Inclusivity and diversity aren’t just trending topics, but entire movements.
Diversity isn’t just about gender or gender identity. It’s equally about age, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, education – in other words, every single thing that makes each one of us unique.
“Diversity grows and changes constantly,” says Loretta Chan, partner and head of diversity and inclusion at leading executive search firm Wellesley, “because our identities and experiences are changing and adapting. It’s not a one-off corporate training session, but an ongoing mentality towards inclusion. This brings diverse viewpoints and perspectives to the company.”
We asked Chan to elaborate on the subject and offer a handful of tips on fostering diversity in any organisation.
Diversity and Inclusivity in the Workplace
Do you see positive changes in hires as a trend in the market when it comes
Yes, but often the focus has been very much towards hiring women to tick a box or answer a corporate directive, without any thought about fostering a truly diverse environment for the long term.
What are common mistakes by human-resources departments?
HR is always looking at checking the box. In reality, it needs to help influence and encourage line managers to think out of the box. If a business doesn’t get buy-in from the top down and with the support of everyone in the organisation, it’s just paying lip service and not actually implementing change and inclusion.
Is it tougher in Hong Kong, as there’s such a small pool – or in a post-Zoom world, are companies looking at different avenues?
Hong Kong isn’t really a small pool. We just need to think about diversity in terms not only of race or sex but also educational background, upbringing, language skills and other experiences that shape each candidate.
How can a company ensure it isn’t exercising tokenist hires – that it’s actually leading in creating an informed multicultural organisation?
Looking at empirical evidence, if the company is doing well, it’s hiring the best people. Diversity stats are increasing across different businesses but every company has a fiduciary duty to hire the best person for the job. It doesn’t matter what or how that person looks or feels. It’s important that during the selection process there’s a wide and diverse pool of candidates to consider, and the line manager’s hires are based on skill ability and fit.
Some points to note
A SEAT AT THE TABLE IS A VOICE AT THE TABLE
Establish a sense of belonging for everyone, and foster a supportive and safe place in the workplace for open discussions, without hierarchy or prejudice. People shouldn’t shy away from difficult and sensitive conversations, as that creates a divide, and all questions are valid. Don’t make this something that applies only to topics of diversity – true inclusivity means that everyone is entitled to share their opinion, whether it’s on the demographic make-up of the company or any work matters. You can’t expect people to be open about sharing with regards to diversity if they aren’t comfortable sharing their opinion on work matters.
LEAD FROM THE TOP
Every leader needs to truly buy into and understand the value of diversity, and drive it from the top down. If you apply diversity only to junior hires, it’s meaningless. When I joined Wellesley in 2007, we had four white male partners and myself. Today, our partnership is made up of three men and four women, including six of Asian descent, and encompassing a variety of backgrounds.
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MINORITY, BUT THE MAJORITY
At many companies, diversity efforts are driven by those in the minority who can speak on behalf of a minority experience. That’s why workshops and education are so important so that those who may have enjoyed more privilege in their lives are able to hear stories with a different narrative and understand different struggles. That’s not to say diversity is binary, with an oppressor and an oppressed. We don’t have to single out or identify people in order to be inclusive.
We all thought going to an office was a non-negotiable – until Covid-19 hit. We’ve managed to cope without social interactions, and without business travel, with adaptive strategies that can be applied to people with special circumstances. Think: arrangements for mothers (or fathers) returning to the workplace, benefits extended to long-term unmarried partners, staggered working hours for those with a long commute, etc. Create a welcoming work atmosphere for those with varying needs.