Change is Difficult

Change is difficult. From redecorating a room to quitting a habit, change causes anxiety about choice, perception and impact on others and perhaps most significantly self-doubt. What does it say about me that I prefer what I currently have?

Diversity is change. Most UK organisations have a manner of operating that is biased on tradition, works well for a few so are not interested in the energy burning attempts to change direction. When diversity is mentioned, it is taken more as a buzz word than a culture. There are so many protected characteristics enshrined in the Equalities Act that it is easy for an organisation to pick one and call themselves diverse by definition. In doing so a hierarchy has formed where gender trumps maternity who stand above sexual orientation which is higher than race or religion that is considered more than age while disability seems to be the last consideration of all. In short the actions in the drive for diversity misses the importance of the spirit of diversity.

It is not helped by the manner in which conversations regarding diversity take place. There is a victim mentality that exists on both sides. Both wallow in self-pity and gained sympathy, few engage fully to analyse their core anxieties. A man wanting to hire a man does not make him sexist. A white person wanting to hire a white person does not make them racist. It makes them comfortable in their own environment. Drawing them to change requires discussion to bring them to action. Change is difficult.

The spirit of diversity requires a culture that accepts differences in thought, experience and appearance. It enshrines that every individual is of equal value and equal say. It goes beyond bringing someone with a difference to the wider team but looks at ensuring that each member of that is knows their contribution is different but equal. It is not the articulation of those words but the structure of the working environment that determines the success.

A quick examination of any education focused organisation demonstrates this. There will be a few characteristics of diversity in the lowest ranks of the organisation that do not filter through to the top. The most obvious of this is race. For the many years of the workforce census there has been little progress in improving the visibly BAME leadership across schools, governance, MATs and the Civil service (DfE, Ofsted, Ofqual etc). They would probably say they have tried. They have advertised for people that matched their ideals, suited their culture and understood their ways. Recruitment drive and campaigns are posted so in the public eye they are able to show efforts towards a diverse appearance. However, this is not the way to build a diverse workforce. To do so the organisation must change what their ideals are so it becomes our ideals, our culture, our way. Think honestly of the experience the individual will have working for your organisation. Have you built the culture of equal value, equal say?

Beyond the culture, the organisation must actively seek diversity across many characteristics. It is inadequate to sit back and applaud the appointment of a woman to a board unless the drive for other diversity continues. Even further having her sit at the table is inadequate unless the equality of her say is evident. The change must not happen because others say it must be so. Every organisation knows that diversity around the table increases productivity. Many perspectives is profitable but you will only get those perspectives when actively sought and maintained in a positive culture of diversity. Does your organisation commit to valuing diversity?

No doubt there will be more diversity campaigns advertised to show an organisation is thoughtful on the matter. It is the fashionable thing to do. However look for the few. The few that shift their advertising away from the mainstream and into the niche areas where BAME access is greater. The few who move away from generic recruitment methods and focus on the characteristics that make the individual an asset. The few that are not afraid to have their views challenged. The few who do not only hire the best resume. Those are the organisations that drive not just inclusion but true equality. A workplace where everyone shares the ethos but are not restricted to be carbon cut outs in thinking. Many routes to the same belief.

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