Jennifer Mordi, Paralegal at Ultimate Finance and one of our Ultimate EDI Champions, looks back at how awareness of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion policies in workplaces around the UK has increased over the last 18 months and offers her advice on how to create a diverse and safe space for employees to thrive in.
It is safe to say that 2020 was a year like no other!
The breakout of the Coronavirus triggered an irreversible change in the working patterns of businesses. Moreover, it triggered a shift in our consciousness and more specifically in how we perceive the world around us. This latter change, although undetectable to the naked eye is equally powerful.
The collision of our work and home environments, brought about by the government-imposed lockdown, dissolved our ability to distinguish our “work selves” from our “home selves”. What it did instead was force us to live as (or work out) our authentic selves over a sustained period. This “suspension of normality” provided us with a rare opportunity to examine the events of the world around us.
One such event was George Floyd’s arrest in May 2020 and his subsequent death at the hands of the Minneapolis police. This caused the biggest movement against racism of our time in the form of the Black Lives Matter movement. Although prejudice, discrimination and lack of awareness has lurked in the doorways of our society for many years, what made this different was that it happened at a time when the world had stopped to listen.
The incident was witnessed by millions of people across the globe, who stood united in their horror at the act of violent discrimination which culminated in an otherwise avoidable death. The unified response illustrated the notion that discrimination is widely understood to be unacceptable.
But how can this apply to businesses?
The phrase “bring your authentic self to work” has become increasingly popular over the last 18 months. It is from this starting point that organisations can develop their policies on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace. Whilst I do not believe that there is a magic formula that transforms organisations into diverse and inclusive hubs, I do believe that there is an authentic process which will be unique to each business. The first step should be an honest internal examination of itself as a company, with the aim being to ascertain where it sits in the face of the modern, diverse working industry that we all share.
Organisations that promote and embed EDI within their working practices inevitably benefit from access to a wider group of individuals who are eager to showcase their unique talents and their best selves. Such individuals are likely to have a deeper understanding through their own struggles with inclusion and as such can provide an invaluable source of knowledge on how to better recruit and sell to more diverse markets. Our world has never been more varied in its inhabitants and to be successful businesses must supply a diverse aware and inclusive environment to meet the demand of the ever-growing, ever diversifying world.
Businesses that will be the most successful at benefiting from the diversity and inclusion movement will be those who recognise that it is a pervading policy and one which requires nurturing. Such organisations recognise that promoting diversity and inclusion is not an arbitrary process but a fluid one.
Each worker within any organisation has a role to play. Each should take on a piece of the responsibility and approach it from a place of good intent.
It is now easier than ever to access guiding materials on EDI in the workplace and implementing good practice doesn’t need to be complicated – something as simple as organising “pub style quizzes” is a great way of teaching staff about such topics and is cheap and enjoyable.
Take the time to create a workspace that is a breeding ground for diversity, equality and inclusion.
A gradual organic expansion of understanding of what it means to be truly diverse and inclusive from every business would be time well spent and would yield far more satisfying results than a short-lived campaign which may lose momentum within a couple of years. Afterall, Rome was not built in a day.
By taking the time to understand what EDI means in 2021, businesses will attract a wider, more diverse range of individuals with unique talents and by doing so will align their objectives with a more diverse variety of commercial opportunities.
As an example, in addition to our extensive EDI policy, we at Ultimate Finance have introduced EDI Champions who help regularly promote diversity and engage our entire team through a variety of formats, be it a regular column on the intranet or bigger campaigns such as our upcoming Black History Month celebration which includes a book and film clubs, sharing recipes and the introduction of bitesize interactive sessions between colleagues which provide a safe space to learn from each other. We believe that this will not only help employees feel more comfortable being their authentic selves at work but it will also enable us all to learn about each other’s backgrounds and differences and in turn make for a more diverse and happier work place