How HR can empower D&I in the workplace

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Diversity in the workplace is a major topic in HR circles, and rightly so. With new data revealing eight out of ten UK companies and public organisations pay women less than men, this glaring gender disparity is indicative of wider inequality across the workforce. However, there is no escaping the fact that businesses can truly benefit from a diverse workforce. As data from McKinsey highlights, companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially and greater gender diversity within senior-executive teams corresponds to the highest uplift in performance in the survey’s data sets. So, why is more not being done to address the lack of diversity?

 Not only does the current gender difference in pay raise questions about structural inequalities but it also signals for HR teams, who may hold the answer in bridging the gap to take action and encourage diversity and inclusion to help stop the cycle.

Granted, a fully equipped, more diverse workforce may not be attainable overnight, but for those already adopting or in the midst of strategising Diversity and Inclusion initiatives (D&I) this is a step in the right direction. D&I stands as an important aspect of positive people management, focused around engaging and valuing each individual in the organisation, and while every company will have its own policies and initiatives in place tailored to address a certain sector or weak area, it’s also key to remember the importance of work environment and wider corporate culture. This is vital for a company to reap the benefits of a happy and diverse workplace and crucial for HR to cultivate and maintain an atmosphere where staff feel incorporated, part of the collective and able to progress with support from their employers from the onboarding process forward. While greater diversity may not translate automatically into profit, the correlation is certainly widely documented.

A great way for HR to begin the mission to achieve greater diversity starts with widening candidate talent pools. Through recruitment and development, whether this is internally or externally, making sure that every potential or existing employee is offered fair and equal treatment by adopting different ways of thinking is key. The common issue we tend to see is some organisations are prone to relying on the ‘safe option’ and sticking to the processes they have always used and which they presume work, but to really achieve stronger diversity and improve the deficit, change must be embraced. HR can promote D&I through concepts such as blind recruitment, where information such as gender, age, and education is removed from CVs to avoid unconscious bias affecting a candidate’s application progress. Mentoring can also help to foster and boost talent from an early stage, ensuring that individuals are guided and supported towards their career goals, and for companies successfully attracting and retaining diverse talent this will lead to employee satisfaction and a competitive edge in global markets. Companies will be better able to win top talent by understanding their consumer demographic, and striving to replicate that within their own workforce, measuring their own success through adopted metrics.

To empower diversity in the workforce, employers also need to have a clear vision of what D&I means to them. This in turn allows HR teams to commit to diversity initiatives and prevent the current default strategies companies are using. IBM’s Blue Talent Programme - aimed at IBM’s top group of BAME managers who are recognised as having potential to contribute to future success - and Pearson’s Summer Diversity Internship Programme, are great examples of organisations which are innovating based on true business needs and thinking outside the box in terms of strategy.

Ultimately, by prioritising and personalising a D&I strategy, HR can enable all talent to be recognised and harnessed to ensure each individual can reach their full potential.

Diversity and inclusion is crucial for fostering an authentic and representative organisational culture and in order to weave successful D&I initiatives into a business, senior management and HR professionals must visibly encourage and strengthen this vision. Hiring for a diverse workforce does more than allow companies to claim they have modern improved HR processes. As evidence has shown, a business can benefit in overall productivity from a happy, engaged and valued workforce. Bringing new people into an organisation also introduces fresh ideas and perspectives while creating an environment that others will see as attractive and welcoming. And arguably, if HR can train and develop leaders to see outside their routine way of thinking then we could fast be on our way to the more diverse, included and vibrant workforce – which we are all striving towards.

About Nick Bowles

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