The global Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted inequalities in areas from access to technology to healthcare and green spaces. Coupled with this, events such as the death of George Floyd in 2020, has brought conscious inclusion into even sharper focus and acted as a catalyst for individuals and organisations to do more.
Conscious inclusion is about recognising our unconscious biases and purposely changing behaviours to be more inclusive. At Wood, we have a 40,000 strong team across more than 60 countries and in various work environments. One of Wood’s nine sustainability goals is to educate and inspire 100 per cent of our colleagues to be inclusive everyday by 2021. In support of this goal, we have a holistic approach to Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) and are implementing various strategies to help our employees understand their own biases and move towards real change. You’ll notice we lead with the ‘I’ before the ‘D’ in our diversity and inclusion department, signifying our commitment to inclusion in our organisation.
"It’s important to foster an environment and culture where inclusion is delivered structurally and behaviourally through policies, training and communication plans"
We want to educate and inspire all of team Wood to be inclusive every day, and this means being comfortable to share different perspectives, seeking to understand and learn from one another. In some cases, this might mean moving towards discomfort and making space for challenging conversations, but we can do this together if we understand that fundamentally we are each unique and human beings that want to be heard and valued.
1: Recognising our biases
We are hard-wired to make intuitive decisions about other people. Psychologist Joseph LeDoux argues that this ‘rapid categorisation’ is natural and necessary, acting as an ‘unconscious danger detector’ which helps us determine whether someone or something is safe. But it’s also important to recognise that these near instant assumptions are often wrong. In the workplace there are many unconscious biases to be aware of. The most common tend to be affinity, benevolence, and confirmation bias. Interestingly, a bias that could become more prevalent in the new hybrid work environment is proximity bias. Managers will have to consider how much time they spend with their distributed teams and be aware whether they engage more regularly with a person that is physically near to them, rather than reach out to a remote colleague. At Wood, we are raising awareness with our employees on these unconscious biases globally with a series of webinars and self-paced learning.
2: Culture and inclusion
It’s important to foster an environment and culture where inclusion is delivered structurally and behaviourally through policies, training and communication plans. At Wood, we continuously promote our Myriad framework. Myriad in our organisation stands for My Role in Inclusion and Diversity. It’s about personal ownership and responsibility for what we can do as individuals to improve I&D in our organisation. Myriad is underpinned by three key themes; educate, empathise and engage. Constantly educating ourselves, and each other, to empathise and be truly engaged in conversations and with our actions. We have a range of resources to deepen understanding and we have committed to continue to build on these to achieve our goals. We even have a Myriad brand which includes the Wood ‘W’ upside down and contains a fingerprint pattern, signifying something that is unique to us but also something we all share. The brand and logo were developed with thoughts and ideas from a wide spectrum of colleagues.
3: Leadership, allies, and networks
It’s important that an organisation has ambassadors from top to bottom to promote accountability. Within our organisation, we have leadership champions who drive our inclusion and diversity activities and allies at all levels who champion underrepresented groups. Networks are places for employees to connect, learn, share views, tell their employer what they’re doing well and recommend improvements for an even better place to work. At Wood, we have eight employee networks that centre around specific areas such as gender balance, race and ethnicity, LGBTQI+, Armed forces, STEM, listening group, caring, and those beginning their career journey. These networks all have sponsors from our executive leadership team. Over the past year, we have reached over 35,000 of our colleagues globally with our content and activities around culture, inclusion, and diversity.
4: Employee Lifecycle
Some see the business case and statistical proof, others feel it is the right thing to do to reflect the societies in which we live and work, some agree with both. Gallup & McKinsey cite many benefits of inclusive leadership including financial and performance related statistics. According to theresearch, companies in the top quartile for gender and diversity of executive leadership teams were 21 per cent more likely to experience above average profitability. Similarly,those championing ethnic and cultural diversity are 33 per cent more likely to outperform less diverse organisations. At Wood, we aim to attract and retain people from all spectrums of global talent. Our focus is making Wood a great place to work, where all our people feel they belong, are empowered and supported to succeed while matching people to the best opportunities within Wood.
5: Measurement and evaluation
As in any drive for change, having methods in place to evaluate your work is essential. These could include demographic data, setting goals to improve representation all the way through to measuring engagement outcomes.
The stakes are high, but the prize is great. Conscious inclusion is a strategic priority which will help us both appreciate and leverage our differences. Working with different people challenges our brain and fosters diversity of thought. I&D is not a nice to have but a performance prerogative.
Global organisations must embrace conscious inclusion as part of diversity and inclusion goals or face becoming irrelevant. When we challenge ourselves to instruct positive change, lifting those whose experiences are different to our own, then we will build understanding from all perspectives and achieve competitive advantage.