An inclusive workplace culture is everything
Mel Kerrison, a Bid Manager for Leidos UK, shares how the company is a forerunner in dispelling the myths around age related bias, an approach that supports a diverse and inclusive culture and maintains productivity.
There any many times in life that we become very conscious of our age. From imposed restrictions, such as the legal age to vote to the social stigma of ‘being too old to wear that.’ Whilst the former is defined and grounded, the social barriers are perhaps less tangible. And this becomes a problem when these social biases enter the workplace. By understanding where these biases come from, we can create greater awareness, dispel myths and consciously select high performing diverse teams, which is a step in the right direction. Leidos is actively encouraging equality and inclusion on multiple levels including gender, age and sexual orientation; recognising this improves team performance, fosters innovation and improves marketplace reputation.
Research shows that diversity is good. According to McKinsey’s Delivering Through Diversity report, “gender, generational, ethnic and cultural diversity, particularly within executive teams, continue to be correlated to financial performance across multiple countries worldwide.”
Companies with the most diverse executive teams are 33 percent more profitable. Leidos has recognised the importance, and also the benefit of diversity, creating a culture of diversity and inclusiveness across a number of initiatives, professional networks, education and community support projects. This effort has been recognised by achieving a perfect score on the 2018 Corporate Equality Index and attaining best in class in several categories in the 2018 Bloomberg Gender Equality Index. Leidos knows that diversity is good, and according to McKinsey, will be reaping the performance benefits as a result.
Psychology explains why we stereotype
We live in a society where we stereotype difference. We alienate generations. Many may recognise the stereotypical phrases of ‘a dinosaur’ or ’12-year-old kid.’ We compartmentalise people and treat them according to the group we put them in.
At Leidos, the culture is one of openness and transparency, providing platforms to have discussions and raise awareness of issues. It is by talking about these topics that as a company collectively everyone becomes conscious of the unconscious. This includes employee resource groups, such as the Young Professionals Network or the Military Alliance Group, which not only provide a forum to discuss topics but can provide people with the tools to help them challenge bias inside or outside of work. Social events in the workplace are key to dispelling myths enforced by stereotypes.
What ages receive bias?
Millennials are often the most vocal about the biases they receive. Complaints about the upcoming generation entering the workforce are nothing new. The problem with today, as compared to the early '90s is that we are now in a digital age where this type of content spreads fast – a concept known as millennial bashing. And because this millennial bashing is so visible in social media, millennials often enter the workforce on the defensive.
The way to overcome age related discrimination is by a cultural shift. Leidos delivers diversity training to its workforce, including ‘An introduction to uncovering and mitigating unconscious bias.’ As an ISO44001 company, it is recognised that Leidos is a collaborative organisation. To be truly collaborative, one must be aware of the diverse people they will meet on any given interaction. Treating people as individuals and recognising their value as an individual is the first step in dispelling stereotypes and bias.
So what does this mean?
Diversity for diversity’s sake is not enough to effect real change. Hiring employees with varied perspectives and backgrounds is merely a stepping stone to a united culture. The rest of the answer lies in facilitating inclusiveness whereby everyone is valued and group differences are embraced. The result is empowered employees who openly share their diverse perspectives.
Recruiting for diversity is hard. There is a fine line between trying to attract different people and positively discriminating. Leidos has achieved this balance by working with different external partners such as Out&Equal and Diversity Inc to ensure that recruitment drives appeal to as diverse an audience as possible, encouraging candidates from all backgrounds.
Leidos is therefore a forerunner in dispelling the myths of age-related bias. Maintaining a diverse culture and inclusive environment is an ongoing activity and requires people with different experiences to make it happen.
Additional reading in the I&D area:
- Diversity of thinking is the future of our workplace
- Once worried she wasn't technical enough, Elise McGill is now an IT project manager
- Being digitally inclusive
Leidos is a global technology, science, and engineering organisation on a mission to make the world safer, healthier, and more efficient.