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Keeping the diversity and inclusion message fresh

Companies are embracing innovative ways, such as storytelling and photography, to really engage employees

To keep diversity and inclusion fresh, it helps to innovate new ways of delivering the message.

“Some of our member companies are engaging in ally projects, where training is given to one person to speak for others who might struggle to speak up in a difficult situation,” says Kara McGann of Ibec.

“We’re also seeing the introduction of a disability passport, whereby a person agrees the reasonable accommodation they need to be able to do their job to the fullest extent and so, in the case of promotion or getting a new boss, they don’t have to tell their story all over again.”

Employers are increasingly checking their job advertisements for bias too, putting the text through apps such as Gender Decoder for Job Ads, and Textio, to ensure language is gender-neutral.


“It’s about only putting in the essential job skills required for the job, to make sure there is not something in your language that is putting people off. In particular, we know the research shows that women will only apply if they can do 100 per cent of the job spec, while men will have a go when they see they have 60 per cent of the skills or experience required.”

Organisations are being increasingly proactive on this front, reaching in to their staff cohort if they see women aren’t coming through sufficiently and asking why they haven’t applied for a role, suggesting that they do so.

“It’s about encouraging women to say what their concerns are, and then addressing them. It’s about innovating lots of little stuff, which all adds up to a more diverse and inclusive culture,” says McGann.

Storytelling is a really effective way of engaging people with diversity and inclusion. Deloitte used this very effectively recently with two innovative photography projects.

“Taking a social advocacy research method, PhotoVoice, not used in the corporate world before, we facilitated people at Deloitte to share their stories using photography,” says Valarie Daunt, Deloitte’s partner in human capital management.

The first project focused on cultural diversity, with 11 people from nine different countries working in Deloitte Ireland taking photos symbolising the benefits and challenges of working and living in Ireland.

“We then created an art exhibition and a catalogue to showcase their captioned photos to their leaders and colleagues. The visual impact of the photos alongside the personal stories created a step change in engagement across the firm, as people were able to connect with the individual and the stories in a totally different way to data from a focus group or survey,” she says.

‘Incredibly powerful’

The second PhotoVoice project was with 11 parents, who took photos representing what it is like to juggle having a family with progressing a career at Deloitte. “The impact of this project was incredibly powerful as we had a combination of mothers and fathers with very different family situations participating, in addition to a member of the executive group. The honesty of the parents around the challenges they can face told a very compelling and impactful story. It also provided clear insights as to what supports they value and where Deloitte can make a positive impact. The PhotoVoice method helped us get under the skin of an inclusion issue in a totally new and fresh way, which really engaged people and brought the conversation to a deeper level than before.”

There are smaller innovations organisations can start implementing straightaway, such as creating an ‘inclusion moment’ at the start of meetings, where the chair may ask if anyone has an inclusion story to share.

What is innovative about it is that it borrows from best practice in another sector. “Organisations where safety is a key concern, such as construction and energy, sometimes have a similar ‘safety moment’ to continually reinforce the importance of a key priority within the organisation,” says Daunt.

“Taking two minutes at the start of each meeting is another way of reminding people of the importance placed on inclusion and a good way of sharing stories, which people remember more easily.”

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times