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  • philippajdengler

Diversity and Inclusion - essential ingredients

Diversity and Inclusion are essential ingredients for ensuring that more people can contribute in the workplace for longer in our ageing society.

That’s why I was delighted to be able to participate in the St. Gallen Diversity and Inclusion conference yesterday. The energy level was high as well over a 100 people, passionate about the topic and working in a myriad of ways to make a difference here in Switzerland, came together to discuss D&I focussing on gender and disability. 

The mix of insights from academic research and experience from the business world together with an unexpected impulse from the world of dance made the day both informative and inspiring. 

Here is a summary of my main take-aways: 

  • Benchmarking is essential to provide the facts and figures business leaders need to diagnose where they need to focus, measure progress and impact - but better data is required around company demographics, recruiting, retention, promotion and personal development.

  • Progress is being made especially on the topic of gender around recruitment and retention. However, when it comes to promotions unconscious biases, out-of-date policies and social norms are still preventing a critical mass of women reaching the higher echelons of management. 

  • Line Managers play a vital role in establishing the "rules of the game" for their teams. The degree of flexibility, autonomy and psychological safety people feel impacts their health and ability to contribute. Critically, line managers often need more support to be able to play this role well. 

  • Quotas work in terms of moving the needle on building diverse teams. They can be useful to shake up the status quo in situations where all male teams are naturally hiring “people like me” or are satisfied with one or two members of a minority group as a “token” representative. Importantly, as with all objectives, they must be thoughtfully applied to avoid driving the wrong behaviour that can backfire. 

  • Diversity is a natural part of life, an essential part of our communities and society. What is unnatural is the over-representation of certain groups in society (e.g. able-bodied, white men) that we have come to accept as “normal” in the workplace. 

  • More focus on inclusion is required. D&I shouldn’t be about interventions to “raise people up” to an accepted norm or level. Inclusion is about creating an environment in which everyone is able to contribute fully. It's about accepting and valuing the different perspectives and strengths people with different backgrounds and lifestyles bring to the table. 

Reflecting on the train back home it is clear that diversity and inclusion is a "hot" topic; there is much research being conducted and a lot of work being done in the corporate world. It is also clear that cultural change like this takes time and most companies have a long way to go. I’m looking forward to next year’s conference and hope that the topic of age and longevity will find it’s way onto the agenda!

  How about you? Is Diversity & Inclusion consciously part of your people strategy? Which "good practices" or "lessons learned" do you have to share?Are you already leveraging the cognitive diversity that leads to better decision making, higher levels of innovation and growth? I'd love to hear your

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