Diversity and inclusion is so important within a business. But what does diversity and inclusion mean? People often assimilate one with the other and fail to realise they are not interchangeable terms – there is a difference between diversity and inclusion.
Diversity in the workplace is having variety in the people you hire and employ, whereas inclusion is having an environment where people can come to work, feel comfortable and confident to be themselves, by having their differences acknowledged and respected. Inclusion comes from culturally making the varieties work together. Then there is the concept of equality, which is about the fair treatment of everyone. Equality is underpinned by workplace legislation, meaning a lot of workers are legally protected from discrimination and other exclusionary behaviours.
Why is diversity and inclusion important?
The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce are extensive. Not only does a variety of different perspectives lead to better decisions, it also increases innovation, reduces staff turnover and can improve a company’s reputation. Lots of prolific brands like Apple and Facebook now have diversity and inclusion drives, targets and teams or committees set up to specifically address the aforementioned goals.
Fortunately, many companies have started to wake up to the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce, but there is still a considerable way to go. Even if people are not persuaded by the moral benefits of making improvements in these areas, the business case for diversity, inclusion and equality is compelling, as evidenced by plenty of studies. Research suggests that companies with good levels of ethnic diversity benefit from 35% improved financial returns. Employees who can be their authentic selves are more likely to perform at their best and be proud of their company. Candidates are also now actively seeking to learn more about a company’s approach to diversity and inclusion before deciding whether that’s a business they’d like to join.
What does diversity and inclusion mean to 3Squared?
3Squared has worked hard to embed diversity and inclusion into its process, culture and decision making. To us, it’s all about encouraging as many people as possible to apply for the jobs we advertise and removing any barriers to hiring people from underrepresented groups, in terms of unconscious and unacknowledged bias.
We want to make sure the door is held open to all potential candidates – anyone and everyone can apply for a job at 3Squared. The aim is to create an environment where everyone is welcomed, can thrive, and feels valued. This work may not ever be “done” but we’re proud we have made a start.
The two industries 3Squared work in – the technology and rail industry – are lacking in diversity in many areas, but efforts are being made to change this. Despite progress being slow in the industry, 3Squared is fully invested in diversity and inclusion for the long term.
We strive to promote equality in many areas such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity and religion, gender, age, educational background, physical ability, and cognitive differences. The technology industry’s staffing profiles are still very much “young, white, middle class, degree-educated males” but we are working hard to change that and will continue to do so in the coming years.
There are now organisations such as the Tech Talent Charter, which 3Squared is a signatory of, that have been specifically set up to address inequality in the sector. The idea is to submit inclusion and diversity data to benchmark progress with other businesses and share insightful learnings. Generally, if you are part of these organisations, you are showing a genuine commitment to change and will be held accountable for your level or lack of progress.
Diversity and inclusion tactics employed by 3Squared
There are numerous tactics we employ as a business to ensure we go above and beyond in the diversity and inclusion space. We have devised a 2-year programme of work made up of many smaller actions. It’s very much a sum of its parts – these actions alone might not make difference, but altogether they do. We have rolled out the following initiatives:
- Recruitment commitments and values drafted and published on our website. These allow candidates to see the ethics in which we conduct recruitment with and will hopefully encourage more people to consider a career at 3Squared.
- Re-design of our careers web page including messaging that encourages candidates to apply, even if they don’t meet all the requirements. Research shows women are reluctant to apply for roles if they feel their skills don’t entirely match the job description.
- “Blind” screening candidates i.e., sending through CVs and covering letters redacted from personal details as to not trigger an unconscious bias.
- Hiring manager training on unconscious bias and conscious inclusion training.
- Assigning and training Mental Health First Aiders.
- Incorporated a sickness policy that references mental health.
- Using a job advert language checker to ensure we are incorporating gender neutral language.
- Using a recruiter who specialises in sourcing diverse applicants.
- Utilising a variety of job boards.
- Making accessibility improvements on our website.
- Performing diversity recruitment analysis when we fill a role to assess how well we have performed.
- Stopped indirect discriminatory policies such as Christmas shut down and offered adjustments over the calendar year, so all staff feel included, i.e. Ramadan.
In addition to all the above, we are Disability Confident certified, members of the Tech Talent Charter and part of the Rail Industry Association Diversity and Inclusion drive. We are also involved in a school’s programme for underprivileged schools.
Nurturing a diverse and inclusive workforce is vital for the future
For workplaces to evolve, it’s vital that diversity and inclusivity is placed at the heart of a business. After all, it brings a wealth of new talent and increased opportunities. One positive offshoot of Covid is that there is now more elasticity in terms of working locations and hours. Employers are finally realising flexible working arrangements can work successfully, and hopefully this may be of benefit two groups in particular:
- Females, whose statistics show that they still bear the brunt of childcare. The UK’s childcare bill is the second highest in the world and approximately 1 in 3 mums don’t go back to work after maternity leave.
- Differently-abled people may also find it easier to secure work. The unemployment rate for people with a registered disability is double that of the rest of society. Better accessibility and different environments will hopefully remove barriers and get more people into work.
This identifies two new areas of underrepresented talent in our industry to further explore and we hope to see more applications from candidates across these categories in time. I hope that in my lifetime, we will be able to have truly meritocratic workplaces, employing people who represent UK life in the 21st century.
How to best implement a diversity and inclusion strategy
For those businesses looking to embrace a diversion and inclusion strategy, I would advise taking a long hard look at what you do now and asking your staff members for honest feedback. We’ve inadvertently made mistakes in the past and we’ve learned from them and done things differently the next time. You will need to brace yourself for difficult conversations and be committed to really listen to individuals’ thoughts and feelings.
It’s just as important to think about who is best to carry improvements forward at your workplace. For example, as the HR Manager, I am a white, middle class, degree-educated female. My gender makes me a minority in rail and tech, but the rest of my demographic profile is very industry typical. I can easily think of diversity and inclusion from my perspective, but I’m very aware I shouldn’t be speaking on behalf of others. Our frames of reference are all different. Our values and ways of thinking vary depending on our background, age, ethnicity, and social circles etc., so I’m aware I need more perspectives before rolling out processes or practices that only I’ve designed.
You also need to embrace a two-pronged approach in terms of addressing the needs of your candidates’ pool and existing staff – you have got to consider and act at both ends, increasing the variety of people through the door and supporting the people to work effectively and empathetically together.
A key motto we champion here at 3Squared is “you get out of people what you put into them”. When it comes to attracting and retaining talented employees, people will always remember how you made them feel at work, so create values you can live by and include everyone – it’s up to everyone to make a change but it’s often down to a couple of individuals to act as “ambassadors” or “champions” to highlight areas that need to improve and drive any advancements.
To find out more about the work Cherry and 3Squared are doing to support women in rail, read Lucy Prior’s (Business Engagement Director) recent interview with the European Observatory for Gender Smart Transport here. To find out more about how you can join the 3Squared team and the current opportunities available, please visit our careers section.