Corporate Eye

Digital Diversity and the Bottom Line


Most companies now understand that supporting diversity can no longer be filed under “nice to have”. A well-thought-out diversity strategy offers lucrative opportunities for stakeholder dialogue and understanding. It can also be a fantastic aid to recruiting and promote employee development. On so many levels, doing diversity well can help with the company “bottom line”, and that’s not just me saying that either. A recent report (PDF) by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) includes research that shows how diversity initiatives can cut business costs, improve staff and skills retention, and improve performance as well.

Employee groups can be a key part of diversity strategy. By supporting groups that articulate the views and issues of specific groups (e.g. LGBT, Carers), companies can gain insight that leads to multiple benefits. If these groups can be brought together, it can be a great opportunity for idea sharing that everyone benefits from (including the company). But what if the members of those groups are located on multiple sites or in different countries?

It looks like BT might have the answer with an innovative digital idea. Like many companies, they support a range of employee networks focusing on; Women, LGBT, Faith, Disability, Carers, and Ethnic Minorities. In 2014, BT made the decision to bring them all together, to share ideas and celebrate success stores. But that was easier said than done. The employee networks had a combined membership of 6000, with members based all over the UK and beyond. The solution was an online event called “The Big Conversation”.

The first “Big Conversation” was a two day event that involved debate and discussion on a variety of diversity subjects. Employees from BT’s global network were encouraged to contribute to debates, ask questions, and start “Big Conversations” of their own. The event involved online sharing of key facts and figures, and the uploading of over 30 videos and podcasts. There was also information on volunteering and the employee groups themselves, together with opportunities to recognise colleagues.

The collaborative event was a great success, with over 600 people directly involved, over 500 comments posted, and more than 14,000 pages viewed. More than 1,000 new members joined the employee networks following the event, and feedback was extremely positive. “Employee networks offer a two-way communication channel between the business and its members,” said Chris Grant, BT Lead inclusion advisor at the time, “This provides both individuals and BT with a great opportunity to learn and share knowledge across diverse communities, enabling BT to develop new opportunities and meet the needs of its people and customers more closely. In effect, the collaboration between BT & our Employee Networks is a win-win situation”.

All companies are different of course, but let’s finish with some basic diversity best practice that all businesses should be doing, whatever their size. Firstly, there has to be some engaging diversity content on your corporate site. Secondly, ensure there’s some kind of digital forum where diversity can be discussed. It doesn’t have to be as bold as BT’s “Big Conversation” – a well-managed intranet can provide a great platform for idea sharing. For website or intranet, the aim should be to offer opportunities to discuss and collaborate. Remember, diversity isn’t “nice to have” anymore.

Done well, it can really help with the company “bottom line”.

If you’d like to find out more about how to promote diversity and inclusion in the digital workplace, why not drop us a line and we’ll be happy to help.

PS – And thanks to Transform Work UK and The Royal Society for letting me know about BT’s Big Conversation!

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Den Cartlidge

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