Our Women In Asset Management Summit speaker Tali Shlomo, Former People Engagement Director at the Chartered Insurance Institute and most recently, Interim Head of Inclusion and Wellbeing at global law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP, reveals how leadership, wellbeing and race equality are taking centre stage for diversity and (D&I) professionals following the coronavirus pandemic.
People who identify as women, LGBT+ or BAME are 45% to 50% less likely to join an organisation for the perceived lack of its diversity and inclusion (D&I), according to a report by McKinsey & Co.
“That’s a phenomenal insight into the impact of the lack of role models have on attracting new talent,” says Tali Shlomo, “Some incredible talent is being excluded from joining an organisation because of a perceived lack of diversity and inclusion. Perception is reality and the steps we now take are critical. We have a responsibility to create a workplace where we provide the best possible opportunity for everyone to thrive and strive.”
Those steps have been amplified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent Black Lives Matter marches. These events have, according to Shlomo, highlighted three priorities for D&I professionals: leadership, wellbeing and race equality.
She believes that the last few months have demonstrated how leaders showing up in a time of crisis can impact inclusive workplace cultures.
“All of us, including the leaders, are experiencing a pandemic for the first time, and we have seen from the outset how leadership have led us through these times with empathy, vulnerability and compassion.
“This is important from a D&I perspective generally, not just during a crisis,” Shlomo explains. “Inclusion starts with everyone bringing their best self to work, knowing their authentic self is welcomed. And when there is a leader who leads with an emphasis on vulnerability and compassion, you’re more likely to create an environment where people feel more comfortable to show up in their authentic self. This, in turn, creates the culture to perform and deliver in a more meaningful way.
Treat wellbeing like a business strategy
“During COVID-19 we’ve also seen the wellbeing of our colleagues, partners and stakeholders take on a whole new level of priority,” Shlomo reveals.
“I think it’s fundamental that it continues. The reason that wellbeing is part of the D&I conversation and strategy is we are not one dimensional. As individuals, we all have wellbeing; some people may have wellbeing that’s impacted their mental health; some may have been recently diagnosed with a disability or anxieties. Recognising the intersection and impact of wellbeing with diversity and inclusion enables us to create a holistic wellbeing business strategy mindful of everyone’s needs.”
This means realigning initiatives, rather than creating new ones to provide an opportunity to engage with colleagues and be curious about solutions that support a diverse workplace. Looking at how benefits platforms are used and communicated can be a simple yet impactful place to start. And leaders have an active role to play in bringing wellbeing as a strategic business priority post the pandemic.
Black Lives Matter
The third priority is Black Lives Matter and making the workplace more racially inclusive. While education and learning have been heightened in organisations, the opportunity now is transforming these into action. Everyone has a role to play in achieving this, says Shlomo.
She recommends that organisations with ally programmes should take steps to reframe the role they have in the shift needed to move from learning to action and outcomes. Finding new ways of engaging people in the conversation, such as creating a book club, or movie and quiz nights is important where people take the time to step into someone else shoes for a moment, to experience what it means in the workplace.
Shlomo also advises working closely with employee resource groups and networks to develop and deliver sustainable actions which will have significant positive business impact.
“Step into the conversation with devoted listening, curiosity, coupled with suggestions and solutions,” she says. “Show that you are genuinely interested in the issue and people’s lived experiences.
“Then, start to look at your policies and the language used in them. Next, collect as much relevant data as possible and look at what it is telling you. From there, you can start to develop a sustainable action plan, working with the people managers to make a positive difference. And finally, work with your people managers to mitigate any bias.”
Size is not the issue
Whether it’s a multinational organisation or SME, size should not matter. Engagement matters at all levels of an organisation.
“The more we engage with compassion and curiosity, we then start to create a platform for people to have a voice,” Shlomo argues. “We can simply begin with the resources we currently have available within our organisation to start the conversations.”
She continues: “There are so many ways in which we can engage with our colleagues and stakeholders, and sometimes it’s worth remembering that you may have to take small yet meaningful steps to achieve the desired outcome.”
Finally, does she think things will change in the workplace post-COVID-19 for those who have been underrepresented?
“There are many lessons learnt from this time, with more conscious and mindful conversations and decisions being made,” Shlomo believes.
“Managers are starting to question why and to whom they assign high-profile work and whether they are acting without bias. There is more progress we need to make to attract, retain and advance the diverse talent which can only enhance and contribute to the business. COVID-19 and BLM have accelerated some of these initiatives which we must now deliver on.”