Building an Inclusive Environment for Everyone

| 22 July 2020

Rob Ferris, CEO of Konica Minolta Business Solutions (UK) Ltd discusses the need for inclusivity, how Konica Minolta has approached it, and what businesses can do to foster an environment where everyone can be themselves, enjoy the same opportunities and reach their full potential.

The dramatic events of 2020 have given us all pause for thought and deep reflection. From the COVID-19 pandemic issues creating social and economic uncertainty (and very real danger to human life), to the Black Lives Matter campaign highlighting the continued inequalities that mar many societies around the world, the ways in which we all interact with one another have been under close scrutiny.

We have all had to take stock of not only our own lives, assumptions, unconscious bias, and values, but also question how our society treats all individuals and communities that make up the rich human tapestry of the world. There has been a lot of reflection and learning taking place which can only be beneficial for us all in the long run.

Building a truly inclusive society does not happen overnight, but there are steps we can all take to ensure we all play our part in aiming for this essential goal.

Respect and belonging

At Konica Minolta we have a very clear ethos when it comes to treating our team, customers, and partners with the respect they deserve as human beings. This extends to any and every gender, race, creed, sexuality, disability, or lifestyle choice.

It is one of the key things that drew me to my role at Konica Minolta, this is a company that, at a core level, fully supports and celebrates the diversity of its team as individuals, aiming to ensure there is a comfortable environment where everyone can be themselves.

Supporting an inclusive culture

 In 2015 we set up our Women’s Network to drive gender equality, but we know we need to do more to build a completely inclusive environment for all.

June was Pride Month and this year became the perfect launching point for Konica Minolta’s new LGBTQ+ Network. Our networks provide a safe space for employees to have real, honest conversations on the work-life experience. They are essential to enhancing a culture of inclusivity and ensuring people feel able to bring their whole selves to work. Having networks gives us all the opportunity to educate ourselves, forge strong relationships and help build a culture that we are proud of, something that reflects on the business both internally and externally.

Sadly, there is evidence that some LGBTQ+ people still face issues in the workplace. A report commissioned by Stonewall showed that more than a third of LGBT staff (35 percent) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination. This is a disturbing statistic in an age where society and attitudes within the workplace need to demonstrate an enlightened approach with regards to acceptance and inclusivity.

Responsibility for all

Inclusivity is something that can only be truly achieved if everyone supports it. As the Black Lives Matter campaign aptly demonstrated, the only way to make changes for better is for everyone to be aware of the problems and to ensure we stand together to solve them.

A key part of Konica Minolta’s Networks is to not only encourage people to join as interested members, but also for other members of our team to participate as Allies. For example, Allies can act as support networks to LGBTQ+ employees and help champion the message that diversity is a key strength of our whole organisation.

Equally for Allies, being part of a network group is a great opportunity to broaden your knowledge, understand experiences different to your own, and assist in creating an inclusive culture. This also enhances productivity and business success, as well as making the workplace more comfortable and friendly to all.

The journey to inclusivity

Like Konica Minolta, every organisation needs to have inclusive policies and procedures in place, but this only works if the whole team is vigilant and responsive to issues.

It’s vital that discrimination is dealt with head-on, and all employees should have consistent and ongoing training on how to foster an inclusive workplace for all. Apathy can be just as big a threat to inclusivity as direct discrimination, as it passively supports it.

Having a diverse team is a considerable strength for any organisation and its vital that everyone is heard, can express different opinions and points of view, and be themselves, in a safe environment. Inclusivity is still a journey, but one which must be taken and one which makes a business (and society as a whole) stronger and better able to deal with the challenges ahead.