Three important steps towards making equality work for your business.
Research shows that an equal organisation is a good all-rounder helping staff feel happier, more motivated and more likely to stay with your business. The question we need to ask is have we been doing equality well?
The answer might not be what we hoped, whilst there is certainly more work being undertaken now than ever before, how does that reconcile with the 2% drop in women in the sector (down to 11%) or the fact that only 16% of Architects feel comfortable with people knowing that they are gay in a site environment. When it comes to equality there is a bit of untangling to do before we can start to get to the core of the issue, but don’t worry it is worth the work. But to get there we need to appreciate a few things:
1) Equality is not always done well, and when it’s not it costs.
We like to get people to think about this in terms of health and safety. We can all agree (I hope) that having a safe site is a good thing, but we can also agree that some of the things we do in the name of health and safety are not helpful – I use the example of when I was working as a site manager, company policy imposed eye goggles on all site workers. Unfortunately the goggles provided were cheap so scratched easily and misted up. Essentially we visually impaired everyone in the name of health and safety. Now this isn’t to say that we should avoid H&S or equality in fear of getting it wrong. No – we should respect it enough to know that sometimes we will get it right, sometimes we won’t so we need to measure and learn.
2) Just because if feels like a good thing to do, does not mean it will have a good outcome.
It’s great that people want to be active in the field of equality, but sometimes we need to take a step back. Unfortunately a lot of the initiatives I see have great intent but they hadn’t fully thought through the outcomes. For examples clients asking for numbers of women on site can impact upon perceived capability and lead to role without responsibility. That’s not to say we should down tools, but rather you should seek out professionals who understand equality, business and industry to help you get there quicker. Until we respect that equality is impacted on by complex psychological, sociological and organisational factors we are unlikely to progress. In short you can represent yourself in a court of law but there is a reason why people hire a lawyer – equality is no different.
3) Equality needs to be done in line with your business culture.
Get this wrong and you might as well throw your money away. If you have a culture that feels the business is not being fair you have to address this before implementing large portions of work around equality. People are more likely to look after themselves if they don’t trust the business will look after them, implementing equality work in this environment can lead to backlash and increased hostility. This usually drives away the very people you are looking to keep.
The important thing is that by stepping back, understanding your organisational culture, industry constraints and the principles of fairness, inclusion and equality you can make much larger steps forward.
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