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Equality, Inclusion and Employee Engagement by Jasmine Gartner

Diversity isn’t just about the protected characteristics of the Equality Act of 2010. It’s also about employee engagement and creating an inclusive environment.

About a year ago, I walked into a room to deliver a training session on diversity and inclusion. There were 30 people, three of them women. It was for a mid-size public sector organisation in Sussex.

There was a deadly silence in the room that morning. When the manager who had organised the training walked into the room, that silence deepened into a palpable antagonism. Not a single person made eye contact with her; not a single person said a word to her.

She started off by saying, “all right, lads, ready for today’s training? It’ll be something to go home and tell your wives about tonight!” She went on to make it very clear that she saw them as one homogenous group of white, English, straight, working class men. She had ticked practically every box from the Equality Act of 2010 in her discrimination!

Once the manager had left the room, I introduced myself, and then asked the employees to go around the room and introduce themselves.

Would you be surprised to find out that in that group, there was an incredible diversity of experience?

One man, near retirement age, had spent his childhood in India, only coming to the UK after partition in 1948. Another man hinted – not so subtly – about his IRA past. A woman told us about the year she’d spent in Tunisia, where she met her husband. A few people were single, several were gay.

While the Equality Act is a really useful guide for ensuring that you and your organisation don’t discriminate, by identifying the protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, and sex).

However, it is not a blueprint for inclusivity and innovation.

What is the difference between diversity and inclusion? Look around – you’ll see diversity, or difference. Inclusion, on the other hand, is when we take the time to listen to each other’s stories, and get to know each other.

Inclusion is about talking. Inclusion is the consideration of the breadth of human experience. That conversation often has an important result: innovation.

If you’re interested in improving how your organisation runs, then having a diverse workforce – in terms of experience, as well as the protected characteristics – is absolutely essential.

And, last but not least, being inclusive doesn’t just help to ensure that you abide by the law: it’s a big step in the direction of engaging your employees.


About Jasmine

Jasmine Gartner is a trainer, writer and speaker on employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias and organisational culture. She has trained and spoken in the private, public and third sectors. Her clients include B&Q, Harper Collins, and United Welsh Housing Association. She is the author of Employee Engagement: a little book of Big Ideas. You can also read her column and articles onHRZone.

If you’d like to find out more about equality and inclusion in the workplace, Jasmine will be speaking at our event on 9 June – Equality and Inclusion in the Workplace: the Law and Employee Engagement Workshop. Find out more here.


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