While there’s no hard evidence to prove it, experience suggests that the businesses reaping the greatest rewards from their equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) strategies are those that understand they still have much to do.

We all know that the world has gone through seismic attitudinal change when it comes to the issue of inclusion and the role it plays not just in ensuring companies are fulfilling their legal responsibilities, but also in delivering against productivity and financial targets.

That’s hardly rocket science: people who feel valued are happier, more motivated, more likely to go above and beyond, more likely to stick around for longer, and more likely to actively support corporate objectives.

Consequently, businesses that still see EDI as a box to be ticked – as opposed to an ongoing process of change – are more likely to find their EDI processes plagued by setbacks and delays as employees see through the superficiality of a process that is there for the sake of being seen to be there.

Like all transformational change, your business’ work on EDI is not transitionary or finite, and it needs to be seen for what it really is: a never-ending shift in cultural and behavioural attitudes that are constantly moving.

In that context, it’s no surprise that businesses that see their diversity work as a compartmentalised function of their operations, as opposed to an embedded by-product of good employer practice, are often more likely to believe they have addressed their EDI challenges when, in fact, they probably not even scratched the surface of them.

The greatest problem here is that there are too few organisations that properly understand the scale of the inclusion work facing them and too many that don’t.

While extrinsic motivators like dress-down Fridays or dinner vouchers for notable achievements were all well and good, they are not a panacea for deep-rooted cultural issues around EDI.

Nor, quite obviously, is a hastily written inclusion policy that takes no account of the operational, demographic, and cultural realities, practicalities, and limitations of individual workplaces.

Is it any wonder, then, that Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace places the UK near the bottom of the list when it came to employee engagement (35th of 38 globally, and rock bottom in Europe)?

In the end, that old corporate adage of ‘how you do anything is how you do everything’  – essentially, how someone sees you do something in a particular way is how they believe you will do everything – is particularly relevant.

If you’re late to a meeting with someone you’re meeting for the first time, their takeaway is likely to be that you are late for every meeting.

Similarly, if your approach to EDI is to implement working practices that are not tailored to your specific workplace, your employees’ conclusions will be that nothing you do is tailored to them and their own experiences.

How to treat people, the respect they are afforded, how they are valued, and how they are developed equitably are increasingly critical determinant factors in how candidates choose an employer.

If you’re not showing up properly in that regard, then not only will your existing workforce be less engaged, less trusting and, perhaps cynically, less inclined to bring all of themselves and their talent to the job, you’ll also find it difficult to attract new talent into your organisation.

There has never been a more important time or a greater opportunity to be seen to show up on the question of EDI. The chance to be proactive and provide a catalyst for change has never been more available.

But change can also be about regeneration, and that can also be painful, either culturally, professionally, or financially.

EDI is not something that most businesses can tackle on their own. Driving, facilitating, and embracing change around inclusion is often best achieved when the work is done baggage-free.

Those members of your team whose lived experiences may serve to make them harder to reach or more vulnerable to exclusion (deliberate or unconscious) are unlikely to see credibility in a sudden focus on forcing a sea change in EDI.

Without experience or training, it becomes difficult to win hearts and minds, and without hearts and minds, any attempt to bring about cultural change is doomed to fail.

It is only possible to achieve real change when you accept and understand that the journey doesn’t end, and that making the journey in the first place requires investment, time, commitment and the ability and awareness to see that you can’t do it alone.

If you’d like to know how to build a better, more inclusive, and more profitable future for you and your employees, why not get in touch for an informal, no obligation conversation and let us show you how we can support you on your organisation’s journey?