In these enlightened times, diversity, inclusion and equality should be a way of life in any business, weaved seamlessly into everything we do within an organisation.

However, businesses are folding at the expense of compensation being paid out following an Industrial Tribunal Hearing where people within an organisation have been treated horrifically, not just by a manager, in some cases by other colleagues. Recent cases in the news have seen reports of customers being treated poorly by employees too.

A great example of this is in the case of Sephora, the beauty chain that closed its doors in June 2019 for one hour to train employees on diversity, and Starbucks who closed more than 8,000 stores across the US in May 2018 whilst staff underwent racial awareness training. This training followed an occurrence where the company apologised to two black men who were wrongly arrested while waiting for someone in one of their Starbucks outlets in Philadelphia.

Many organisations are living in ignorance of the implications of not raising awareness of these matters, possibly cutting corners in a desperate attempt to invest the money where they will see better returns.

Unfortunately, like Starbucks, they are forced to react and take drastic measures to minimise the impact of something going wrong. But by then, two human beings have been treated like criminals, the employees are wronged for having their biases, the reputation of the organisation is somewhat damaged and the business has lost sales due to a two-day closure.

The vice president of Starbucks said in reports that “the training wasn’t a solution, it is the first step, an introduction” (Theguardian.com, 29 May 2018). For the size of the company and the number of its employees, the probability of all the different backgrounds, beliefs and biases, introducing this training at this point is in hindsight a highly expensive risk.

We can all learn a lesson from this, it doesn’t matter the size of the business, from the moment a business is formed to serve people, leaders, business owners and the employees must be trained on Diversity and Inclusion. Cultural variety equates to a workforce abundant in a range of different languages, cultural experience and understanding of cultural norms. A diverse workforce appeals much more to your clientele.

Being diverse and inclusive isn’t just about racial awareness, it’s about embracing all differences and seeing them as strengths. If you are a business owner, leader or manager, raising awareness of diversity and respecting people in the workplace will benefit your employees not just in the workplace but also how they relate to people in all relationships, creating a culture of acceptance and team.

When employees can relate and empathise with their customers and each other, there is naturally greater satisfaction!

Being a diverse organisation that values and celebrates individual differences takes an understanding of what it actually means to diversify. An inclusive and respectful environment is inexplicably linked to individual and organisational performance. In my experience, where cultural and behavioural issues exist, productivity, results and people’s happiness drops significantly.

Creating a working culture where all people can achieve their full potential is a business imperative. Demonstrations of integrity and diversity spread when a commitment is made to behave differently. As individuals, we must be moved to making a difference in the world, not just accepting the status quo.

There are three simple steps that organisations can take to avoid risks:

1. Ensure that everyone understands the expectations of them, not just tasks but behaviours too. Handbooks and contracts can communicate these in the first instance.

2. Raise awareness of diversity and inclusion by training everyone in the organisation, including what to do when they experience any form of bullying, harassment or victimisation. Ensure that all managers are trained on how to handle complaints effectively.

3. All Leaders, managers, business owners must role model the behaviours that they want to see in their team. Behaviour breeds behaviour.

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The Learning and Development Company provide Diversity and Inclusion training. A half day introductory course that will raise awareness within your teams and encourage them to review their prejudices and biases and how they impact their behaviours.

For more information, Please contact Ross Trigwell on info@thelearninganddevelopmentcompany.com.