Dr Joanna Fitzgerald on How Organizations Based in the UK Build and Maintain a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce

Cape Group are currently gathering input from leading practitioners and academics on cutting edge thinking and best practice in creating a more inclusive working environment for all employees. By interviewing practitioners and academics from the UK, Europe, Singapore and Australia, this research shares knowledge and experience in order to support Diversity & Inclusion practitioners in achieving their business goals.

Dr Fitzgerald was invited to take part in this important global initiative and was interviewed last month. Dr Fitzgerald is a globally recognized expert in the areas of Organisation Psychology and Workplace Diversity. Dr Fitzgerald provided Cape Group with valuable insights on how organizations based in the UK build and maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Dr Fitzgerald pointed out that a lot of good work has already been done in the UK and there is currently a substantial change in emphasis that could accelerate the benefits if widely implemented. The challenge is helping organisations move away from building an internal D&I business case based only on individual talent and rights, to developing an externally focused D&I business case based on reputation, external market viability, social value and sustainability.  She described case studies in large listed global companies of applying this approach and highlighted the explicit use of ‘positive identity through partnership’ for minority ethnic groups and the investment in ‘global mind set and intercultural capability’ to engage an increasingly diverse customer base.

In order to achieve a truly inclusive workplace, Dr Fitzgerald suggested that building awareness of and recognising different needs will allow organisations create psychologically safe working environments and service user and customer contact points which address the different inclusion needs of all groups and move from ‘bolt on’ to a ‘built in’ approach to diversity and inclusion.

During the interview, Dr Fitzgerald explained ‘Our growing research base shows that while inclusive approaches and diverse groups maybe slower to gain productivity, long term productivity, decision making and sustainability is improved.’ She indicated that we can shape new behaviour and eventually changes in ‘attitude’  through accepting that we are all biased and further that the experience of group membership and identity can have profound effects on the activation and impact of our biases.

She said ‘enabling behavioural control can generate immediate behaviour change and a longer-term shift in social norms. Health policy is already using the theory of planned behaviour and other behaviourally focused approaches to help them enable change at the system level and this model has useful application in other areas and industries.’

There is a lot of debate about terminology; equal opportunities, diversity and inclusion, but it’s shifting again.  Organisations need to move to equal representation, making variety, or difference, a critical resource for sustainability and for the organisational self-awareness essential to stay ‘trustworthy’ as the demand for transparency grows and openness becomes an increasing social norm.’ Dr Fitzgerald added.

By giving people the right tools, modelling and shaping positive behaviour in the workplace, organisations can move past politically correct to human.  As a result, our employees and our communities around us will develop greater intercultural capability, which will drive new business opportunities and lead to improved organisational and social outcomes.’  Dr Fitzgerald concluded that building positive identities through network structures, recognising the shifting nature of influence and power, internally as well as externally will enable organisations become more agile as brands become increasingly mobile.’

The full report, containing contributions and viewpoints from Dr Joanna Fitzgerald and other global industry leaders, academics, community and not-for-profit organizations will be published in February 2014. The report will be available on Cape Group’s website. To find out more about Dr Fitzgerald’s work please go to http://www1.aston.ac.uk/lss/research/research-centres/interland/news-and-events/2014/cape-groups-global-research/