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Progressing Lives Everywhere - from outrage to action.
At the heart of Amoria Bond’s purpose of Progressing Lives Everywhere, is a fundamental belief that everyone deserves respect and equal treatment. We resolutely oppose racial hate, intolerance and injustice.
In an honest and transparent article, Amoria Bond share insights into our recent D&I journey, which began as a pursuit of the right way to express our outrage and clarify our position in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, but has grown into something much wider, and much deeper.
Black Lives Matter may have been a wake-up call for many of us, but change is well overdue.
The world is not a fair place. Deep institutional inequality and discrimination is a long-term global problem. Black Lives Matter is not a new movement protesting tragic events in 2020, but generations of injustice and systematic discrimination that remains far too commonplace. Unquestionably, businesses have a critical role to play in accelerating change.
Words are not enough.
A meritocratic global business with strong company values, Amoria Bond has always prided ourselves on our internal diversity. However, we recognise we must also be inclusive in order to progress the lives of all our employees. We must evolve and improve our culture, our hiring practices, our operating policies, and our mindsets. We must identify, challenge and change our conscious and unconscious biases.
Over recent months we have been doing some ‘corporate soul-searching’ to figure out how to deliver authentic, action-led change.
We asked our Company Chairperson, Gary Elden, OBE for services to Diversity in Business, for his input. His insights were simple yet invaluable and helped us progress from navel-gazing to accountable, tangible actions that we have committed to publicly as Founding Partner Signatories of the Diversity and Inclusion Charter.
Since signing the charter, we have already delivered much of what we pledged, alongside a a range of initiatives, including launching Amoria Bond Inclusion Advocates; a voluntary employee resource group created to shape and influence the company’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy.
For us, Diversity and Inclusion is not a one-off box-ticking exercise; it’s a journey, and we’re in it for the long-haul. We are far from perfect, but thanks to Gary and others, who’ve generously shared their expertise and best practice, we are on the right path moving in the right direction. We want to help accelerate wider, deeper change in our industry and hope our transparency will encourage others to follow, and open up honest conversations and share best practice to accelerate change. We’ve pulled together the best bits of practical advice and take-aways we’ve gathered so far.
The evidence is overwhelming that unconscious bias affects decisions, like hiring and progression, that lead to discrimination and disadvantage. So start by taking an honest and in-depth look at your workforce, not just at the headline numbers that may well be hiding reality. You may have a diverse mix of employees, but does that wash through proportionately at all levels of the organisation? Admit your weaknesses and mistakes, learn from them, and act so you don’t keep repeating them.
Even if all your ‘stats’ look healthy, do you really know if all your employees’ experience is of an inclusive culture? Are you sure? Does office banter isolate certain groups or individuals? Do the same people always opt-out of team socials or leave early? In reality, you’re probably not as inclusive as you think you are.
In addition to incorporating specific Inclusion and Belonging questions in our Cultural Survey and 360 questionnaires, our newly formed Inclusion Advocates group are proving an effective multi-channel ‘Reality Check’ of how inclusive we really are as a business and what we need to drive real change.
Address diversity in its entirety
Unsurprisingly, ‘diversity’ is multi-faceted, so don’t approach it with a ‘one-size fits all’ mentality, or you risk alienating and isolating members of your workforce even more.
At Amoria Bond, we recognised that to create an environment of belonging for all employees, we need to not only understand the rich diversity of the company as a whole, but also of each office, and even team. By recognising more local dates and events, such as UK National Inclusion Week and Netherlands Diversity Day, has proven an excellent starting point for us in developing a relevant and impactful company Inclusion Calendar.
Look internally first
Focus on what you need to change internally before you consider tackling anything else. If you don’t, you will suffer from a lack of authenticity and credibility internally with your employees, which will ultimately translate through your services and products to your clients.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use your influence with clients, candidates and suppliers to promote greater inclusivity and challenge bias, but make sure you do it with integrity.
We are developing an internal Inclusion Charter, linked to our PROFES values, to provide a specific and accountable framework as to what D&I means in practice at Amoria Bond.
Ownership and Exec-level sponsorship is crucial
Who leads on Diversity and Inclusion for your organisation? Are they empowered and effective at engaging all levels of your organisation? Do they report into the Board / CEO? Do you have a D&I sponsor at Board level? The answer to all these questions should be yes.
In this respect we are incredibly fortunate at Amoria Bond; from our passionate Founders and Company Chair, Gary Elden, right through to our Global D&I Lead and Inclusion Advocates, there is an absolute commitment that’s been backed up with investments in training, resources, and action.
Inclusion means inclusion
When did you last ask your employees directly if they feel included?
It might sound obvious, but to develop an inclusive culture, leaders need to engage with employees. Avoid overlooking the small things that make the biggest difference by involving your people in developing your D&I strategy. Ask about their experiences and listen to them respectfully when they describe their reality.
Create safe opportunities for employees to open up about the things that make them feel excluded. Consider creating diversity groups and/or networks to create connections, or facilitate ‘Let’s Talk’ sessions. Again, think about the team and what will work best for them.
Stop fishing from the same pond
Be creative about where you advertise and look for talent; review your website and social media content to question if it appeals to a broad and diverse demographic. Be cautious to avoid the ‘like me bias’ that causes us to disproportionately favour (and hire) individuals who are similar to ourselves.
Remember, words matter! So take time to review your job descriptions and job ads to strip out bias-charged words. This is a good area to get expert advice; Unconscious Bias training with Katie Howard has shone a light on opportunities for us to improve our internal hiring practices and procedures here at Amoria Bond.
A business case for change
The ‘case for change’ at Amoria Bond was simply a recognition that action was the only appropriate response to inequality and injustice.
Notwithstanding that equality and inclusion should simply be an accepted, universal human right, many organisations still need a ‘Diversity and Inclusion Business Case’ presented in £$€. The good news is that it is not a hard case to make, as the evidence is overwhelming that diverse and inclusive organisations perform better, have higher employee satisfaction, better financial returns, and are more innovative. Check out our recommended resources below for more information to help you make the case for change in your organisation.
Plan the journey
Change takes time, so get clear and specific about what you want to achieve: what needs to change? What does that look and feel like? How far off are you from where you want to be? Who needs to be involved to make change happen in your organisation?
Commit to clear, achievable and time-bound actions that tangibly map back to your organisational goals. Assign ownership and accountability. Define how you will measure success and impact. We have implemented a 3 month rolling roadmap of planned D&I initiatives and activities, aligned with Amoria Bond’s long term D&I strategy.
Support, educate and inform
There are some fantastic people and organisations dedicated to making diversity and inclusion the norm, and you will 100% benefit from the multiplicity of viewpoints, insights and best practice that they will give you; Natasha Clarke, Joanna Abeyie, Katie Howard, Julie Selby to name a few from our network.
Take advantage of the fantastic shared learning webinars and podcasts that are available. We’ve learned so much from events hosted by INvolve, Audeliss, Women In Recruitment, Inclusive Employers, Mental Health in Recruitment, and Affirmity.
Incorporate value-led behaviours into performance reviews and progression programs, and build relevant training content into your onboarding and induction processes, so ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ is established as an organisational priority from day 1.
Make it clear that being a role model of Diversity and Inclusion is an essential ingredient to career advancement within your organisation. Middle management are key to achieving a true cultural shift, so provide them with resources, coaching, and support. Again, external specialists can really help with this.
Admit mistakes and celebrate progress
Not everything will work or land as you intend. Not everyone will welcome change. You will doubtless get some things wrong, at least from someone’s perspective. Don’t let that stop you trying. Be honest. Admit when mistakes are made, learn from them, and take action to avoid repeating them.
Equally, when something works out well or has a positive impact, celebrate it!!
In both instances, good communication is crucial. We’ve learnt by our mistakes that timing and channel of communication are hugely important; instead of relying on emails, we now use a blend of communication methods to cascade key D&I announcements and updates, including video-messages, team sessions, sales screen, and Director Reports.
What are you waiting for?
What will your business commit to today to make a difference and accelerate change?
Add your pledge to the Diversity and Inclusion Charter.
If you’ve got to the end of this article and still want to know more or where to start with your own D&I journey, then check out these organisations and articles:
Inclusive Growth, by Tony Mildon