Stronger in the battle for talent. An article by Stefan Duran, Head Sales elipsLife Benelux
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are becoming an increasingly prominent part of policy in large and small organisations. The new Corporate Governance Code provides an ideal guide for setting up a good D&I policy.
Consultations on the revised Dutch Corporate Governance Code started at the beginning of this year. To better reflect the world we live in today, a number of modifications will be made to this code of conduct for publicly traded companies, which dates back to 2003.
Diversity and inclusion
One of the improvements in the proposed code concerns diversity and inclusion. For example, it provides a much more specific definition of diversity: “all aspects and personal characteristics in which people differ from each other, including visible characteristics such as gender identity, age and ethnicity, as well as less visible characteristics such as occupational disabilities and sexual orientation.”
Formulating D&I policy
Until now, diversity has been limited simply to the question “do you have enough women on the board of directors?” Another important adjustment is that companies will have to formulate a D&I policy. In this respect, inclusion is defined as “an organisation’s ability to create a culture in which every employee feels valued and respected, so that employees are given equal opportunities regardless of their identity and the progression of diverse talent to the top is facilitated.”
Thus, large organisations must open their doors to everyone, and must also actively ensure that all employees genuinely feel at home.
Tool for HR
These new guidelines are a useful tool for HR to create its own D&I policy. While the code has been designed to prove a means of self-regulation for large companies, it often guides developments throughout the business community, including smaller organisations. It sparks discussions about D&I policy. As more attention is paid to D&I at the highest management level, it becomes easier for HR to contribute and lay down its own vision.
A good D&I policy can benefit an organisation in many ways, including increased engagement, lower absenteeism and fewer departing employees. But whether you have a good policy usually remains unclear. Employees who leave a company won’t often state that they were affected by poor D&I policies.
This is something we hear in conversations with reintegration experts and partners. If someone is out sick because of a conflict in the workplace, they will hardly ever say: I don't feel taken seriously because of my orientation or disability. If people don’t report this themselves, you can’t measure whether your D&I policy increases someone’s level of incapacity for work. However, the suspicion may be there.
Knowing is measuring
So by paying more attention to D&I, you first find out what any lack of D&I is costing your organisation. Next, you can prevent hidden outflow of staff and reduce absenteeism. You might say: knowing is measuring in this case. First, get people to talk out about their experiences with your D&I policy. Also consider how you deal with D&I during an employee’s first two years of being out sick: what could you do to find out whether the absenteeism is related to D&I?
D&I policies can also be useful in terms of prevention. For example, we have found that some highly qualified technical staff leave, and in some cases exhibit characteristics of the autism spectrum, because of their profile – gifted and highly technical in nature. This can sometimes lead to stress and absenteeism. Once you know that, you can use specialised service providers to support these employees in dealing with their particular characteristics in their daily work, to help them feel more at home.
Also consider group effects. In a diverse team, a certain group may dominate. There are formal and informal meetings where other things are discussed. I know from my own experience that in a team made up of slightly more men than women, such conversations tend to be about mobility: cars, for example. One woman stated that she often went to deal with emails during breaks because she had no interest in the topic. And, of course, there may also be men who are not interested in cars and don’t feel included. Such details allow you to assess whether an organisation has an inclusive culture. Ask your employees if they feel welcome at ‘the party’ and dare to step onto the dance floor themselves.
A third example is the construction industry: the TV show Vrouwen die Bouwen (‘Women Who Build’) follows women who work in this typically male-dominated world. As soon as they enter the workplace, the atmosphere changes. As it turns out, these women feel perfectly at home there, but they have to do more to be accepted. And that isn’t very inclusive, although construction may be one of the most difficult environments in this respect because most of the people working in it are male.
Stronger in the battle for talent
Get your D&I policy right, and your operating result will improve. People become more engaged and more productive and won’t be out sick as often. These are all factors that make you better equipped in the battle for talent. So read through the new code and take inspiration from it.