Building inclusive organisations

By Emma Clayton, Membership Engagement & HR Book Club host
7 November 2021

Reflecting on our first HR Book Club and how to make our workplaces more equitable, inclusive places for all

The business case for diversity has been made for many years though there has been less focus on inclusion until more recently. But the focus should always have been there – after all, organisations can’t benefit from having a diverse group of employees if the employees don’t feel like they belong in the organisation. The oft-quoted line – ‘diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice‘ – makes the situation crystal clear. 

George Floyd’s death during the Covid-19 pandemic shifted greater attention onto the Black Lives Matter movement; people in lockdown around the world were a captive audience who seemed to suddenly, collectively, understand that something had to change. And the focus shifted more intensely onto organisations and the actions they were taking when it came to I&D.

Just this week in his keynote speech at CIPD ACE, David Lammy cited organisations that had made significant progress and urged us all to read McKinsey and Company’s 2020 report Diversity wins: How inclusion matters.

An exhibition of photos of people around the world: diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice

As a branch, we have been trying to increase our efforts in these areas by not only incorporating aspects of I&D into all of our sessions but also launching a dedicated standalone group led by the inspiring Samantha Lubanzu. When it came to choosing the title to launch the HR Book Club, I was clear that it needed to be focused on I&D and offer a practical approach so attendees could leave the session with ideas on how to make a positive impact in their organisations. 

The book, Building an Inclusive Organization, is both realistic and practical – a welcome change from some other titles in the I&D space. It focuses on making a personal business case for I&D in organisations, reconciling self-interest with collective interest while offering ideas you can easily implement. After all, ‘the gap between intention and action is why most diversity programmes fail’ (Building an Inclusive Organization, page 87).

Our readers described the book as ‘valuable’, ‘eye-opening’ and ‘approachable in delivery’.

Word cloud generated in Mentimeter during the session, showing how readers described the book

The launch in October was well-received and made all the more engaging with authors Stephen Frost and Raafi-Karim Alidina from joining us for a lively and honest Q&A session. We began by discussing the term ‘white privilege’ and its accuracy, with observations ranging from how the term is viewed depending on the context, who says it, and who’s in the room, to the backlash to the term potentially indicating where someone is in their I&D journey. We also discussed how the term can be used to jump-start having uncomfortable conversations.

During the session, we covered many I&D topics such as diversity in clinical trials, developing cultural IQ, machine learning, ways to mitigate bias plus we touched on intergroup contact theory.

We also considered how some aspects of diversity have changed over time: for example, when it comes to people who identify as LGBTQIA+, transgender people are currently a source of heated debates, just as lesbians and gays were once. But huge progress has been made for those individuals so it’s just a matter of time before the trans community sees the same results. This is one of the reasons I personally enjoy reading history as it often gives me comfort that as a society we will eventually get to where we should be.

The cover of the book and photos of the authors who joined the session.

One area that I found particularly interesting was that of reverse mentoring relationships. This is something that I was aware of in my previous role at the DWP as some senior Civil Servants were engaging in this practice in order to learn where their blind spots were, and to develop as inclusive leaders. Given that honesty, asking questions and receiving feedback are key to our personal and professional growth in general, the journey to becoming a more inclusive leader should be no different.

The final chapters of Building an Inclusive Organization include case studies from different sectors the authors have worked in with examples of the changes they guided those organisations through and the initiatives they implemented. This led to a particularly useful discussion around the sectors that attendees work in with people sharing specific difficulties they’re facing, allowing them to discuss these issues further with the authors and leave the session with some ideas on how to tackle them.

Next HR Book Club

We have the power to change not only ourselves but also our organisations, in turn making our world a more inclusive and equitable place for all

Indeed, if you’re finding implementing change in your organisation difficult, our next book club title may be just what you need!

Join us, along with author Campbell Macpherson, on 7 December from 18:30 to discuss The Power to Change, a book that will cover how to break down barriers to change and turn challenges into advantages.

We welcome CIPD Members, students and non-members. CIPD members get a 20% discount on Kogan Page books via the CIPD Bookshop and we’ve secured a 5% discount on this title for non-members. Full details will be emailed following registration.

Register below and be sure to select the bundle option to get a free ebook with your print copy so you can start reading immediately.

About Emma

I work as an HR Administrator for Mobica, a global software services company, supporting the HR team and our employees based in the UK, the US and Germany. Since becoming Membership Engagement Lead earlier this year, I’ve been enjoying running events and working behind the scenes to further our offering for members and the local HR community, including launching the HR Book Club

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