Managing D&I on low or no budget
By Jo Faragher on 11 November 2020
With restructuring activities happening at many organisations and sales negatively impacted by the pandemic, it’s likely that people driving D&I activities in those organisations are now under pressure to show that every penny counts. Furthermore, in smaller businesses where diversity initiatives may sit alongside employees’ other core business activities, there’s often simply not the budget to spend on expensive consultancy or tools available.
Thankfully, the shift to virtual working brought about by coronavirus has led many D&I professionals to get creative and work with what they have. Thames Water, for example, was able to build on inclusion work it had already started and make the most of virtual working technology. The organisation had launched ‘inclusion cards’ during National Inclusion Week in 2018 – a deck of cards with three scenarios reflecting a protected characteristic, used alongside face-to-face unconscious bias training – and brought these out again for virtual sessions.
Sarah Gosiewska, inclusion and engagement manager explains: “In teams people pick a card and discuss a scenario, reflecting on if that scenario were to happen how might that make an employee or customer feel and crucially what can each of us individually and collectively do to ensure that Thames Water is an inclusive and great place to work. We had recently introduced Microsoft Teams as part of our IT transformation programme, so when the first lockdown started we seized this opportunity to move our inclusion card workshops from a physical pack in a team meeting or in a workshop to an interactive virtual pack.”
Training the trainer
Gosiewska and her team also set up ‘train the trainer’ sessions so that people had the skills to facilitate these virtual sessions. “During the virtual sessions, we show an introductory video on unconscious bias and we ask participants to use the hands raising function on Microsoft Teams to share when they have made snap judgements that turned out not to be correct. We then select a handful of people to share these experiences and discuss what we can learn from them, thinking about slowing down decision making, thinking about why we are thinking in this way and holding ourselves to account, challenging these snap judgements,” she adds.
“We then put up images and then use voice-overs asking people if they had to select a successor for their role who they would choose and why – for this we ask employees to type into the comments 1, 2, 3 or 4 then select a handful of people to share with who they selected and why. This helps participants challenge bias within and think about why they are thinking certain ways.” The team makes use of additional functions in Teams such as raising hands so people can add their views, and lunch and learn webinars are recorded so people can watch at a time that suits them. All of this has been done with zero additional investment.
Use your network
Monica Stancu, programme manager for D&I at the Royal Academy of Engineering, has been able to draw on the industry network within which the organisation operates. The Academy is a charity and works with employers to promote diversity, helps engineering institutions to build a D&I progression framework, and also runs its own internal D&I programmes “so we can lead with integrity and by example”, she explains. The organisation was able to bring in speakers from its network to conduct panel sessions for International Women’s Day and Black History Month, while inclusion is embedded into day-to-day processes, driven by D&I leads in each team. “Diversity and inclusion is an explicit value at the Academy, part of how we work,” says Stancu. The D&I leads meet three times a year to reflect and share best practice.
“There are other small things we do that cost nothing, such as sending an agenda for an event in advance, including pronouns in email signatures and a buddy system for new starters,” she adds. “We’ve also signed up to Business in the Community’s Race at Work charter, which is free, and I’ve given workshops at professional institutions, who have in turn shared expertise with us.”
Stancu offers the following advice to other organisations looking to embed D&I rather than busting their budget:
- Listen to employees – you might run an employee survey anyway, so include some questions on diversity in that
- Identify champions – “I know the specific D&I interests of a lot of people as we’re a small organisation; unofficial champions who can promote a message at meetings and bring their perspective as managers,” she says.
- Measure your progress – even without an expensive HR system, it’s possible to collect data. The Academy used the free service Survey Monkey to run a survey on disability provisions, for example.
- Celebrate success and communicate – spend time communicating about the resources that already exist, rather than investing in new ones.
Running D&I on a lower budget need not mean eschewing external support entirely. Vaishali Shah at Culturally Minded, a cultural consultancy, says there are often sources of ‘informal consultancy’ that businesses have not tapped before. “D&I initiatives do not need to be expensive. The important thing is to educate yourself and members of your organisation so you can all learn and be better prepared,” she says. “Look at what other businesses are doing; talk to friends and colleagues. Listen and learn from other perspectives and experiences. Do a review of your own business – are your work colleagues of diverse ethnicities? What about your suppliers – are they inclusive? What are you putting out on your social media sites and website? There are also various free resources available on the internet. Training is also available; some courses are free.”
Her consultancy offers a ‘power-hour’ where businesses can investigate actionable steps they can put into practice. She acknowledges that short bursts of support like this will not be a ‘fix all’ solution but can help organisations know where to start. “It is much more cost effective to hire someone for an hour or on a retainer basis rather than having a full-time diversity and inclusion expert on your staff, if you do not require that at this stage,” she adds. “Paying a consultant for a series of one-hour follow up sessions or on a retainer basis requires a much smaller investment.” As a business evolves, they can decide where to direct their investment in a more flexible way.
Gosiewska says that putting more effort into how D&I sessions are facilitated plays a huge part in their success. “That’s why we facilitate train the trainer workshops, role playing questions that might be asked or opinions that may be given in order to equip our D&I champion facilitators to be able to deliver the sessions in the most effective ways. We pair the facilitators up for the first couple of sessions and always provide support centrally.
She adds: “If there can be a silver lining to this pandemic it is that it has enabled companies to stop and think and adapt to different ways of working. I would urge businesses to take this opportunity to think about future ways of working, what the future possibilities might be and how we can ensure a diverse and inclusive society where everybody feels able to bring their whole selves to work to perform at their best.”
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