15 easy(ish) actions for everyday inclusivity

Toolkit / 01 March 2023

All Real Estate Balance members, regardless of size or what part of the industry they operate in, are on a journey when it comes to developing inclusive workplace cultures.

There’s an informative section in our industry-leading D&I Toolkit all about everyday actions for inclusivity, but we wanted to use this page to highlight some of the things our members have told us are working for them.

Not every idea will be for everyone, but we hope the initiatives highlighted here are food for thought!

1. Hiring. Realistically, we are starting with probably the hardest of the 15, but it is also one that is absolutely crucial to get right. There is so much great guidance out there on the topic of hiring in the context of EDI, including in our Toolkit, but a few of the things we think organisations should be implementing include neutral language in job postings, advertising roles in a range of places, blind screening practices, asking your diverse talent for referrals, having diverse interview panels and focusing on ‘skills, not schools’.

2, Mentoring. We believe mentoring is a win-win! It allows mentors to develop leadership skills and share their knowledge and experiences while mentees benefit in many ways – from receiving independent advice and constructive feedback to focusing their goalsetting and gaining valuable industry insights. We arrange regular speed mentoring events for members and have also compiled an extensive range of resources for mentees.

3. Flexible working. Offer as many of your colleagues as possible the opportunity to work in the way it suits them best. As one of our panellists at a recent event said: “I care about the quality of the work a lot more than I care about when or where it was done!”. Even for roles where flexible or hybrid working isn’t possible, make sure those colleagues are still part of the conversation and find out how your working policies are impacting them too. There’s a whole section in our Toolkit about this too.

4. Meetings. We hear so often about meeting anxiety and group dynamics not bringing out the best in everyone, but there are simple steps we can take to make meetings more productive for all! It helps a lot when agendas are shared well in advance so people know what to expect and have time to prepare, try the ‘round robin’ technique where everyone is given an equal chance to contribute or pass to the person sitting next to them and consider calling out persistent interrupters.

5. Communicating your EDI journey. Not for reputation, do it for inspiration. If you’re proud of your EDI achievements and accolades, why not share them? If there are areas you’re looking to improve, be transparent and seek internal and external advice. If you’re introducing a new EDI-related initiative, the best way to bring your people along is to explain to all colleagues what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and ask them how they think your plans can be improved.

6. Work experience. We all know that there are barriers to entry to real estate. Our most-recent NextGen survey of under-35s in the industry found that, by far, the two most-popular ways people found out about the sector were chance or through a family member or friend working in property. Our members are tackling this by making work experience selective, competitive or local rather than just ‘who you know’ and by paying at least expenses so all can afford to undertake internships. Many of our members are also involved in fantastic initiatives including Pathways to Property, Regeneration Brainery and 10,000 Black Interns.

7. Inclusion sentiment. The best way an organisation can find out if it is inclusive is to ask its people. Based on a sample of surveys shared with us by our members, standard measures to ask about include: “I am treated with respect at work” / “I feel comfortable being myself at work” / “I feel a sense of belonging here” / “We are taking positive action to increase D&I in the workplace” / “I feel able to raise new ideas and opinions, even if they differ from those of others”.

8. Employee empowerment. Many of our larger members have employee empowerment or action committees or networks with real power to influence cultural change in the workplace and represent the interests of underrepresented colleagues and allies or particular EDI-related issues.

9. Team building. Consider making time for team building in standard working hours or at a time convenient to as many people as possible. Friday night drinks after work are a good way for colleagues to get to know each other and relax at the end of the working week, but they may not be inclusive for parents, people with caring responsibilities and those who cannot drink alcohol.

10. Celebrating holidays. Vaisakhi, Passover, Eid, Wesak, Diwali, Christmas – if you want to mark a major religious festival with meaning and more than a ‘Happy Holiday’ Tweet, speak with your employees who practise the religion and find out the most appropriate way to mark it. Company-wide conversations about religious holidays may also lead to everyone finding out more about how to support colleagues who are fasting or taking part in other traditions which may make working at certain times of the year more of a challenge.

11. Culture shares. International cuisine in employee cafes and restaurants, book clubs featuring authors with diverse voices, watchalongs of films from around the world – there are so many ways to give prominence to the different cultures within your organisation while fostering connection between colleagues.

12. Recognising EDI champions. When people go above and beyond on fostering inclusivity in the workplace and enhancing your company culture, recognise their efforts and achievements in internal comms to inspire others, and even consider rewarding them.

13. Line managing. For many of us, the most important relationship we have in the workplace is with our line manager, and there is even more of a responsibility for line managers to support the career progression of employees from underrepresented groups. It is therefore so important for a company’s culture that line managers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to be fair, competent and considerate leaders.

14. Diverse talent programmes. Many of our members go the extra mile when it comes to progression of staff from underrepresented groups. Initiatives to consider include sponsoring by a senior leader, in-house and cross-company mentoring and tailored training and CPD to support their success.

15. Checking in with each other. It might sound simple but this comes up again and again when we are speaking to members. It’s so important for individual and team wellbeing that we feel acknowledged and appreciated at work, and one of the most basic ways to connect is just by asking each other how we are. It’s great that there is now more of a focus on mental health in the workplace, and it really helps a company’s culture for there to be genuine consideration of its people and not just their productivity.