Real D&I change isn’t just another leadership initiative, it’s about restitching the cultural fabric

Real D&I change isn’t just another leadership initiative, it’s about restitching the cultural fabric

Arun Lloyd, Account Director, Hope&Glory PR

Inclusivity is ‘on trend’

Show me a movement and I’ll show you dozens of companies that posted a few Tweets and changed their display picture for a day to ‘be part of it’, plus another dozen that drafted grand ‘change making’ plans which are sitting stagnant in outboxes.

It’s understandable, after all the comms industry works at a blistering pace. Projects can go from brainstorm to activation in the blink of an eye and most of us thrive on this, it’s energising and exciting. However, when this mentality bleeds into the development of diversity and inclusion policies with ‘quick win’ initiatives whipped up and implemented before it’s on to the next thing, those that are supposed to benefit from the changes end up feeling used and abandoned.

Slow and steady

Trends are temporary by nature, so expecting real change from a knee-jerk initiative is unrealistic and isn’t genuine leadership.

In the same way that offering a weekly open bar may foster a sociable office culture, but doesn’t guarantee it’ll be a harmonious one, making a handful of diverse hires is no shortcut to creating an inclusive environment if people don’t feel like they have a sense of belonging. Much of the time, the fabric of the company needs restitching and this is a slow and uncomfortable process.

The big, loud things

There are some obvious big things to be done: Are anti/discrimination policies aligned and followed? Are recruitment tactics proactively inclusive? Do people need a degree from the ‘right’ university to get a foot in the door, or are jobs clearly marked as open to anyone with the right skills? Is every individual on board with what you are trying to do and is it clear that every person is expected to be?
Leadership teams may help shape the initiatives, but to change the way a business operates, people at every level need to understand the end goal, why it’s so important and how it plays out in their particular role.

The detailed, uncomfortable things

One starting point is to break down barriers by having uncomfortable conversations – something that’s easier said than done. Cancel culture is rife and many people are far more afraid to say the wrong thing than they are brave enough to take part. To grow as inclusive leaders and contributors to a culture where every person thrives and belongs though, we need to put inclusion first and our comfort second.

A forgiving environment which allows people to be ‘innocently ignorant’, alongside a zero-tolerance policy for any intentional or ignorant harm caused, can enable people to tell their stories and bring the topics to life. Here at Hope&Glory PR, we’ve introduced a ‘Beyond Your Bubble’ speaker series, where we invite guest speakers to come in and expose us to things we may have no understanding of. Past topics include neurodiversity, facial difference and period poverty, things I knew very little about – and that’s the point, I now feel better equipped to hold a conversation on these topics.

We can’t expect culture change to happen overnight, restitching the fabric doesn’t work like that. But we can make small but powerful changes:

  • Are you working with a diverse range of suppliers? Talent? Agencies?
  • Are your clients aware you are keen to do this, why it is important and the impact it can have? Are you encouraging them to do the same with the suggestions you are putting forward?
  • When recruiting, are you hiring inclusively with a view to enhance the culture, rather than hiring to fit the culture?
  • If you celebrate some cultural holidays, is there scope to celebrate others?

The list goes on and will be specific to your organisation, but whatever the change, celebrate the small wins as you go – did you switch out one supplier? Celebrate it. That’s a step forward and small, consistent steps forward are better than one grand gesture when it’s “trendy” to do so, even if they don’t get you likes on that social post.

Arun Lloyd, Account Director, Hope&Glory PR