Supporting a diverse and inclusive team
This week, our colleague Rheinhard Hein hosted two training sessions for all IDA employees on Diversity and Inclusion. As we set out our strategic roadmap, IDA prioritised key Sustainable Development Goals that we can make an impact on, including SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). We asked Rheinhard to provide some key insights to the subject, and why this training is so valuable for a future-proof workforce.
So Rheinhard, can you give a quick definition of what Diversity and Inclusion is?
Traditionally, you would say that diversity is the acceptance of coworkers of different races, ethnicities, ages, religions, disabilities, genders and sexual orientations (LGBTQ+). In current years, the Millenial / Gen-Z perspective would take an even broader definition and also incorporate diversity in educational background, personalities, skill sets, experiences, and knowledge base.
Inclusion can be defined as a situation where every employee feels valued, while also acknowledging everyone’s differences and how these differences contribute to our organisation’s culture and our business outcomes. So looking at an inclusive organisation: you would say it’s a workplace where employees are respected, feel that they belong, are encouraged to contribute to work processes, so all have a chance to thrive.
So why is this something that IDA considers to be important?
Considering our strategic priorities and wanting to be a sustainable organisation, our HR vision is to be the employer of choice, offering a meaningful place of work, a community that allows professionals to develop their talent and make an impact.
Creating a diverse and inclusive working environment is seen as an important factor in that ambition. On top of that, it also makes good business sense! Forbes (2017) indicated that diverse and inclusive teams make better business decision up to 87% of the time, also making decision twice faster with half the meetings. Having diverse and inclusive teams means that we gain different perspectives, and that drives innovation and creativity by also avoiding group-think. In addition, Great Place to Work research (2021) showed that having diverse and inclusive teams increases employee engagement and satisfaction. For 83%, an employer’s commitment to the topic affected their decision to work for that organisation, and they are more likely to have pride in their work and more likely to look forward to going to work.
We have 28 nationalities represented at IDA, different age groups, many different backgrounds, as well as gender equal leadership. Would you say IDA is doing well from a diversity and inclusion perspective?
You could say that we are diverse in many aspects, but we also have to realise that diversity alone is not enough. We have to be inclusive. It’s important that all IDA employees feel like they can be themselves, that they are all included and that we have a culture that makes people feel like they belong. To get there, we all need to educate ourselves, focus on inclusive thinking and decisions that foster a workplace that is productive and healthy for everyone.
What will it take for IDA, or perhaps all organisations, to get there?
It’s quite complex, because there’s no quick fix. It takes an inclusive mindset from all of us. We need to be mindful when we communicate. That means listening more, less interruption. Slow down. Be open and curious when meeting others. Be aware of your own bias; we all have a lot of unconscious bias about various social groups that we need to become aware of. By becoming aware of them, we can become more mindful and respect each other’s differences, and also speak out when we notice bias.
The most important thing I would say to organisations is simply to start your journey, you can adjust the road map along the way, but get started even if it is small steps.
Finally, what are your thoughts about diversity and inclusion in the future?
Having kicked off with this company-wide training, it’s a great first step to becoming more aware as an organisation. I think within IDA, we are lucky to be surrounded by so many different people and perspectives, it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other and broaden our views. We need to keep learning about this subject to keep the discussion going. Additionally, we need to expand our view from being internally focused to also taking an outward looking approach. Meaning, with our strategic goal of Sustainable Value Chains, it would be great to extend these discussions to partners in our supply chain.
Any final thoughts, quotes you want to end with?
To build a diverse and inclusive community in the workplace takes action and buy in from the whole organization as it’s an active and ongoing process that cuts across all levels and departments. So, I encourage any organisation to simply jump in and start their journey if they haven’t already, begin talking to your employees about what diversity and inclusion means to them. Sometimes people are a bit nervous about tackling the topic, at IDA we are looking at it through a lens of celebrating the unique differences of our people and the value that can bring to the company. This has brought a lightness to the subject and helped us to begin our journey into being a more diverse organisation where all colleagues feel included and valued.