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“We need to be careful that hybrid does not become another division within the workplace and society.”

We caught up with Mavis Boniface, Founder and Global Operations Director, at United Culture to talk about some of the findings of the recent Work Remastered research.  

Diversity, equality, and inclusion is critical for businesses today, but the recent Work Remastered research carried out by United Culture suggests there is a lot more to do. Why haven’t things moved on if it’s such a priority - are businesses really doing enough?

The fundamental issue is many businesses haven’t put their words into action.  

Businesses are still defining plans, which is all good and well, but we just aren’t seeing enough of the next stage of the process.

In areas like recruitment, we are seeing some action, but I would argue it isn’t going far enough. How businesses open the doors to a truly diverse audience is complex. How do you attract someone into your sector who doesn’t even know you exist? That requires time, budget, partnerships, and experimentation.  

What do you mean by experimentation?

We need to do things differently, but there is a fear of mis-stepping and getting called out – but businesses shouldn't use that as an excuse!

Look outside of the current way you’re doing things – think about where can you trial new ideas to help make DE&I a success.

Hybrid and flexible working are seen as a way to attract a more diverse workforce. Is that wishful thinking or do you think that’s a real opportunity?

How can it not be an opportunity? This new era of work should absolutely be the chance to open the door wider to diverse talent. We are spending too much time arguing about whether hybrid is here to stay. What we need to focus on now is how we make this work and maximise the opportunity it represents.

We need to be careful that hybrid does not become another division within the workplace and society. We are slipping back into presenteeism. The reliance on leadership and managers to take advantage of the opportunity is critical. We’ve managed and worked remotely in a crisis; we now need to develop the skills and mindset to manage for the future.

Many businesses have talked about being representative of the communities that they serve. But that’s not enough, we need to develop a world view. Your location, your situation, your age, your gender, or anything else should not stop you from contributing if you chose to.  

Why is it so important for business growth?

I can't think of one organisation that wouldn’t benefit from having a diverse workforce, or one that would say they wouldn’t want to deliver for their diverse customer base. How can you do that if you don’t understand the people you’re talking to?

In our research, 85% of people said a diverse workforce was critical to them. Seeing that reflected in a business you are looking to join is going to become critical. If people don’t see themselves represented or feel and see action being taken to fix this in the organisations they are working for, people will vote with their feet.

We talk about show not tell in our work, and this is an area that needs this approach. There is too much talk and not enough action.

A lot of businesses talk about being your authentic self in work, is this part of the answer to creating more diverse workforces?

Yes, but it’s not that simple.  

Lots of people talk about bringing all of yourself to work or being your authentic self. But if it’s just you, how do you really do that?

WhenI first started in this industry, I thought I needed to act and be a certain way. I think about where I am now, and I attribute that to me starting to be myself.

But that’s taken the right environment and a feeling of belonging with the team around me to enable that.

What do you think businesses need to do to walk the talk?  

There are three things I think businesses need to do.

1.     Invest

There isn’t enough investment to enable businesses to be truly inclusive. This will take time and money. We need to shift mindset from the very top that this is worth the investment.     

2.     Listen

Give everyone a voice and then learn how to respond to what you hear. We need to create opportunities for people to speak up but also acknowledge that some people will need an invitation to contribute. And businesses need to be prepared to turn that listening into a conversation, and action.

3.     Step up and take action

Leaders need to take the leap and fight for and support change. It doesn’t necessarily need big action, sometimes it’s a hundred small things that can truly make the difference. DE&I and creating a sense of belonging shouldn't  be a campaign or an initiative, but just the way things are done. We need to normalise the acceptance of difference and be curious about what it can unlock.