First steps in diversity and inclusion work

Diversity and inclusion work is linked to the employer's statutory obligations to promote non-discrimination and gender equality in the workplace. The employer must systematically promote gender equality, non-discrimination and equitable treatment of employees by developing working practices and conditions.

The promotion of inclusion requires genuine will and commitment.

Establishing willingness

One way to start the development of inclusion is through discussion:

  • What does diversity and inclusion mean in your workplace?
  • Why do we want to develop them?
  • How much importance is put on their development?

The primary motivation may be a labour shortage that causes the organization to develop the way it attracts the widest possible range of candidates for vacant positions, and allows recruitment directly from abroad. In this case, it is also important to ensure that different employees feel the organization is a meaningful workplace to which they can commit.

The root motivation can also be considering diversity and inclusion as business advantages and as a strength that the organization wishes to pursue.

Diversity and inclusion can also be seen as a moral obligation, as well as a question of fairness and sustainability. Valuing diversity and being inclusive can also be one of the organization’s values.

As the organization starts to develop diversity and inclusion, the motivation to develop them can also change over time.

In terms of inclusion, it is important to understand the disadvantages of prejudice, stereotypes, unconscious biases and discrimination and the benefits of non-discrimination. Training and workshops related to the subject can provide ample support for discussions at the workplace regarding diversity and inclusion. However, to succeed in developing inclusion, it is essential that management is committed to its development.

Recognizing prejudices and biases

Diversity and inclusion work is largely based on raising awareness of discrimination and efforts to eliminate discrimination. In addition to structural discrimination, the root of discrimination is formed from conscious and unconscious prejudices.

No one is completely free from some sort of prejudice, that is, preconceived ideas. Research shows prejudices and biases guide thinking, behaviour and choices considerably more than people usually realize.

While it is difficult to fully overcome prejudices, recognizing them and understanding their effects can reduce their inequitable and discriminatory effect.

Training can help in identifying prejudices and understanding their effects.

  • It is particularly important that managers and supervisors are able to critically examine and reflect on the extent to which prejudices can lead to biases in their own actions and decision-making, as well as the organization's operations overall. This is why it is advisable to provide management with their own training on identifying unconscious prejudices and their distorting effects, as well as on the occurrence of discrimination in the workplace and in society.
  • Similar training should also be organized for supervisors and all personnel in order to reduce the distorting and negative effects of prejudices in the work community and client work.

An individual training session is not enough to bring about long-term changes to reduce the impact of prejudice. That is why organizations that strive to be inclusive and reduce the impact of prejudices must constantly work on the issue over the long term.

Achieving an inclusive work environment requires long-term and self-reflective activities, in which the equality of the organization, fairness, psychological safety and the inclusion of everyone is developed in a goal-oriented and continuous manner.

Larger organizations, considered pioneers in diversity management, have appointed at least one full-time expert to work on diversity and inclusion. It is important that sufficient human resources and working time is allocated to diversity and inclusion work. This is a prerequisite for the work to be effective.

Assessing the current state of diversity and inclusion

It is good to establish a baseline of the current state of diversity and inclusivity. The assessment obtained by measuring helps in identifying development areas and setting goals. Measurement is also needed in order to monitor the development of diversity and inclusion. The assessment can be carried out as part of the statutory assessment of equality and non-discrimination.

The diversity of personnel can be surveyed in terms of gender, age, educational background and other factors about which the organization generally has knowledge. Collecting information on diversity factors for which information is not available (e.g. language background and belonging to a gender minority) can be carried out by means of anonymous surveys, for example.  In addition to mapping diversity in general, measuring it in different units, positions and tasks will provide an overview of the organization's inclusion and related development needs.

Personnel experiences regarding inclusion can be studied using surveys and interviews. Surveying the experience of inclusivity should be carried out in a way that allows analyzing and comparing the experiences of various different groups of respondents. This is important, as the experience of those belonging to minorities may differ significantly from the personnel average. In inclusion work in general it is advisable to pay particular attention to groups that are either under-represented in the organization or are in a weaker position in society.

Belonging to two or more minority groups significantly increases the risk of discrimination and exclusion. That is why the intersectionality of various identities should also be taken into account. For example, the situation and experiences of women with an immigrant background can differ significantly from those of other women or men with an immigrant background.

Different ways to measure and monitor diversity and inclusion

  • Include questions regarding diversity and inclusion in well-being at work surveys or similar
  • Individual surveys on diversity and the experience of inclusion
  • Periodic surveys to monitor the development of inclusivity
  • Interviews

Diversity and inclusion can also be assessed in other ways, such as examining pay differentials between various people in the same position, the diversity of leadership and management, and monitoring personnel turnover in the organization.

The results of surveys should be communicated openly to all employees and key stakeholders.  Some pioneering organizations in diversity and inclusion work, for example, publish their diversity data and its development on their public websites. This communicates the organization's investment in promoting diversity and inclusion to clients and financiers, as well as to potential job seekers in a transparent manner.  

Setting and monitoring goals

Diversity and inclusion work requires a strategic approach:

  • Setting goals
  • Planning and carrying out the necessary development activities
  • Assessing the achievement of objectives

Setting goals is guided by surveying the current situation. The goals should be made as practical as possible.

Examples of objectives:

  • “In the year x, x% of people in supervisory positions will belong to minority x.”
  • “The organization has become more inclusive in a way that increases the experience of the inclusion by different groups.”

The development measures must be as practical as possible and tied to a specific schedule. It is essential that sufficient human resources are allocated to the development measures.  When setting goals, it is also worth deciding when achieving them will be followed up and evaluated. It should also be decided who is responsible for monitoring and evaluation.