What my career can teach you about genuine inclusion

Living with a disability has shown me how much more my fellow practitioners can do to build the business case for diversity, says Chris Wright

It may seem logical, but it is important to respect and harness the talent within your organisation if you are to continue to be successful. Part of this involves recognising that individual career goals fit within a wider organisational context.

Soon after starting my undergraduate studies in Business and Human Resource Management, I realised I needed a clear goal to try to influence developments in HRM to help organisations become more productive and successful.

After graduating with a first-class honours degree, I decided to take a more conventional route into the HR field to further my experience and avoid the immediate pressures of running a commercial enterprise with limited experience. Up until this point, I had only completed short-term administrative and advisory projects, albeit for a wide variety of companies. After seriously considering my career options, I decided to abort a fruitless job search and move onto an MSc in HRM. 

Part of the reason for engaging in either the academic or consulting routes is the increased flexibility they offer when managing my disability. I have Cerebral Palsy, which mainly affects the mobility of all four limbs. When searching for roles or even engaging in temporary work, many professionals do not seem to realise the logistical requirements and support needs that must be considered for myself or others in a similar situation to engage in work – a major issue with conventional interview processes and employment methods. It means the flexibility that the consultancy field provides is very appealing. 

From a purely commercial perspective, I am grateful to have been able to team up with a wide network who have enabled me to share and exchange ideas in communities of practice. Coupled with my HR project research in talent management, I quickly realised there is a business case for integrating research and practice closely in a bid to improve bottom-line performance and workplace behaviour.

For instance, several research studies have found that failure to address diversity and inclusion effectively can reduce innovation potential by up to 40 per cent and reduce business interest from customers by up to £1.8bn across the UK economy annually. What’s more, three quarters of consumers with D&I needs move their business elsewhere if service providers do not accommodate their needs sufficiently.

In situations where there are several barriers to proactive employment, there seems little point in waiting for the status quo to simply happen, when there are many solutions waiting to be developed and implemented. Many of these can improve collaborative workplace cultures and measure the effectiveness of HR practices.

Here are some ideas for improving approaches to diversity and inclusion by maximising the potential of your talent:

  • Introduce systems to help monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion practices

  • Remember that every member of your workforce has a unique talent mix which, if managed effectively, can benefit the whole organisation. It also helps foster collaborative work cultures, which are critical in establishing and maintaining competitive advantage

  • Take advantage of the shift towards flexible working – agree with your talent how individual and organisational objectives can be aligned. Remember, we need to value the creativity and innovation everyone can offer

  • It is important to remember legal compliance is only a minimum requirement. There are more effective ways to manage talent. Proactive management techniques often cost less, or even nothing at all. Encourage a culture of collaboration, underpinned by a positive and inclusive psychological contract, setting out key mutual obligations

  • Think about proactive ways in which organisations can work with talent; tech systems such as Skype, webinar software and networks allow remote interaction. These are also long-term cost-savers

  • Finally, organisations must understand we often can do the work, but we need to be up front about any extra considerations based on our needs

Chris Wright is a director of Talman HR Limited