Ventient HR Manager (North & West Europe) Amy Ip joins us to discuss DEI in the workplace, explaining the work Ventient has done, defining equality and equity, and sharing the challenge of recruiting inclusively.
In an insight-packed 30 minutes, Amy also reveals the benefits of building a business with DEI as a foundation, warns of the dangers of DEI-washing, and offers advice on what companies can do better-embrace inclusivity.
Everybody wins – 7 effective ways to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in your business
For episode 3 of the new Climate of Change podcast we spoke with Ventient HR Manager Amy Ip about DEI in the workplace. Amy shared a ton of insight on what DEI is, the challenge of recruiting inclusively, and tips to successfully embed DEI in a company.
In this follow up piece, we’re focusing on that last point – embedding DEI in a business. Amy revealed seven key steps that a company can take to effectively embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion, starting with a big one…
1. Have DEI as a business foundation
DEI can’t be a campaign; you need to instil it as a business pillar. At Ventient we have a strategy behind our diversity equity inclusion policy, driven by our values – People, Sustainability, Evolution. Having a strategy and the structure that goes with it means as you continue to grow, your growth will be informed, enabled, and accelerated through diversity that brings differing viewpoints, equity that speaks to individual needs, and inclusion that ensures everybody’s voice is heard.
2. Get management buy-in
This is crucial. If you don’t have that buy-in from your founders, executive committee, or Board on the importance of DEI to business operations, your best efforts will fall flat. In order for DEI to be embraced by all, you must lead by example and your leaders have to be visible. At Ventient, you can see the executive committee, they sit with everyone else, they’re approachable, you can talk to them, they listen and implement innovative ideas you share.
Of course, you don’t need the approval of others to define your principles, but in a business the involvement and endorsement of the leadership team makes all the difference in how successful your DEI initiatives will be.
“In a workplace, diversity is appreciating and understanding people’s differences and not making them adapt to us, but us adapting to them.”
3. Include everyone – do a DEI survey
Makes sense, right? To include all employees in the process of driving inclusion. With your pillar in place and leadership buy-in secured, one of the first things you should do is implement a business-wide DEI survey. Make it completely anonymous and split it into two parts: employee feedback to see how people feel and behave around DEI topics, and demographics to establish a baseline, as well as helping you to understand where the feedback is coming from.
Do it annually and off the back of it you’ll have action points you can implement as part of your DEI strategy. For example, at Ventient feedback from our 2022 survey revealed that our benefits weren’t as inclusive or as progressive as they should be. So, we opened up private medical and private dental care to our families to enhance that benefit. As Amy says, “In a workplace, diversity is appreciating and understanding people’s differences and not making them adapt to us, but us adapting to them.”
4. Create a safe space
At Ventient we try to encourage an open, transparent culture, so that people feel they are in a safe space. The benefit of this to your business is two-fold:
1. People can talk about their experiences and go deeper than just surface level small talk, which builds trust and bonds between colleagues.
2. Your team members will bring different cultures and backgrounds, and if you enable and encourage them to share, then they’ll feed into what the business is and how it goes about living its values.
The safe spaces you create will also demonstrate a workspace alignment with the DEI foundation that you’ve committed to, helping you evolve your culture with everyone included.
“We’re building the dance floor and we like to think that diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance, belonging is being able to dance like no one is watching, and equity is dancing with our best moves.”
5. Work hard at inclusion
Diversity on its own is a tick-box exercise. Encouraging different groups of people from different backgrounds, with different ways of thinking, and different experiences is great, but only when you push inclusion alongside are the benefits of diversity truly unlocked.
As Amy puts it in the Ventient employee handbook: “We’re building the dance floor and we like to think that diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance, belonging is being able to dance like no one is watching, and equity is dancing with our best moves”.
6. Create custodians
At Ventient, the Inclusive Committee look after all the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and communications across the company. Made up of employees passionate about DEI, a well-functioning inclusive committee will share knowledge and experiences, championing your culture, while being provoking and challenging. Their aim is to make the initiatives more meaningful and successful, helping employees understand differences and see the benefits of acting inclusively.
7. Prioritise communication
When you’re trying to be truly inclusive as a company, communication and transparency is key. You have to encourage employees to speak up, and help the leadership team to listen. You also need to support the interaction of employees across the business, to help your people experience the diversity, skillsets, and viewpoints of their colleagues.
An effective way to do this is through coffee chats that employees can sign up to. Simply pair two random people across the business once per month for a 30-minute conversation to get to know a person outside their team, office or even country.
Tune in every Wednesday
Thanks to Amy for sharing her insight on how to embed DEI successfully within a business. Check out new episodes of the Climate of Change podcast every Wednesday on Spotify, including our DEI Unplugged series and A Day in the Life.