DTT – Taking Managers on the Diversity and Inclusion Journey

Inclusion in the WorkplaceDeveloping an internal culture that enhances and promotes diversity and inclusion is paramount. Not just from the obvious moral perspective, but from the standpoint of continuing to develop an organisation’s products and services through a diverse and an engaged workforce. As such, many businesses now find themselves responding to often ambitious diversity targets around gender, race, disability and sexual orientation.

When thinking about building an inclusive culture, one of the obvious starting points is to ensure your leadership and management population are brought into your objectives and are supported to deliver against these goals.

These are the thoughts and takeaways from a Diversity Think Tank held on Tuesday 28th November, hosted by Dentsu Aegis Network’s HR team. This Think Tank sought to discuss the topic of “Taking Managers on the Diversity and Inclusion Journey”.

The Importance of Inclusion in the Workplace

Organisations are increasingly global. To work effectively with customers, partners and employees around the world, we need to interact with and build relationships with people who may speak a different language, celebrate different holidays, or have different ideologies. When building this inclusive culture, it’s important that leadership and management teams are brought into objectives and are supported to deliver against these goals.

Building an Inclusive Workplace – Questions to Ask:

  • How do we bring inclusion to the forefront of conversation?
  • Are we focusing on I&D rather than D&I?
  • What is the ‘frozen middle” and how do middle managers influence inclusiveness?
    • Do middle managers know how to address the topic?
  • How do we turn positive conversations into actions?
  • How can we attract the right people to make a diverse workforce?
  • What is our strategy going to be at the beginning?
  • How start conversation and make a normal topic? BAU?


Gender Leadership
Data Global engagement survey (respect/inclusion, voice heard)
Learning Unconscious buy-in & inclusion influences personal awareness/experience
Engagement Talking is okay, but how do we actually engage? ‘What’s in it for me?’
Partnerships Associations, charities, networks, groups, etc.

While forward-thinking organisations are stepping up their efforts to recruit a diverse workforce, every organisation defines diversity and inclusion differently. For most organisations, diversity means ensuring their workforce is comprised of a healthy mix of gender, ethnicities, age, backgrounds, and thinking. While that’s a step in the right direction, it’s just a tiny step as diversity transcends these parameters. It’s important to define what diversity and inclusion (D&I) is within your organisation. Let’s take a look at some important terms that businesses should pay attention to when discussing D&I and how they impact the business.

Employee buy-in:

Employee buy-in is when employees are committed to the mission and/or goals of the company, and/or also find the day-to-day work personally resonant. Buy-in promotes engagement and a willingness to go the extra mile on the job. When it comes to D&I, we need to ask the following questions to support and maintain an inclusive culture:

  • With the vast majority of boards and CEOs number one priority being financial success of the business, how do we gain their buy-in and commitment to D&I?
  • How do we understand what our competitors and clients are doing as a good way to encourage business buy-in? The board will tend to pay attention to the competition.

Unconscious bias:

Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organise social worlds by categorising.

  • Why do we have these views? They stem from personal experience, religious beliefs, upbringing, etc.
  • Are there areas that we feel uncomfortable, or short of understanding? This can result in self-realisation.

Training helps ensure managers are sufficiently trained around unconscious bias in both hiring and the professional development of staff.

How Should Companies Foster an Inclusive Workplace?

As businesses look for more ways to improve their workplace for all individuals, it’s important to implement a strategy around hiring a diverse workforce as well as maintaining inclusivity within the workplace. As a start it’s important to audit the current status of a workplace by looking at how the business is currently hiring diverse employees and how the business is maintaining an inclusive environment.

Hiring Process  

Diversity hiring is recruiting based on merit with special care taken to ensure procedures are free from biases related to a candidate’s age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and other characteristics that are unrelated to their job performance. The following questions should be taken into consideration before and during this hiring process:

  • How does a business decide who they are hiring, who they are promoting and who is being ‘let go’?
  • Can we learn from our internal teams who are the best at hiring a diverse as possible workforce?
  • Does management understand the cost of a mis-hire? How do you know what good looks like?
  • How much do businesses know about the variation and ‘groups’ across this huge spectrum we call diversity?
  • Are we collecting all the data we need? What areas should we focus on? Businesses should aim to support the diverse client base they serve.

Businesses need to understand the depths of diversity. Are we collecting data from all areas or only focussing on what we feel is important to us? For example, observing the gender split at this Think Tank, one perception notes ¾ women and ¼ men BUT age, religion, sexual orientation, disabilities also come into play with diversity. It’s important to not “upsell” diversity as it should be true at worst and matter of fact BAU at best.

To best understand the results of hiring, businesses should use score cards to report successes and failures every six months or annually. Sometimes attraction is not the problem, but the challenge could be supporting and educating. This allows businesses to give targeted people key areas to focus, build and improve on.

Maintaining an Inclusive Business Environment

Inclusion is a call to action within the workforce that means actively involving every employee’s ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches, and styles to maximise business success. It’s important to knit the pockets of positivity and success together to turn this topic into business as usual. It’s also important to understand that it’s okay to be uncomfortable and to ask difficult questions. Some topics that should be discussed regarding maintaining an inclusive business environment include:

  • Accountability – Articulating your manager’s’ role in the D&I agenda and holding them to account.
  • Confidence – Supporting the management population with tools to address sensitive situations with confidence.
  • Measurement – evidencing the impact of the inclusive culture back to the business. Measurements are important to show what is and is not working well.

When maintaining inclusion inside the workplace, it’s important to create a safe space for employees. Accessibility and being able to answer any questions is hugely important. In addition, coaching should be available for management to be able to respond and deliver to people once they are ‘on-board.’ Inclusion represents the opportunity for businesses to grow, discover new knowledge, and create a global community.

Key takeaways:

  • The journey involves becoming more equipped with practical solutions using measurable data.
  • Drive the business case to senior stakeholders.
  • Implement reverse mentoring.
  • D&I begins with the simple art of discussion.
  • It is ok to have questions!
  • Ambition to achieve rather than fulfil quota.
  • Utilise the people in your office (hot desking, sharing, moving around) to understand your culture.
  • Clear understandable dialogue is important to understanding what D&I really is!

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