Tuesday 19 June 2018

Paul Wolfe: Why an inclusive workplace is a win-win for all

Louise Byrne, Dublin, Sesno Ileozor and Annmarie Reidy, from Limerick, at the Graduate & Intern Day in Dell Limerick last year. Dell has topped the poll for Ireland’s Best Place to Work
Louise Byrne, Dublin, Sesno Ileozor and Annmarie Reidy, from Limerick, at the Graduate & Intern Day in Dell Limerick last year. Dell has topped the poll for Ireland’s Best Place to Work

Paul Wolfe

The way that we work has changed in the last ten years in Ireland, and our working lives look very different to those of previous generations. Shifts in age profiles, education, and migration flows, along with expectations of equality of opportunity and work/life balance, are all impacting employee experiences.

We spend about a third of our lives at work, so it's hardly a surprise that it has a huge impact on our general happiness and our wider achievements in life.

When we are in jobs that we enjoy, we can not only meet our material and economic objectives, but also achieve high levels of satisfaction. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true - if a company's management doesn't lead its staff in a inclusive and meaningful way, it will have a negative impact on individuals and the company as a whole.

Talent is the most powerful resource available to companies for driving competitiveness and boosting prosperity. The presence of many large international companies in Ireland has led to an increasing local demand for diverse talent, and Indeed data has highlighted the gap here between that demand and supply.

Competing to attract and retain diverse talent is now the number one priority for HR managers, but diversity is no longer the end goal, it's only the beginning. There is no point in having a diverse workforce unless you have an inclusive culture in which workers of any gender, age, race, creed or sexuality feel valued and able to thrive.

There is a realisation that in order to attract and retain the best talent, employers need to provide an environment that really "works" for their staff. Remuneration alone may not be enough to hang on to the sort of top talent that separates a good business from a great business.

Inclusive leadership is at the very heart of addressing this issue, and it is not just the tech sector that is taking it seriously. Frances McDormand's call for an "inclusion rider" in her Oscar acceptance speech was evidence of leaders in the entertainment industry looking to leverage their influence to force production companies to provide gender and racial diversity.

An inclusive working environment will lead to productivity, positivity, greater engagement and ultimately higher retention of staff. Equally, non-inclusive work environments can foster feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. As if a more engaged, productive, happy workforce was not reason enough, companies with a diverse workforce have also been found by Gallup research to be 22pc more successful than homogeneous ones.

Like everything in business, for this to be successful, it needs to be led from the top, but it has to happen at every level, and the effort needs to be on-going, not sporadic.

Employees need to understand and share their common goal and know that they are part of a common objective. They need to know that their unique traits and abilities are key to the team effort, and that in an inclusive work environment, the best ideas and talent will always rise to the top.

So who is doing this successfully? Just this month, Indeed released its 2018 ranking of Best Places to Work in Ireland, and importantly, these rankings are determined by employees themselves.

Dell ranked as Ireland's Best Place to Work for the second consecutive year, with the top five rounded out by retailer Next, Apple, Google and homecare provider Comfort Keepers. They have all worked to foster an atmosphere of inclusivity, collaboration, and mission-led thinking among staff, and this is quite literally turning their staff into their best ambassadors.

Obviously feedback like this from staff is one way of measuring a company's progress towards inclusion. It's critical that such measurement - regular, and where possible, in real time - takes place so that strategies can be updated to maximise success.

There's no silver bullet to help a company to succeed in the inclusion challenge. At Indeed "we help people get jobs" - and a strong mission statement goes a long way to creating an inclusive culture, where all employees feel part of the same mission and aim to achieve the same goal.

At our inaugural European Inclusion Forum last week in Dublin, a number of discussions took place with panellists on building an inclusive culture, breaking barriers associated with unconscious bias and ensuring all voices are heard and leveraged inside a company.

We are learning as we go, and this forum and the ideas raised are just the latest step on our journey. It is only when we gather some of the most progressive organisations and leaders together in a spirit of collaboration and learning, that we can properly sow the seeds of inclusion.

Paul Wolfe is SVP, Human Resources at Indeed.com

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