It’s not the individuals: it’s the work environment

Experts say that if employers are sincere about getting the most for a more diverse team they will take a step back and look at the systemic barriers certain groups, including older people, face.



What makes for workplaces which are truly diverse at every level and reflect the world that we live in, including when it comes to age?

For the experts it’s about looking at the systemic barriers that particular groups face rather than a set of one-off initiatives or one-dimensional programmes that don’t take account of who is being left behind. The idea is that it’s rarely the individuals who need fixing, but the environment around them.

Systemic change

At a recent Talking Talent webinar, diversity and inclusion consultant Khushboo Patel said that everyone needs to play their part in systemic change and to examine the root causes of why some groups are more excluded than others. The problem is that some employers think they are doing okay because they are not getting any pushback from employees, but that may be because they haven’t created an environment in which certain people feel they can voice their opinions, she said. She added that in some cases the commitment to diversity and inclusion is ‘fake’ and there is little accountability or championing of change from the top. True commitment starts with an open mindset, she said.

David Jones, Global Head of Talent and Employee Experience at AXA XL, added: “There’s no point in fixing people when the whole system is rigged against them.” It requires a more holistic, connected approach from HR and business leaders which links up talent attraction, learning and development teams and more and about providing support in the ‘moments that matter’. Jones added that systemic change is slow and needs to be worked on continuously. The problem is that HR likes to do new things rather than burnish things it is already doing.

Long-term thinking

Patel said employers can’t keep throwing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at the wall and hoping something will stick. They need instead to spend time choosing what they think will work best for their organisation and think about the long term.

Jones added that it’s not just about deciding where they want to go and that their policies align. Employers also need to leverage what is already working and have conversations with their people based on the data to persuade them of the business case.

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