To achieve diversity at work, you need to work at diversity

Diversity doesn’t just happen. It sounds strange to say, but we need only look at the last 100 years of enterprise to see the evidence. And yet, we know that we’re at our best when we’re at our most diverse, so why don’t more businesses do the work to make diversity happen? In many cases, businesses have the willingness to put the effort in, but don’t know where to start.

Joining an ultra-fast growth start-up, I’ve had firsthand experience at building a workforce – we recently welcomed our 100th employee to the team – so what follows is what I’ve learnt about promoting diversity; what worked well, and what still needs work.

Planning for diversity starts with honesty and transparency. If you think you’re doing a good job at diversity, ask yourself why you’re not doing a great job. Would you be happy for your data on inclusivity to be made public tomorrow? If not, why not? At Ogi, we’re benchmarking ourselves against the communities we live and work in. For us this was the only way to know if we’re achieving the levels of inclusivity we aspire to. We know we’re ahead of the IT sector in some areas, but that’s not nearly enough.

The only way to get this kind of honesty, is to build it into the company’s values. By being a reflection and extension of the communities we serve, we know we can have more impact – and commercial success, and this is a great motivation for doing the work it takes to build a representative workforce. Our leadership team lives and breathes these values, and we’ve already made sure that EDI training is compulsory for everyone. One of the most impactful things we’ve started doing is reporting on EDI data at every executive management team meeting. It’s a simple step, but it makes sure that we never lose sight of the importance of diversity; it makes sure that it underpins all our decision making.

Diversity builds ever greater diversity, in a virtuous upwards spiral, starting from some simple, progressive measures. By keeping EDI data front and centre, working on our commitment to the gender pay gap, and creating a culture that champions inclusivity, we have built a management team with a good gender balance.

I’m certain that without this gender balance, we wouldn’t have been able to attract such diversity – only around 17% of IT specialists in the UK are female, but at Ogi, our IT service desk all identify as female. We know we still have a way to go to achieve the 50/50 gender balance we want to see across our entire workforce, but we’re striving.

Education at all levels of the business is really important, not to tell people how to think, but to encourage informed self-reflection. Recognising and overcoming bias is everyone’s work. We’re one of the fastest growing companies in Wales, so it would be all-too-easy for us to lose sight of our values, but we’re working hard to embed our culture. And that goes right down to an individual level.

For instance, all of us can clearly signal that we will do everything in our power to be a good ally to all underrepresented groups. Out of that process – and really we’re still at the beginning of our journey – we’re already laying the groundwork to support the foundation of BAME and LGBTQ+ networks within the business and across our communities.

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View the categories and nominate yourself or a colleague/peer who deserves to be recognised and celebrated.

And for all that we’re doing right, the key to success is constant effort, and maintaining the honesty and transparency that got us that success. We know that around 4% of the Ogi team are BAME. This is a lower proportion than the industry average and fairly representative of Wales in general: though not the area in which we’re based, or anywhere close to our ambition. We will ensure that we are proactively reaching out to new audiences when recruiting for future posts and that all our communications are representative of a range of ethnic groups and backgrounds. We’ve learnt a lot about recruitment as we’ve been growing quickly.

We’ve made our recruitment pages feel more welcoming, and thought carefully about the language we use in job adverts. Our Talent Acquisition Specialists are proactively advertising in places that attract more diverse talent and we’ve taken the decision to make sure that shortlists are balanced for all roles.

Even when you’re willing to do the work, even with all the best intentions, best policies, and best practice, it’s important to listen. Create feedback mechanisms, and be prepared to be challenged. No EDI policy should ever be considered finished. And remember you have an invaluable asset – your community, that can help you improve constantly, as long as you listen.

Written by Lisa Hand, People Experience Director at Ogi

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Diversity and Inclusion