Sustainable diversity strategy or annual celebration? Keeping diversity alive all year round, not just in March and April.


March is always a busy month on the diversity calendar! Between International Women’s Day (IWD) on 9th March and Harmony Day on 21st March most of the month is taken up with celebrating gender diversity and then cultural diversity.

By April larger organisations (over 100 employees) have moved into reporting mode and are focused on finalising their Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) annual reports and Employer of Choice for Gender Equality applications.

If March is party season, April is reporting season! I suspect that this is where some of the diversity fatigue kicks in and we usually see a lull in diversity & inclusion activity in most organisations.

But what happens once the diversity parties wrap up? Is it back to business as usual? Does diversity & inclusion become a statistic to be sliced and diced for the annual reports?

As any diversity practitioner knows, measurable progress can be slow to achieve. It can take years of consistent, relentless focus.  And that is exactly why there is no time of year when the focus on diversity can be de-prioritised. A good diversity strategy and approach needs to be a continuous, sustainable, multi-pronged plan of action that keeps going despite peaks and troughs in the business and HR cycle. Diversity strategy is so much more than programs and events. That is why great diversity strategies are actually just a part of the business strategy, and not a stand alone activity or event.

Don’t get me wrong; diversity events such as IWD and Harmony Day have an important role on the diversity program and in your diversity toolkit. These celebrations create moments in time when people stop to reflect, share stories, learn and take these insights into every day practice. Great diversity events can help build a sustainable momentum for change.

But the opposite can be true. Any employee who attends a diversity event and hears leaders talking about workplace change and doing things better and differently, but then sees things being done the same old way will quite rightly form a cynical view of the organisation’s genuine commitment to improvement. You have to continue to walk the talk after the party is over.

We folks at A Human Agency know a few secrets about how to develop highly effective diversity strategies and change plans.  We’d like to share with you 10 things you can do to keep your diversity momentum going:

  • Think about diversity holistically. It’s terrific to celebrate achievements in gender diversity and cultural diversity and to recognize the unique challenges specific groups of people face in the workforce; but it is important to remember that diversity is about the inclusion of all people however they identify. Most people indentify in many different ways. For example I am proud to be an Australian Born Finn, mother of three, juggling the every day challenges of working and caring for others. I can tick a few ‘diversity boxes’! Not many people like to be categorized into one box. Diversity is about making the workplace better for everyone.
  • Keep the story telling alive. So many great stories are told at events about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Stories are highly impactful in building your diversity narrative, binding the organisation to the cause and influencing culture change. Keep telling stories across the organization whether it’s via your intranet, webinars, podcasts, newsletters, team meetings. Be creative!
  • Seek feedback. Listen and learn. Ask attendees and other employees in your workplace what they valued the most about the event and what would they like to see more of to keep the momentum alive.  Seek out #ahamoments!
  • Reflect and revise. Take #ahamoments from your events and review your diversity strategy and action plan in light of them. What do you need to differently to keep having an impact?
  • Make sure other people are engaged. All too often diversity events tend to attract primarily people who identify with the group. For example many women’s events have what feels like 99% women in attendance. Yet diversity events are actually a great opportunity to include everyone and start conversations across your whole work place. Make sure the leadership team knows all about the outcomes from the events, especially if they didn’t attend! Naughty them…
  • Consider how you can achieve broader representation at future events. What do you need to do differently to make everyone feel welcome and want to come to diversity events. Perhaps you can introduce a plus one or buddy approach to event attendance?
  • Design other learning opportunities. All humans are different so while the diversity events held in March were probably very successful they might not have engaged everyone in the same way.  You will need to try different types of mediums for communicating the same messages as people have different  preferences as to how they like to receive new information and experience different things. An example might be consultation groups or sharing stories on the intranet.
  • What other education is needed? Where can diversity be added into your existing L&OD programs? Do your induction and leadership programs include diversity skills and behaviours? What other training and education is needed – perhaps an inclusive leadership program, unconscious bias training or cultural competency training would help you to build your diversity momentum faster?
  • Embed diversity in everything you do. Make sure you bring all the people pieces together.  Diversity needs to be integrated across your whole HR rhythm and into the business strategy. When it is, a celebratory event is obviously just one part of a more complex plan for change and achievement of measurable outcomes.
  • Ensure you walk the talk 365 days per year. As we said above this is absolutely critical. All your good work will be undone if bad behaviours are allowed to go unchecked after the diversity party is over. People are smart and they will quickly sense if the diversity celebrations were a one day wonder and 364 days per year it’s back to the status quo.

Have your diversity celebrations wrapped up and you’re feeling a little flat? Could your diversity strategy and action plan do with a bit of extra oomph?

A Human Agency has talented HR specialists who have personally and successfully worked on implementing and sustaining HR organisational transformation in diversity & inclusion, organisational development, leadership and coaching.   Our HR specialists are available if you need a bit of extra Muscle on your team to help you achieve the outcomes you are looking for.

If you’d like to know more just get in touch we’d love to talk to you. Make sure you sign up for our newsletters so you don’t miss out on other hot tips and HR secrets we share.

#ahamoments with Kat


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