In recent years, diversity and representation have made their way up the priority list for many employers. Creating a diverse business is about reflecting the diversity of the wider population and client base within the company’s own workforce. However, for businesses to really harness the benefits of diversity, they also need to focus on inclusion, which is about ensuring the organisation’s culture allows each individual employee to feel a sense of belonging and being valued. This focus is proving particularly important for employers amidst the “Great Resignation”, as their chances of retaining employees are significantly reduced if those employees do not feel properly included within the organisation.
Attention to inclusion is gathering momentum, particularly within the financial services sector. Notably, last year the Bank of England, FCA and PRA published a joint discussion paper that set out policy options for diversity and inclusion within the sector. On 23 February 2022, the Financial Services Culture Board (FSCB) and the Financial Services Skills Commission (FSSC) published a report entitled “Inclusion across financial services: piloting a common approach to measurement”. The report looks at responses to a pilot on perceptions of inclusion. This was the largest financial sector survey focusing specifically on inclusion to date in the UK, with responses from more than 3,000 employees. In this article, we consider some of the key outcomes and recommendations highlighted in the report.
Findings of the report
Overall, the findings of the report offer some encouragement on the state of inclusion within the financial services sector, with 89% of respondents saying they believe their managers promote an inclusive environment at work. A similar proportion, 86% of employees, said they felt valued for their individual contribution at work, whilst 72% felt they had fair access to career progression opportunities.
However, a closer look at the statistics reveals that there is still a lot of work to be done in this area. Crucially, employees of certain minorities, particularly ethnic minorities and disabled employees, felt less positive about the state of inclusion within the sector. For example, whilst 85% of white employees said they felt a sense of belonging at work, this figure fell to 65% for all other ethnicities. Further, whilst 69% of white employees said they did not worry about people at work drawing conclusions on their ability based on stereotypes about their identity or background, this figure fell to just 39% for black employees.
There is a similar division in the responses to a question about access to progression opportunities. Whilst 73% of employees without a disability said they believed they had fair access to progression opportunities within their organisation, this figure was 67% for employees with a disability. Similarly, whilst 75% of white employees felt they had fair access to these opportunities, only 50% of Asian/Asian British respondents responded affirmatively to this question.
How can firms measure and improve inclusion?
Based on the above findings, the FSCB/FSSC report set out four actions firms should take to help improve inclusion within their workforce:
- Understand and measure diversity and inclusion: Businesses should aim to measure inclusion, not just diversity, within the workplace. They should do this in a way that allows differing views to be gathered and assessed so that all employees have a voice. A firm-wide approach should reveal the variations in experience of inclusion across different sections of the workforce, allowing appropriate steps to be taken to deal with any shortcomings.
- Develop and demonstrate a culture of listening and learning: The report encourages employers to demonstrate to employees that their feedback is being listened to and implemented. Showing that employers are engaging with feedback and that employees’ views are valued is an important part of employers demonstrating that they are actively working to foster a more inclusive working environment, rather than just paying it lip-service.
- Maintain and demonstrate fair and transparent processes and systems: As workplaces evolve and become more diverse, businesses should keep internal processes and systems under review to ensure they remain relevant and are applied fairly. This includes ensuring all groups feel they have fair access to progression opportunities.
- Demonstrate strong leadership and inclusion: Around one third of the firms participating in the pilot survey do not currently discuss inclusion metrics at board level. Although many firms compile diversity statistics, this on its own is not enough. The report encourages companies to lead by example and show a real commitment to both diversity and inclusion from senior level down.
Whilst the report relates specifically to the financial services sector, these principles and recommendations have general application and employers across all sectors can take lessons from its conclusions. The associated improved business outcomes and better retention rates mean it is truly in employers’ interests to promote and maintain a genuinely diverse and inclusive workplace. As this report clearly highlights, whilst the current trend of improving inclusivity is encouraging, there is a lot of work left to do in this regard.