Firstly, for companies to succeed, they need to make the most of the full range of their people, and attract and retain the right skills and the best minds in a highly competitive marketplace.
Future talent will look for opportunities that afford not just the remuneration to support lifetime ambitions, but also the working lifestyle and environment that allows people to thrive and succeed. As such, it means recognising not just staff equity, but also the uniqueness of people. Managing diversity is about ensuring everyone is empowered to perform.
Respect is created through attaching a value to that sense of worth by allowing individuals to thrive in terms of productivity. Beyond respect, inclusion comes from a state of being valued, respected and supported. It’s about focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential. Inclusion should be reflected in an organisation’s culture, practices and relationships, in order to support a diverse workforce.
It is always challenging when you are an oddity due to an aspect of your person which does not define you or your abilities, yet cannot be hidden and draws attention in nearly all environments, including the workplace. But that is just because of a lack of understanding which manifests itself in various ways when people feel uncomfortable.
Such discomfort usually comes from ‘unconscious bias’, i.e. the situation where each of us carries stereo-types or preconceptions about different social groups, often informed by short-hand media or inherited opinions, rather than real life experience. These perspectives naturally and unconsciously influence our perspectives of other social groups or individuals, sometimes to our own detriment, or to the detriment of others.
Moving to ECA earlier this year, which I knew to be a body steeped in history and traditions, taught me not to let my own unconscious bias work against me. I assumed that its longevity would bring certain diversity challenges. However, it appears this assumption was wrong, as ECA has proven to be a place where they are much more interested in what I can add, in a dynamic multi-disciplinary environment which has a solid track record at the forefront of thought leadership, service delivery and industry evolution.
I was greeted with an attitude of ‘we will provide you with no less than what you need to do the job well’, and I am encourage to work in a way which suits my physical requirements, while being valued for what I can input into the organisation’s overall strategic direction and output.
This ensures that the aspect of me which makes me different in no way defines my ability to succeed. ECA is a multi-disciplinary business whose product is its people and their capability and output. It realises this and therefore invests in ensuring and managing diversity, and in respect and inclusion.
Proof indeed that managing diversity, and enabling respect and inclusion are not just necessary, but possible, in all businesses, and not simply luxuries which only large corporations can afford.