Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

by Grainne Toher, Founder, Yogapal

Diversity means to be composed of many ‘different’ elements.  A diverse workplace is composed of a mix of people of colour, religions, races, physical abilities, genders, classes, sexual orientation and working availability.  The term inclusive also means that all ‘items, subjects, people and constituent parts’ are encompassed.  At work it’s about being valued, respected and supported in other words, it means to be made to feel that you belong.  Full stop.

‘Unconscious Bias’ – is a normal function of the brain. The brain naturally organises and categorises people, places and things, rationalising them, making sense of them to influence our actions and reactions. It does this to prepare us for any potential fight, fright or flight scenarios, even if we never encounter them. There is no place for ‘unconscious biases in an inclusive modern workplace.

1 in 4 workers are now non-Irish; our workplaces have adjusted to become more respectful and inclusive of all of this diversity. As an ongoing practice, we must learn to notice our own personal biases; we can be often asleep to them. When we use observer mode to self-monitor, we can ensure our reactions are more inclusive and respectful.  This allows for more discerning recruitment processes and workplace practices that reflect our diverse populations.

Recruitment Practices – when recruitment practices are skills-based the individual is seen in light of the competencies needed to fulfil the role only. It’s also highly worthwhile considering the merits of behaviour, attitudes, community and organisational experience in all candidates and individuals as some technical skills can be learned but attitude cant.

Working Practices – bringing changes to working practices can also open up a whole new, diverse pool of people with the skills you need to fill recruitment gaps.  Can more remote working roles be introduced? How about a range of flexible working options e.g. part-time hours, set annual hours or term time hour’s contracts?

Has your organisation taken steps to address gender pay inequality?  Can role profiles be drafted more and more without a specific gender in mind and thus attract the same pay levels irrespective of which gender fills them? Regardless of possible future maternity cover needs, family leave, paternity cover and parental leaves.

Line Management and Mentoring – notice and observe those who act ‘excluded’ and seem to feel ‘different’ in your staff.  These feelings of difference are often accompanied by depression, loneliness or anxiety.  When employees feel this way, they can be separating themselves from their colleagues, often unnecessarily.  Perhaps they are afraid of their work future or overly attached to career outcomes, or they are just feeling excluded within a perceived ‘diversity’, unwittingly of their own making.  Mentoring programs and good Line Management will root out these separating thought processes and uncover the ‘I’m different’ self-talk in your staff and bring them back into the fold.

If an organisation is going to flourish, diversity and inclusion must be at the heart of its mission.  An inclusive organisation empowers the diverse range of individuals within it.

About the author
With a corporate career of almost thirty years within Sales, HR, Legal, Operational Risk and Banking environments, Grainne knows the wellness needs of both employees and their employers. A teacher member of British Wheel of Yoga and an associate member of the Association for Yoga Studies, Grainne has been teaching since 2012. Grainne is also an insured and accredited Instructor of Mat Pilates, Meditation and Mindfulness.