However, this transformational change has to be absolute and genuine. Any superficial attempt to be seen to have a diverse workforce is destined to result in a lacklustre form of change, without longevity or the full backing of colleagues. Getting people engaged always makes a huge difference; if the team buys into a new workplace culture, they’ll be prepared to go the extra mile and play their part in achieving positive change. Any cultural shift must feel real and, what’s more, colleagues have to witness and experience the necessary changes for it to be truly meaningful.
In short, when it comes to employee diversity, there has to be a blended workforce in train, including both male and female candidates from a mix of ethnic backgrounds, with a meaningful representation from the LGBT community.
If a company fully embraces such diversity, it can broaden its skill base and become far more innovative in the process. Having changed some of our own strategies at Equity Housing Group in the last 12 months, we have a better understanding of how important it is for colleagues to feel accepted at work and the positive impact that can have in terms of what can be achieved in the organisation as a whole.
Championing equality and diversity gives social housing better access to new ways of working. What’s more, by creating an environment of trust, acceptance and empowerment, colleagues have a sense of pride, in themselves and in the organisation. This sense of pride contributes to an improved working environment and allows for greater results, overall.
It’s important to make sure everyone is included, no matter what their individual role, when going through a period of transformational change. While an executive team may be the driving force behind change within a company, it’s the frontline colleagues who work with customers and who know what works well and how best to implement change.
In social housing specifically, your team should always reflect your customer base. By embracing diversity, different perspectives, views and insights can be gained, resulting in a more positive experience for your customers. This is especially important for groups that are underrepresented and who don’t have a voice.
We’re actively seeking to engage with our diverse customer groups. Equity is a member of HouseProud North West, a networking group of housing providers keen to develop and implement best practice in supporting LGBT colleagues and customers. In partnership with HouseProud members, we recently delivered a conference for LGBT customers at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. Those who attended were given the opportunity to discuss what is important to them and what they feel their social housing should provide. This offered a much-needed voice to our LGBT communities, who felt accepted and listened to in a safe environment.
Ultimately, we want to embrace and build on this type of activity. Adopting a policy of acceptance and inclusivity generates better results for both the team and our customers. In order to create a truly successful programme of change, the public sector should consider the above and work hard at creating a diverse workforce – and not just pay lip service to it.