To speak in the ‘now’, is to recognise that we have a shared thorny issue: inclusivity.

So, our thorny issue is a human issue. And it’s urgent.

Why? Because no individual should still be justifying their position or relevance around the table. And no company should be letting that happen. That’s right, from our experience, inclusion is a key step towards retention.

We’re not alone. A Forbes study found workforce diversity and inclusion to be a fundamental driver on intrapreneurialism and business growth. Mckinsey’s report on top-team diversity found 53% higher ROE in the top quartile of executive board diversity. Harvard Business School established the connection between multicultural networks and creativity. This is just a selection of the vast number of studies around the benefits of diversity and inclusion (D&I).

Why are we writing about it? Because inclusivity is at the core of what we do. As a small, young company we were able to bake in an inclusive approach right at the start and see the importance of it. The first pointer for us is:

Not just saying ‘diversity’

You can’t talk about inclusivity without mentioning diversity and vice versa.

We bring different people and ways of thinking to challenges, like no one else. Why? Because we don’t just think about diversity, we make sure it happens.

Diversity is a buzzword in businesses, often spoken, rarely acted upon. It can be challenging to bring into existing organisations – whether due to company values being fixed or recruitment processes being rigid – but it’s not impossible.

Rather than the glacial impact of D&I training, perhaps hard metrics are appropriate to actually get the ball rolling. We did that. We were conscious that despite the mix of nationality, race, socio-economic background and age, our company was founded by 4 male friends. Hence, in the last 2 years 100% of new hires have been women. Don’t be scared of targets – no matter what’s said, it’s undeniable that they effect change.

Along with hard metrics, it’s important to be reflective in leadership, aka. the softer touches. For instance, with our new hires we’ve had to check in our ‘male’ characteristics and perspective to create the space to listen, nurture and develop everyone. We even took to making the loos female-friendly. Little things matter a lot. Together the hard and soft make for a collective leadership journey – one approach will not be effective without the other.

Not only that, we give young people a voice. Our (Young) Braves are 16-25 year olds from a wide range of backgrounds, from our local state school to Oxford University. We train them as strategists and they come in as work experience or employees. We hire (Young) Braves based on attitude, not on academic background. We believe smart isn’t confined to academia and hire on drive, curiosity and ability to think flexibly. They’re the future employees and consumers, why wouldn’t we want their perspective?

This means when it comes to a given project, our team may include anyone from data analysts, to marketing experts to a 16 year-old school kid, to an artist. The benefit of being an SME is the agility to harness the creative tension and dynamics of difference that diversity brings and, from that, discern the most innovative results.

We identified 4 other things that have been part of our own journey to inclusivity:

1. Align clear vision, values and goals that allows space for autonomy

Every person at Reluctantly Brave is aligned with our vision and values. Without alignment, autonomy is more difficult and micro-management (which is inevitably demoralising and innovation-killing)) more pronounced. SMEs are in the unique position to instil and co-create values, goals and a vision so that the entire company has a shared purpose. A purpose that speaks to everyone. So while giving people responsibility and increasing efficiency, you can rest assured that they are working towards the same end.

2. Co-create a unique organisational infrastructure

The way your organisation operates is fundamental to the involvement and investment from your team. Introducing a clear organisational structure can push aside the inefficiency of micro-management to a clear, consistent and, dare we say, more creative and fun way of working.

We have a pod (of at least 2 people) for every single project – internal and external. Why pod? Because our team infrastructure is based on the pods of Orcas. Orcas are apex predators, they are highly social with complex communication and the ability to echolocate. Above all, they’re curious, strategic and playful team players!

Working in pods enables us to be self-organising and cross-functional. This means we continuously learn and develop, never work alone and share accountability.

Furthermore it’s memorable and invokes that orca characteristic of curiosity that we love, in others.

3. Foster an environment open to disruption and disorientation

Diversity can be disruptive and disorienting. Don’t let this scare you. Diversity is conducive to a higher level of innovation because ultimately, you emerge and re-orientate with fresh perspectives and deeper knowledge. We find, through casting our ideation net wider, we are able to recommend better strategies faster and implement them with more dynamism as a result. To achieve this requires creating safe spaces where people feel comfortable to explore their differences (and similarities).

4. Focus on development and personal growth

This is key. Actively listen: find the time to listen to your employees, utilising your emotional intelligence and soliciting feedback as often as possible. We hold an assembly every Monday morning, which is a very open exercise of empathy. It’s an opportunity to revoke hierarchy for 30 minutes and for each team member to voice their thoughts. Also, each of us has an invaluable hour a week with our resident Performance Coach. This is a space to work on personal development. Showing that you care, that you value everyone’s opinion is integral to an inclusive business.

Inclusion and diversity are not things that just happen. They take time, hard work and agility. Be prepared to be challenged, disoriented and disrupted but also to reap the benefits that come.

Most importantly they require more than one person, preferably the whole team, to stand up and take action.

Find out more about Reluctantly Brave