D&I: Diversity and inclusion or disruption and innovation?

By Emperor
22 Jul 2021

The conversation around how we ensure people feel represented and belong in a company is always progressing. Where historically we have referred to D&I (diversity and inclusion), this has evolved to become EDI – also encompassing ‘equity’. Equity prioritises I over D; it is about treating everybody the same, and inclusion is fundamentally different from diversity. While inclusion is a choice we make at every human contact point on how we behave, diversity is about difference.

EDI is integral to company culture. Diverse teams perform better by incorporating perspectives, employee voice, representation, innovation, ideas and much more. We’re now at a time when businesses need to survive as well as thrive, so how can inclusion and belonging drive disruption and innovation?

Emperor’s Head of Employee Experience, Darryl Mead, teams up with diversity consultants Inclusive Group’s Founder & CEO Sasha Scott to get to the heart of what makes an inclusive culture.

Why is it important now?
2020 was a landmark year. With multiple events and movements around the world – including Black Lives Matter (BLM), trans rights, gender equality and more – it is an urgent time for organisations to respond.The corporate narrative has had to change, asking ‘what are we going to do about this?’ and acknowledging it really matters. As a result, organisations started to listen more to lived experiences. 

Alongside this, COVID-19 has had an impact on parity and equality. Women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to the impact of COVID than men’s jobs. Women comprise 39% of global employment, but make up for 59% of job losses (McKinsey Global Institute 2020). 

Millions shifting to working from home in the past year has required organisations to adapt and support the wellbeing and health of their employees, as well as factors such as parenting. As we recognise one year since lockdown commenced in the UK, people, culture and inclusion remains at the top of the agenda for leaders. 

Where it fits within your corporate narrative
EDI needs to be a core element in your corporate narrative, from your organisation’s purpose and vision to your strategy and how you achieve that through your values. It needs to be an authentic part of your brand story.

Consider the story through the lens of your stakeholders, especially employees and candidates. They may choose to join or stay based on what you do and your culture. Like culture, EDI is a business imperative and has to be owned and championed by the leadership team. More importantly, it needs to be understood and demonstrated by leaders at all levels. 

A business-led, strategic approach
But what happens next? EDI, coupled with environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, now sits in the boardroom and isn’t going away. We’re expecting a lot more boardroom positions where the person is tasked with EDI – and probably also wellness. There is an intersection of this and ESG. The S and the G speak to diversity and accountability. 

Creating an inclusive culturewhere people feel like they belong is crucial, no matter where they are based for work. 2020 taught us a lot about disruption and reimagining a new innovative workplace to stay relevant. Disruption is about opportunity, talent and difference. Innovation is not only about technology, but about how you innovate and are creative in how you connect, listen and respond to your employees. Listen to and understand those who work for you and use data to demonstrate authenticity.

One way to approach this is to look at the employee lifecycle as a way to build the right culture:

Attract – EDI messaging should be a part of your employee value proposition and what you communicate to candidates on your website and recruitment channels. Ensure that this is positioned correctly for your audience. Using the appropriate language to attract the right candidates cannot be underestimated. 
Recruit – Consider all touchpoints and the experience from start to finish for candidates from your careers site – right through to how you respond to applicants.
Onboard – Being welcoming and having a wellbeing strategy in place to ensure needs are met is key, so that employees feel a sense of belonging. This has to be modelled by leaders.
Develop – Help managers build their skills to lead differently using empathy, listening, and responding to create proximity and connection. Provide a platform for those who have different stories to tell.
Engage – Have conversations and share stories with colleagues. Recognise that everyone has a voice, listen and then act on this.
People are at the heart of business. It’s an exciting time for every business to navigate through changing expectations and opportunities. 


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