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What role does inclusive leadership play in challenging inequality in the workplace?

By Elisabetta Bayliss, Managing Director Hays Talent Solutions UK & Ireland

The socioeconomic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been felt deeply across every societal group, but there is evidence to suggest that women – in particular – have been disproportionately affected. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, although women make up 39% of the global workforce, they’ve accounted for 54% of the job losses as a result of the pandemic.

For working women with children, many support systems that were in place before the pandemic have also been eroded by the crisis. Childcare centres and schools were shut and people were cut off from their extended families, putting them in the unique position of having to simultaneously work and take care of their children full time.

It’s clear that despite the many great steps we have taken in recent years to facilitate equal opportunities for everyone within society, the pandemic has deepened systemic issues that prevent everyone from reaching their full potential. Leaders will have to take strong and decisive action to build a culture at their organisation that not only facilitates representation of women at every step, but also professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds.

So what key steps can you take to drive a culture of inclusive leadership at your organisation?

1. Drive a culture of respect and diversity of opinion

According to Equality, Diversity & Inclusion research conducted by Hays, 59% of professionals said they thought their organisation should have a voice on diversity and inclusion issues, such as Black Lives Matter, both to employees and publicly. 39% said they would consider changing roles if their organisation did not do this.

This demonstrates the importance of leading from the front when it comes to generating conversations about diversity and inclusion issues, supporting key events, actioning employee feedback and promoting diversity and inclusion programmes through purposeful internal communications. This will help develop the openness of your culture and thereby improve morale, loyalty and retention.

2. Be flexible with your working model

Though the remote working revolution has in some cases detrimentally impacted professional development, it has opened up opportunities for flexibility that in many cases weren’t there before. This flexibility could give professionals – in particular female professionals – the freedom to undertake their roles to the best of their ability and fulfil their potential, without having to compromise their wellbeing and family lives.

It will now be crucial to understand how – in the dimensions of your business – you can demonstrate more flexibility and perpetuate a culture that welcomes and embraces a variety of different personal circumstances. Not only allowing people to work remotely, but ensuring they are ‘seen’ and their contribution is valued – wherever they are.

3. Enable people to be themselves

The word ‘inclusivity’ is often associated with ‘blending in’ – but the whole point of leading inclusively is enabling people to feel comfortable being themselves and embracing their differences. In doing so you’re helping to eliminate homogeneity of thought, which can stifle creativity.

By making it clear that different communication styles, different creative processes and different channels of thought are welcomed, you are helping people to feel a sense of belonging, and they are more likely to feel excited by and committed to your organisation’s purpose.

4. Ensure you’re capturing data at every stage

Collecting demographic diversity data from current employees and job applicants is vital to ensuring the success of diversity and inclusion initiatives, giving you a picture of the make-up of your organisation at all levels, helping you understand where certain groups might be underrepresented, and where there might be impediments to progression.

When asking employees for this data, it’s crucial that you make it clear why it’s being requested – to ensure the open and inclusive recruitment of all applicants and to build frameworks that enable equal progression for professionals at all levels. Any improvements that have been made as a result of this should be regularly communicated both to your workforce and externally. This will help ensure that more applicants and employees feel confident and comfortable sharing their personal data, as well as highlighting your diversity and inclusion successes.

To discover how partnering with Hays Talent Solutions can help with the inclusive recruitment of a diverse contingent workforce to your organisation, get in touch with us today, or to discover how the diversity and inclusion landscape is evolving in light of the past year’s challenges, request your copy of the latest Hays Equality, Diversity and Inclusion report.

About this author

With 30 years’ experience, Elisabetta’s recruitment expertise spans the UK and overseas, private and public sectors, contingency and contracted business. As the Managing Director for Hays Talent Solutions in the UK&I, she is responsible for ensuring clients retain a competitive advantage in talent management through our technology-enabled MSP, RPO, CMO, SOW and Direct Sourcing solutions.

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