Equity and equality: what it really means in the workplace

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  • Equity and equality: what it really means in the workplace
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Companies must practise what they preach when it comes to inclusive workplaces, writes RLB’s Head of Culture and People, Sarah Draper

Unsurprisingly in my role as Head of People and Culture at RLB, I spend a lot of time in discussions with other RLB stakeholders about what initiatives we can introduce to make our organisation a more attractive place to work.

If there is one thing that is evident in all these conversations, it is the drive to bring equity across our teams.

Inclusive workforce

At RLB, we want to attract and retain as inclusive a workforce as possible. At present 31.5% of all employees and 25% of our senior leadership team are female.  

To be the employer of choice for all, we need equality. This means providing everyone with the same access and information – for example, in relation to promotion processes and assessment.

However, we also need equity – providing fair opportunities for all employees based on their individual needs.

This includes adapting our recruitment or assessment processes, our learning and development programmes, ensuring we are being inclusive and adapting for health conditions and disabilities, and providing more support to some employees where required.

Impact awareness

We need to create greater awareness and educate everyone in our sector, ensuring that they are conscious of how their behaviours may impact others and helping them modify those behaviours.

Some initiatives we have introduced to help support these behaviours include reverse mentoring, helping senior leaders understand what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes and the day-to-day challenges that they face.

Behavioural change

So, how do we embed those behavioural changes to ensure we are practising what we preach? This is the real litmus test.

We all know what policies we need to have in place and what behaviours we want our teams to adopt. But we must also ensure that these behaviours are actually happening in our workplaces.

Our first step was to create a robust competency framework that is accompanied by behavioural prerequisites, which everyone including our board and partner are measured against.

This is accompanied by our cultural rock, which encourages everyone not to walk by and gives permission to call out inappropriate comments, behaviours or action.

Employee voice

This, of course, all ties into the power of the employee voice at RLB. We do this either through communities such as RLB’s REACH (Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage) or by encouraging our team to share their personal stories.

We still have a way to go to say that our industry is equitable. Yet we feel we are making progress when it comes to equality and believe that it is only our people and our culture that can really help us make this seismic change.

This is an abridged version of an article that appeared in CIOB People. To read the full article, please visit CIOB People.