Having a diverse, inclusive and fair workplace is good for business, as well as being the right thing to do. In fact, a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) can help organisations tackle some of the big challenges they’re currently facing.
For example, with the current skills shortage, reaching out to a wider talent pool can help attract candidates, along with building a reputation as a genuinely responsible employer, as more and more people are looking to work for an organisation with a social conscience. With the current cost focus, retaining staff is important, and people are more likely to want to stay with an organisation where they feel they belong and are treated fairly, with dignity and respect.
Furthermore, having a diverse workforce where people feel included and valued has benefits in terms of inclusive customer service delivery, client interaction and product design. A diverse range of perspectives and ideas can help innovation and lead to more creative solutions to problems.
However, in our recent ‘Inclusion at Work’ survey, published in partnership with Reed, we found that almost half (47%) of employers don’t have an inclusion and diversity strategy or action plan in place, either as a standalone or as part of a wider people strategy. A quarter said their inclusion and diversity activities are reactive.
This is disappointing given that progress on EDI requires a long-term, genuine commitment to change and a focus on all three components. A systemic approach is needed, and every aspect of how the organisation operates should support EDI. This requires a strategic focus.
The people management approach, policies and processes need to be regularly reviewed with an inclusion lens and rewards and benefits are no exception. Regularly reviewing and asking for feedback on reward and benefits packages – such as from your people, employee resource groups and through engaging with other organisations on good practice – can provide insight to help inform and shape your offering.
What do people value and what other benefits would they like you to consider offering? There may be benefits that would really make a difference to people of different identities and circumstances which you may not have considered before. If you’re struggling to attract and retain certain groups of employees, examine if your reward and benefits offering could help to address this. For example, working parents are likely to look for a family-friendly organisation.
It’s interesting to also look at what people use, but this must be done in context. There are some benefits we would hope people wouldn’t need to use, but if they do, we want them to find them valuable. There are others where we would expect higher uptake. For example, if you offer flexible working, and hardly anyone is using it, do you know why? Is it being positioned and communicated in a way that challenges traditional perceptions of who flexible working is for, including the images used?
The ‘Inclusion at Work’ survey revealed what employers are currently doing, and where more action is needed. We’ve drawn out recommendations for practice to help employers – and people professionals in particular – to improve or reenergise their approach. We would encourage employers to:
Be proactive and develop an evidence-based strategy or action plan. What are the particular issues in your organisation? How do you know? How will your EDI strategy align to the wider business strategy?
Examine how you can better understand the employee experience. This includes the characteristics of people applying for jobs, called for interview, and joining the organisation. How do different groups progress in comparison to each other? What do you know about why people leave?
Use this data and insight to inform where action is needed. Data is also essential to make the case for change, get buy-in, and, if needed, to challenge incorrect perceptions of how inclusive the organisation currently is.
Ensure everyone, including leaders and managers, is supported to understand what EDI means in practice, its importance in the organisation and their role in creating an inclusive workplace. Ensure EDI receives adequate attention alongside operational demands, such as having an EDI component in how performance is judged.
Critically assess your people management approach with a diversity and inclusion lens. For example, the way you attract and recruit people, the rewards and benefits you offer and how promotion decisions are made.
Maintain a focus on EDI through good and challenging times. Progress takes time and commitment, and there are simple things you can do to improve EDI regardless of organisation size or budget.
For example, using standardised interview questions, ensuring all involved in recruitment follow objective assessment and scoring criteria, reviewing job descriptions to accurately reflect requirements of the job, and making sure managers are trained to manage people in a fair and inclusive way.