your people how to behave. It’s about holding difficult conversations about differences within your team and allowing space for disagreement.” 



Why inclusion initiatives shouldn’t sit with HR



Doing so can be frightening for managers used to avoiding conflict. However, allowing your people to voice concerns and discuss issues is vital to fostering an open environment where they feel heard, even if ultimately the organization chooses a different path. 

Another tactic is to provide spaces for employees to come up with their own ideas around inclusion. Microsoft has undergone a culture change program since chief executive Satya Nadella took over in 2014 and a huge part of this has been empowering smaller teams to make bigger decisions. 

According to Microsoft’s chief people officer Kathleen Hogan: “We are trying to enlist every one of 140,000 employees in this effort. We need them. We’ve activated our 18,000 managers with tools and approaches to help them engage their teams. In hindsight, I wish we’d done even more to engage managers – their role can’t be overstated.”

D&I initiatives have long been championed by human resources teams, with mixed success. As businesses finally wake up to the importance of creating more inclusive cultures, these initiatives must now be opened up to businesses as a whole. Fostering an inclusive culture is something an entire organization needs to be invested in and empowered to achieve, but doing so requires difficult conversations, good management, and openness

This report was originally published on Raconteur in association with Learning Pool. To view the additional parts in the series, please visit our page here and you will be directed to the content.


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