Kiltered is a recently launched strategic consultancy that aims to change our perception around inclusion in the workplace—and encourage better business in the process
British lawyer Morag Ofili enjoys awkward conversations—and has recently turned her ability to engage people in what are often perceived as uncomfortable topics into Kiltered, a strategic consultancy with a focus on diversity and inclusion. “Kiltered has been brewing for a while,” she says.
“It’s based on a curiosity I have with why we feel so uncomfortable having conversations about race, gender, and social politics in the workplace. I wanted to create an offering that allows people to have authentic conversations about the structures that impact on issues such as diversity, inclusion, and belonging, and allows companies to learn and grow.”
Her interest in diversity and inclusion in the workplace can be traced back to childhood. “My parents are Nigerian and they moved to the UK in the 1980s,” she says. “I watched them deal with the challenge of pursuing their professional goals and ambition at a time when people still expected their doctors to look a certain way. So, I was aware from an early age of the importance of feeling a sense of value and belonging at work.”
Since founding the strategic consultancy in February this year, Ofili has worked with a diverse range of creative businesses, from architecture studios to advertising firms. The one thing they all have in common, apart from a desire to improve diversity and inclusion, is that they are all small- and medium-sized businesses—a deliberate decision to ensure SMEs aren’t priced out of the conversation.
When engaged by an organisation, Ofili uses data analytics and speaks to employees to analyse the current situation and come up with a plan to build and sustain an inclusive workplace. By using tangible data, it’s possible to set goals and track progress to guide real change. Kiltered then continues to work with the business for around a year, with quarterly check-ins to move things forward. And, when needed, she can connect organisations with her network of recruiters, HR specialists, lawyers, coaches and trainers.
The name of the consultancy is a nod to the word ‘kilter’. “It means balance, but we usually only hear it in the phrase ‘out of kilter’,” says Ofili. “It’s a positive word we only hear in a negative way. I feel there is an imbalance with the way a lot of organisations approach these issues. The aim of Kiltered is to help companies reset that balance.”
When Ofili talks about balance, she’s not only referring to a diverse workforce, but also to the way an organisation balances its internal approach to inclusivity with its outward expression. Particularly in recent years, many brands have raced to promote their commitment to equality through social media platforms without making changes to internal systems and policies that reflect these proclamations.
Take the trend of businesses posting rainbow flags during Pride Month and offering discounts. “People are asking more questions now about whether profits are benefiting LGBTQ+ causes, or what the representation of those communities is within the organisation,” says Ofili.
As she points out, this kind of “woke-washing”—or appropriating the language of social activism for marketing—just doesn’t fly with consumers who are more educated and aware of these issues than ever before. “One of the biggest mistakes companies can make is to focus too much on the big picture without going granular and asking what can be done to improve,” says Ofili. “It’s having the humility to ask, ‘What could we be doing better?’.”
Diversity and inclusion within an organisation doesn’t just have the potential to improve the culture and make employees feel more valued—it’s also an important business tool. “Diversity and inclusion should not be treated differently from any other business problem,” says Ofili. “When people feel more valued, they’re more productive and the business is invariably more profitable. I want to help change the narrative and help companies create a framework that’s responsive to their particular business.”
With the increased adoption of remote working in a post-pandemic world, it’s become more important than ever to focus on creating a strong company culture—and diversity and inclusion play a big role in that. “If you don’t already have a sense of belonging in a physical workplace, it’s going to be very hard to create that when people move remotely,” says Ofili.
“We’re increasingly relying on structures that weren’t designed for the world we live in today and companies are going to have to think about their culture and how to make people feel like they belong. I want to empower companies to address the uncomfortable questions to create better businesses, and I want to keep making people feel a little bit awkward in order to move the dial forward.”
Image by Rick Pushinsky
As featured in OnOffice 156, Autumn 2021. Read a digital version of the issue for free here.