This October we celebrate Black History Month and National Coming Out Day, yet despite society saluting the diversity that surrounds us, many employees report that today’s workplaces haven’t come that far since the discrimination acts were introduced in the mid-1970s. So, what can businesses do to forge ahead and finally eliminate unconscious biases and the dangers of groupthink from corporate culture?
According to the 2018 McKinsey and Company report on the issues, businesses with a diverse workforce are 35% more likely to have a financial return above industry medians.
Companies with a good diversity and inclusion programme are more likely to attract top talent too. The Employer Branding Insights 2019 whitepaper from Wonderful Workplaces supports this view. It found that close to a total majority, 94% of its survey respondents, said they would consider an employer’s brand and culture when choosing who to work for.
Reputation doesn’t just play a role in recruitment, however, with many companies hitting the headlines unfavourably for ignoring these issues. The subsequent fall out is lost business and faltering profits.
Building a fair selection process
The UK Diversity and Inclusion Report 2018, from Hays, a leading specialist staffing business, shows that only 38% say their organisation is proactive in their efforts to source diverse candidates, while just 34% say their organisation ensures interview panels are diverse.
Creating an inclusive recruitment experience involves taking steps that starts from the beginning and advertising in places to attract the widest talent pool. According to Wonderful Workplaces, one in five candidates (20%) use job sites to find new roles. Recruiters need to start looking at the websites they use to advertise their vacancies on to ensure they can tap into a more diverse candidate base. Imagery and branding in employers’ recruitment materials should also reflect a diverse workforce.
Mixing up test-based assessments, interview selections and on-the-job skills evaluations helps to ensure that the selection process focuses upon fit for the job. Where an interview does form part of the selection process it is a good idea to have a diverse recruitment panel to ensure a balanced decision is made. Importantly, businesses must make sure their efforts promote positive action over positive discrimination which is unlawful and any reasonable adjustments in the workplace are made to accommodate physically challenged employees.
Top down approach
According to the Hays survey, just 35% trust their organisations’ leaders to deliver change on the diversity and inclusion agenda and only 36% believe that their leaders fully understand the relationship between diversity and inclusion and profitability. Having a self-awareness can help leaders move forward. Gathering feedback through 360-degree surveys or face-to-face meetings with colleagues is a valuable way of helping leaders understand their ways of thinking.
Businesses in which leaders take these issues seriously are often quicker to adopt a positive workplace culture that supports diversity and inclusion than those where it is delegated down the hierarchy. Supporting and promoting debate and diversity of thought is one way leaders can demonstrate their commitment to the issues.
At Ogilvy UK, the business has put in place teams to challenge the status quo. The networks include: Women of Ogilvy, Ogilvy Pride, Ogilvy Roots, Parents & Carers of Ogilvy and Ogilvy ReWired. Each network has an executive sponsor on the leadership team, which the organisation reports has been vital for its success.
Equal opportunities for development
According to the Hays survey, 68% of black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) respondents say their progression has been limited due to their ethnicity, 48% of all disabled respondents say their progression has been limited due to their disability and 43% of all respondents aged 55 or older say their progression has been limited due to their age, whilst 36% of all female respondents say their progression has been limited due to their gender.
These findings show that progress needs to be made to ensure that development opportunities for career progression are genuinely open to all candidates regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. Creating individual development plans in collaboration with employees and providing performance metrics that are transparent and measurable are ways to achieve this.
With any diversity and inclusion programme the key is to continuously monitor and assess progress against internal and external benchmarks. Leaders that can adapt their ways of thinking and truly become more inclusive will demonstrate to the organisation the importance of the issues being addressed.
Annie Hayes is a specialist HR, skills, careers and L&D writer with 19 years experience in the sector.