Improving diversity has been found to benefit organisations on some of the issues that the planning profession faces - attracting and retain talent and thinking differently to tackle major issues. Additional benefits are cited as being improved financial performance and customer orientation. So, what steps can organisations take then to reap these benefits? Where do organisations start? Below are some examples of what organisations are starting to do with the aim of improving diversity and move towards greater inclusion and equality.
1. Diagnose the issues
The first consideration before taking any action is establishing what the issues are through collecting and analysing data on your workforce. Doing this once obviously will not be enough and it should be monitored. Understanding the issues or challenges through data will assist in identifying opportunities or areas of focus. There is no point working on gender balance if that data shows that is not an issue.
2. Recruiting differently
Recently chairing a session on equality, diversity and inclusion at the POS Development Management and Spatial Planning Joint Conference, one of the main topics was recruitment. Many organisations are changing the way they recruit to make it more equitable. This ranges from using software that removed biases for mass recruiting to smaller interventions such as removing the names on CVs so called ‘naked cvs’. An interesting point raised by one of the panellists was that adverts for jobs can use language that is biased towards certain people. Using unbiased language in job adverts can assist with broadening the appeal of any job being advertised.
3. Work flexibly
Many organisations already have formal flexible working for their employees. Flexi-time, as it is usually known, is where people work longer hours and build up time to take off. More and more, however, people are working different ways - some days starting earlier or later to allow for other commitments such as picking up kids or caring for someone. Some people can accrue time off in lieu for working weekends. There are lots of different ways to explore and deliver flexible working that can work for a range of sizes of organisation. Allowing employees some flexibility allows them to balance work and life – it helps with retaining employees. The main point with flexible working is it should be for everyone.
4. Become accredited
Attending an event on Building Gender at UCL recently, one diversity and inclusion expert said that organisations can gain an accreditation to become Disability Confident. It something that all scales of organisations can join up to.
5. Set up, Join and support diversity networks
Many public sector and larger private sector organisations have set up networks – women’s, LGBT, BAME and Disability networks. These make changes to organisations and offer support. However, these are large organisations and in planning the size and scale can vary greatly. Where it may not be possible to set up networks, due to scale, organisations can become allies to them or support colleagues and employees attending events or joining committees. In planning this includes Women in Planning, Planning Out, BAME in Property, Women in Property and Urbanistas to name a few. Nationally, there are other organisations such as Purple which aims to change the conversation around disabilities and the workplace. By supporting these networks, it demonstrates that organisations are aligned to their causes. These networks can also be great networking opportunities and CPD on these issues for organisations.
The above shows there is something everyone could be doing to change practices in planning to improve greater diversity and inclusion in the planning profession.
Charlotte Morphet is principal policy planner at Waltham Forest Council and National Co-Chair of Women in Planning