Beginnings of a culture revolution in Jersey’s business community?

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A Year in Review: Diversity and Inclusion

By Kate Wright, founder of The Diversity Network

If ever there’s been a year when D&I genuinely entered the mainstream of business ideology, then it feels to me like 2021 has been the year.

It has been exciting to engage with so many business leaders over the past 12 months on how they will create a diverse workplace and what lies at the heart of an inclusive culture.

There are some obvious drivers for this major shift, including:

-The impact of the ongoing pandemic on how and where we work.

-Improved understanding of how we should support employee wellbeing and good mental health.

-The chronic skills shortage we are experiencing across many industries: if we don’t diversify our traditional talent pools we simply cannot recruit the people we need, and.

-The rise of ESG as a business priority: our employees, clients and investors are demanding to work with organisations who genuinely demonstrate an ethical approach.

But what is the evidence that we are experiencing a culture revolution?

Choice in how we work

Flexible working has been proven to work, employees are demanding choice in where they work, and change in how we deliver our day jobs has been accelerated by years. Hybrid working – offering employees the opportunity to work both at home and in the office – has become the de-facto working model in 2021, at least across our finance and law industries.

The opportunities this presents for inclusion could be truly revolutionary for greater equality, potentially blasting opening the barriers that exist in the workplace for many people with caring responsibilities (particularly women), disabilities, and long-term physical and mental-health conditions.

Breaking taboos

An important conversation around mental health had started in the workplace before the arrival of Covid and, as a result of the pandemic, this conversation and employee wellbeing is fast-tracking from lip service to being a core skill set of people managers.

Menopause is also finally on the map. With women of menopausal age being the fastest-growing demographic in our workplaces, it’s about time.

Race and ethnicity have, compared to other diversity issues, remained somewhat taboo subjects in the workplace in recent years. In 2020, Black Lives Matter certainly helped to raise essential questions and to amplify the voices of anti-racism campaigners and minority communities. But it also sadly seemed to create an excuse for some business leaders to dismiss conversations about racism in the workplace as ‘political’ or ‘too contentious’. I believe this position has rightly started to shift in 2021 and TDN, and our Pride of Jersey Awards co-sponsors, HSBC, were so proud to see local anti-racism campaigner Abigail Atkinson win the high-profile D&I Champion award.

Public action and support

We have seen the emergence of some brilliant supporting tools and campaigns, such as the IoD’s D&I Charter, the Jersey Employer Group’s D&I toolkit, Liberate’s Access scheme and of course fabulously executed virtual Pride event, the Embrace our Differences disability campaign, and TDN’s 51 Employers menopause-friendly workplace pledge.

A few more progressive employers have taken the step of sharing their gender pay gap statistics too – well done RBC and Ogier – and, importantly, acknowledge the ethnicity pay gap in their planning.

All of this very public support and action is so important as it inspires, supports and emboldens other employers to take their own steps to create essential cultural change.

Hopes for 2022

We cannot be complacent though if we wish for Jersey plc to thrive in our fast-changing, uncertain and increasingly diverse world. There are still many employers for whom D&I has not moved beyond basic legislative compliance – and many we know are not even achieving this. 2022 needs to see our collaborative efforts (business, government and third sector) doubled at least to ensure that we truly are experiencing a cultural revolution.

As the financial and mental-health impacts of the pandemic and Brexit continue to be felt by swathes of our Island population, it’s important to ensure that financial wellbeing features in employers’ wellbeing agendas.

Hybrid working really does present a fantastic opportunity for greater equality in the workplace. But only if we manage it well and take a deep dive into the challenges hybrid and remote working present to the way we connect, inspire, manage and promote all of our employees. If we don’t proactively manage this shift as we would any other major business strategy, then we run the risk of creating a two-tier system – one where the current inequalities only widen and people and business performance suffer.

Finally, we urgently need to see real leadership from our Council of Ministers. Government has not kept up with workplace progress. An absence of political leadership and resources holds back our cultural revolution and a more effective, better performing Jersey plc.

I’m looking forward to seeing candidates and parties talking boldly about the change they would like to see in the world and the policies they will be driving to make it happen.

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