A recent report conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) assessed the extent and effectiveness of efforts made by employers in the UK to improve diversity and inclusion (D&I) within their organisations. Of those 2,009 senior decision-makers surveyed, only 48% had a freestanding D&I strategy and less than 20% had taken steps to evaluate the impact of their strategies. The report’s findings in relation to employers’ plans for D&I improvement over the next five years are perhaps a greater cause for concern: more than a third of respondents admitted they had no intention of focusing on any D&I areas within this period. As a result, the CIPD has outlined seven recommendations to, in its own words, help employers “re-energise their own approach to practice that will support equality, diversity and inclusion in their organisation”.
In this article, we take a closer look at some of the CIPD’s suggestions and consider the benefits of employers having a diverse and inclusive workforce.
- Introduce a long-term D&I strategy and take steps to monitor its effectiveness
To foster long-term change, employers should carefully draft, introduce and embrace a long-term D&I action plan. Written policies help to set the tone and direction for D&I improvement within the workplace and, provided employers take the necessary steps to effectively communicate these strategies to their employees, can also assist in establishing a clear commitment to these issues. The CIPD highlights that one-size-fits-all policies are not enough. Instead, employers should collect and review D&I data within their own workplace and seek to identify the synergies between operational and diversity outcomes in order to inform their strategy discussions. Finally, progress really requires that employers continually monitor the effectiveness of such policies and take steps to address any gaps.
- Utilise data to inform D&I improvement
Data is essential to inform the creation and implementation of D&I action plans. However, beyond that, data is also critical in ensuring executive level buy-in, which is ultimately required for the approval of D&I strategies. Therefore, employers should collect and analyse data on the interplay between D&I performance and financial and/or operational outcomes and use this information to gain executive stakeholder support for proposed initiatives. The CIPD report revealed that, while more than 60% of senior leaders are interested in D&I data, 30% of respondents admitted their HR teams are not confident in their data-collecting capabilities. Accordingly, employers may find it worthwhile to provide training in this area to ensure that HR teams are armed with the relevant skills to collect and analyse relevant data in a way that helps the business.
- Support managers and leaders to champion D&I improvement in all aspects of their role
Senior employees play a critical role in every business. Some managers are the first point of contact for many employees and can set the standards of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour within their smaller, dedicated teams. Senior leaders can also be viewed as aspirational figures or role models within their wider organisation. To ensure D&I improvement across the workplace, employers should seek to ensure managers and leaders are fully engaged with their firm’s D&I strategy and champion that strategy in all business and people decisions they make. The CIPD report revealed complaints from managers about not having sufficient time or resources to meaningfully commit to improving D&I performance. To mediate this, employers should ensure D&I priorities are engrained within managerial and leadership roles (for example, by way of performance objectives and by encouraging senior staff to dedicate time to relevant initiatives and training).
For further reading on the CIPD’s recommendations, you can access its report here.
The benefits of implementing the recommendations
Improved D&I has been consistently linked to increased employee engagement, increased productivity, increased retention rates and, ultimately, increased profits.
These benefits are somewhat circular. By way of example, in a recent study conducted by Perkbox, a global benefits and reward platform, 33% of respondents said their colleagues were noticeably happier at work because of their employer’s commitment to D&I initiatives. The reasons behind this are likely varied. It may be linked to feelings of safety brought about by employers’ prioritisation of these issues. Employees feel their ideas, and ultimately they themselves, will be and are valued by their employer, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, nationality and/or socio-economic background. It could also be related to employees’ own personal feelings about the importance of belonging to a firm which genuinely strives to increase its diversity. Studies have shown this is especially important to Gen Z, with 83% stating they consider a prospective employer’s commitment to improving D&I a significant factor in choosing where to work.
Where employees are more engaged, retention and recruitment rates are usually higher. This can lead to increased productivity within a business, with more than 40% of employers reporting to Perkbox that their workforce was more productive thanks to the introduction of newly improved D&I policies. Improvement in retention, recruitment and productivity should therefore also lead to better financial outcomes. For example, employers may experience less financial leakage from vacancies and requiring skilled staff to forego valuable time to handle interviews and the onboarding of new staff.
The CIPD’s findings in relation to employers’ plans for D&I improvement are concerning. It will usually be in employers’ own interests to strive to ensure they view (and their employees are encouraged to view) every aspect of their business through a D&I lens. The evidence shows wide-ranging benefits for employers in terms of increased productivity, engagement and so on. So, while D&I improvement is important in and of itself, it also has clear operational and financial advantages. Accordingly, to re-energise their approach, employers should review the CIPD’s recommendations and consider whether and how best to implement them to improve their own businesses.