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What Can Employers Learn from FIFA 2022?

Fifa Football

What Can Employers Learn from FIFA 2022?

The FIFA 2022 World Cup has been a great opportunity for people from different walks of life to come together in and outside of the workplace. A great example of this is 7-times F1 world Champion, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes Petronas AMG F1 – who has taken on the challenge to improve workplace Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in motorsports.

However, this has not come without challenges for employers and organisations. You might have heard about the controversy surrounding Qatar as the choice of location for FIFA 2022. This resulted from Qatar having a history of Human Rights violations, particularly around the mistreatment of LGBTQ+ people. Throwing more oil into the fire, this decision directly clashes with the LGBTQ+ inclusive image that FIFA has been trying to develop for years.  As a result, many organisations have chosen not to engage with this year’s World Cup. The critics of this approach have commented that it is not appropriate for many employers to take a definite stance on an issue of this nature, citing it as “too politically charged” and “distracting from the game”. It’s worth remembering however, that this controversy at its core is about Human Rights, and how these effect our own employees, not about politics.

If you have found yourself in the middle of this conversation as an employer, it can be very difficult to navigate. Based on the concerns we have been hearing over the past few weeks, we put together a list of 4 lessons employers can learn from FIFA 2022, which are worth keeping in mind for future event participation.

Why FIFA 2022 Is Still Worth Talking About

You might find yourself asking – why are we talking about this now? Isn’t the World Cup nearly over? Although the issues surrounding FIFA 2022 might seem like a one-off incident, it is only the most recent in a long-established pattern of similar controversies. You might remember back to 2019, when many organisations have decided against supporting the Eurovision Song Contest due to the Israel-Palestine war conflict, or the 2016 Sochi Olympics missing out on millions of viewers due to LGBTQ+ rights violations. With that being said, there is a high probability you will find yourself, as an employer, having to navigate similarly tricky terrain again in the future. This is why we’ve put together a few tips for you to consider, as an employer.

How to Consider What Stance You Want to Take

Many organisations might want to take a neutral stance on controversial events, because they do not think it is their place to do otherwise, especially if the issue is based in a different country or even industry. If this is the approach you want your organisation to take, make sure you proactively address the issue through company comms. Make it clear that although you encourage event participation, the organisation does not wish to take a political stance. Remember to recognise this might be a sensitive issue for some of your employees, for example “We are aware that there are many pressing Human Rights discussions going on around the FIFA 2022 World Cup taking place in Qatar, which we recognise as important issues to raise. However, for the benefit of our employees and colleagues, we decided to enable the viewing and broadcasting of the event in our office spaces.” You can even make a refence to an external source discussing these issues, for those employees who wish to get involved through other means. However, if you do decide to take this approach, consider how this will impact your employees and how this decision might be viewed by other organisations and clients.

If upon consideration you do decide to take a political stance, there are a few pitfalls you want to avoid. Make sure you do not limit your activities to shallow, performative actions. Remember that organisational inclusivity is not measured in social media posts or the number of rainbow flags you hang around the office. Instead, you want to look at real, actionable steps. We recommend collaborating with an external charity organisation to undertake a fundraising initiative. If you decide to do so, think about what organisation you are going to pick and why. If you decide to go with a local organisation, make sure it isn’t just out of convenience – look at their mission statement and values. In the case of FIFA 2022, consider if you want to go with a UK-based organisation or a more international one. With sporting events, you could still broadcast the matches in the office, whilst simultaneously encouraging fundraising. This being performed side-by-side with the event sends a clear message of solidarity and support to employees who are either part of, or support, the LGBTQ+ community.

How You Can Develop Your EDI (Equality, Diversity, Inclusivity)

With the World Cup generating a lot of conversations around LGBTQ+ rights, many employers are becoming more aware of the need to make their own organisations more inclusive. You might find yourself in a position where EDI has not been a conscious consideration in the past, but you want to introduce more EDI values into your company.

Don’t know where to start?

A diversity consultant is the best place to start as they will advise and guide you on how to move forward. You can also take this as an opportunity to introduce (or review) EDI policies and procedures in your organisation, to see how they could impact your employees. A great way to begin this process is to perform an EDI Health Check. The health check will allow you to identify key areas for improvement in your work culture and policy, while giving you key pointers on how you can implement positive change. Make sure you communicate any changes you make to all your employees via internal comms, as a way of letting them know that despite the controversy around FIFA 2022, you are still fully committed to your values of LGBTQ+ inclusivity and Human Rights Advocacy for people around the world.

You might also find yourself in a position where you’ve already established a strong base of EDI values within your organisation. You might have worked for years to create a reputation for yourself as an inclusive employer and want to avoid making the same mistakes as the organisers of FIFA 2022 by contradicting these values. How can you reassure your clients and employees that you are staying true to your commitment? The answer to this is simple – introduce LGBTQ+ awareness training for all employees. This is something that you can start implementing in the new year and make considerations around it in your budget. We provide LGBTQ+ Inclusivity Training to all employers and employees, regardless of their size or where they are on their EDI development journey.

How You Can Give Your Underrepresented Employees a Voice

It’s great to have a diverse organisation with employees coming from all walks of life – however, in order to become truly inclusive, you need to make sure you are listening to their voices and understanding their experiences. This can be achieved by involving your diversity networks in more decision-making and organising anonymous facilitated conversation forums. This becomes especially important when it comes to understanding your employees’ points of view around controversial events, such as FIFA 2022. Having difficult conversations around diversity promotes empathy amongst colleagues and creates a much more welcoming work culture. It can also help you identify areas for improvement around discrimination. It’s important to involve management in these conversations, and make sure to decide on actionable steps that you can take to resolve the issues brought up. In the case of the World Cup, having the input from an internal LGBTQ+ network could provide a very valuable insight on how to best handle the event.

We understand that there might be reasons why you do not yet have diversity networks in place, for example limited resources and expertise or other issues being prioritised on the agenda until recently. The important thing is that you are thinking about it now. Depending on the size of your organisation, setting up diversity networks can be a challenge, which is why many employers decide to outsource this process to an external service provider. If you are a small organisation, you might feel that you do not need this yet but will in the future due to upscaling and growth. Even if that is the case, it’s best to take steps in preparation. We offer step-by-step support in developing diversity networks and provide external and objective facilitation to conversation forums. Nonetheless, if outsourcing does not sound like the right fit for your organisation, don’t worry – you can provide your managers with the right skills to lead these conversations through our Advanced Inclusive Leadership Training. Keep in mind, that when it comes to internal facilitation, you need to consider staff availability and objectivity.

How and When You Can Decide Not to Engage with an Event

When it comes to engaging with events such as FIFA 2022, a common concern we hear is “We don’t want to miss an opportunity to have our colleagues come together and bond over a commonly enjoyed event. However, we also don’t want to exclude those who do not agree with the event for personal reasons.” As an employer, you might find yourself between a rock and a hard place. If your priority is to make your employees come together and socialise, there are multiple ways to you can go about this in future cases of politically controversial events. First, how do you decide whether to engage with the event? The answer is simple: let your employees decide. It’s important to remember you represent the people who work for you. A great way to make everyone’s voices heard is through an anonymous survey on how the workforce feels around particular events. This can be conducted virtually through internal comms, ideally 3-6 months before the event, to give you sufficient time to plan around it. It’s important to make sure you are giving representation to voices across all seniority levels. You can also download the free Mission Diverse Calendar, which will allow you to plan for awareness and cultural events for the upcoming year.

For those who choose not to be involved (which could be everyone, depending on the result of your survey), it’s good to think about an alternative. You can look into a range of activities, depending on how big or small you want to go – from coffee socials to games and cocktails in the office, the options are numerous. Workplace activities also offer a unique opportunity to strengthen your workplace inclusivity. If you’re looking for inspiration on inclusive activity ideas, check out our EDI Month Challenges!

For many people, sporting events can be a great way to socialise and have fun, even whilst working. However, the reoccurring controversies around Human Rights violations can raise a lot of difficult questions, as we’ve seen be the case with FIFA 2022. This is why it is essential for you as an employer to carefully consider your decision-making around such events. No matter what approach you decide you take, always remember that although you might not be able to tackle the debated issues directly, there are always steps you can take to develop EDI in your own organisation.

If you ever find yourself stuck when making decisions on how to engage with a particular event, utilise the resources provided in this article to help you. For an approach more uniquely tailored to your organisation, feel free to contact us at Mission Diverse for consultancy and advice.

What Can Employers Learn from FIFA 2022?
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