For many there is a feeling that if we look too deeply into justifying diversity and inclusion initiatives with a business outcome, this will be seen as inauthentic, profit-orientated or tokenistic.
I come from the position that in order to make change and to improve our organisation’s culture, we need to look at both the moral and the business case as two sides of the same coin.
Organisations and service providers have a clear obligation under the Equality Act of 2010 to ensure that no one of a protected characteristic is treated less favourably or denied opportunity, but that is the minimum that should be expected.
The moral case is clear. I personally want to be treated fairly, with respect, have an equal chance to succeed, and be treated with dignity and have agency of my own destiny. I am certain that each of us expects no less. We all have the right to live in a society that is free from hate, discrimination, and oppression and that also extends into our workplace.
We should be able to expect that our personal health and wellbeing are at the heart of our employer’s mind.
We should all be able to feel psychological safety so that we are able show our true selves without fear of negative consequences in our status or career. In our teams and among our colleagues we should feel accepted and respected – a true sense of belonging.
It is, however, the business case that creates the imperative for change – the moral case isn’t sufficient.
Businesses need to recognise how being more inclusive, promoting diversity, and building a culture of belonging directly impacts the bottom line in a positive way.
There have been many reports and statistics produced from across the world that highlight these business benefits. But the facts don’t change people – business are still proceeding in the way they always have.
In simple terms the ROI (return on inclusion) can be highlighted as: recruiting and retaining your best people; aligning yourselves with your customers and communities; being well-placed to react to changes in market demands; and of course being compliant with the law. Each one of these elements has a measurable return which will drive bottom-line improvements and ensure the diversity and inclusion initiatives stay relevant and sustainable.
If you can increase the average tenure of an employee or reduce empty seat costs, then this alone will more than justify a typical investment in culture change programmes.
So ask yourself this: what is your “why of D&I” and why is it relevant to you and your organisation?
Joanne Lockwood (she/her) is an inclusion and belonging specialist with SEE Change Happen
Originally published in The Herald Scotland