Inclusive workplace: Dispel bias and listen for cultural change

How can organisations create a welcoming and inclusive work culture with a remote workforce? In this interview, Simone Fenton-Jarvis calls for a truly human-centric approach to people management, to drive inclusivity and better wellbeing.

What do you see as the biggest barrier to changing the world of work?

I think the biggest barrier is a reluctance to change because people are scared of what they don't know. I think the most impactful thing that we can do to address this is to just listen. We're really, really good at doing surveys and then shelving the survey because we don't like the results, but actually we should not be making decisions based on what 90% of people are saying. Instead, we should start listening to individual feedback. Listening and then taking action are the two things I encourage.

What’s the next change you want to see in the UK workplace?

The next change I'd really love to see in the UK workplace today is a shift to being more human-centric. And I'm not just saying that because I wrote a book about it! This change would really start putting people at the heart of everything that we do and make people, not just finances, the bottom line of the business.

Should the workforce be represented at board-level?

Making sure that that every employee's voice is coming up through the organisation and that employees are represented at every level is crucial, because otherwise we will see a massive disconnect between the upper level of the organisation and the people on the ground. This disconnect will lead to a lack of change, and we will see people leaving voting with their feet because they don’t feel they are being listened to.

I think one of the biggest positives of the pandemic is that the workplace has woken up to the more human side of all our lives. The small things like needing to be at home because you’re having a parcel being delivered are important because those small things add up to a much bigger picture, which is necessary for hybrid and remote to work.

How do you think UK business is managing diversity in the workplace?

There are so many organisations that are genuinely trying to do good things, but I think we need to be careful that we're not positively discriminating and putting people into boxes.

We also need to be more aware of our unconscious bias in the workplace to really drive true diversity, because it's not just about how someone looks, it's also about diversity of opinions and experiences organisations really need to drive that shift.

Diversity also must go all the way through the organisation, with every level asking how it can be more inclusive. And it starts with policies. For example, the whole push we’re seeing around both paternity and maternity leave. We need to ask ourselves if we’re looking at this through an inclusive lens. What happens if you you've got two gay dads? What policies can we put in place there? What do inclusive policies look like from the perspective of neurodiversity? What about for people that have got a disability, people who are parents, people who identify as LGBTQ+? So, to be more inclusive, we need to listen to and respect people’s individual differences and try and bring that through to our space, our policies, our technologies, and our processes.

How can companies achieve a healthy hybrid workplace?

The biggest issue post pandemic is the hybrid workplace. We keep defaulting to talking about the workplace, with talk of working two days here and three days there, but do we know who people are working with and what work they're doing day to day? To really get hybrid working right, we need to make sure that we are looking at all these issues before we focus on where people are working, because the pandemic has taught us that location is largely irrelevant now.

To learn more about the rights and regulations around implementing a hybrid working model, read our employer's guide to flexible working.

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