In 2018, the gender pay gap reporting, continued growth of the #Metoo movement and rise of the D&I officer were just a few signs of progress for workplace diversity and inclusion. But how can HR continue to make headway in 2019?
Creating a collaborative environment that is open to different ideas, perspectives and styles of thinking should be a priority for any business – small, large, private or public. And this is especially true in a turbulent and unstable market, one in which organisations don’t have foresight of what the future holds.
At the end of the day, it is only by engaging a diverse array of people that we can hope to protect the future competitiveness of the UK economy. That’s because working with different people is the only way to glean unique ideas and embrace the challenges that every single day brings forth.
From enhancing agility to innovation and customer relationships, diversity and inclusion (D&I) programmes are crucial for improving business performance, continued growth and success.
2018 – the year business moved the needle
The good news is that 2018 witnessed leaps and bounds when it came to D&I in the workplace.
For one, its clear employers are now having much more open conversations with their employees about D&I and are, as a result, actively trying to put measures in place to facilitate a workplace that is both diverse and inclusive.
This year, for example, was the year that 100% of qualifying businesses – those with 250 employees or more – reported their gender pay gap. This marked a significant step for gender diversity.
However, as companies begin to prepare for publishing their second annual report, these results will become even more important than the first year. That’s because it’ll be the first time we’ll begin to visibly see what companies are doing to change and whether or not they are serious about making changes.
But these reports should be one of a number of things that companies are doing to improve diversity and inclusion. Next year, companies will need to push the boundaries through increased transparency and more open conversations about specific D&I issues. These conversations will be vital for internal reform, but also for changing the external landscape of D&I for the better.
With that in mind, there are three D&I trends that I believe will be fundamental to 2019: organisations reforming how they approach gender recognition internally, more focus on engaging men in gender equality activities and customer-focused change.
The time has passed for apologising, and next year should be about taking action and ensuring we are facilitating an entirely diverse and inclusive workforce.
1. A reform in gender recognition internally
Internal reform must be the starting place for all organisations. Whilst gender pay gap reports are the foundation of this reform, there are other areas of D&I that must also come under scrutiny.
Artificial barriers still create challenges for groups such as trans people. This red tape delays processes such as name and detail changes within the business and so creates an unproductive atmosphere.
Respecting how people choose to identify themselves, by making the transition as smooth as possible, is especially important. The Government’s announcement that it will be reviewing the Gender Recognition Act to help trans people receive legal recognition of their acquired gender is the start of this process. But companies must also look internally at solving these issues.
Everyone should be included in conversations around gender, and so initiatives must include both men and women.
The above indicates a need to widen the D&I lens. Recently, there has been a huge gender equality push, but companies need to also look at other aspects. D&I is not as simple as separating people into boxes. Instead, a variety of factors impact individuals in unique ways within the workplace.
In the coming year, organisations will begin to recognise the importance of adopting a more holistic – rather than siloed – approach to D&I.
Taking this a step further – as globalisation increases, organisations need to be supporting global as well as local efforts.
In order to truly achieve inclusion, companies cannot implement a blanket initiative. There must be an understanding of local culture and legal context. In turn, we are likely to see more global diversity and inclusion roles to support and further internal reform.
2. ‘This is a man’s world’
Unfortunately, James Brown’s sentiments are still true. However, men are able to use their privileged positions to support women in the workplace. Encouraging men to be at the forefront of the debate and raise awareness of gender disparity is not necessarily a new concept, but it is a powerful one.
This also needs to translate into changing exclusive women-only networks. Everyone should be included in conversations around gender, and so initiatives must include both men and women.
Seeing more and more people stepping forward and becoming allies will likely be key to getting more on board with D&I.
The future looks bright for diversity and inclusion. But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
3. Customer-focused change
Finally, there is increasing pressure on organisations to look at creating market-relevant products and solutions that really work for all customers.
Internal reform is simply not enough, companies must use their position within markets to promote diversity and inclusion by making products that are accessible to all.
Take the success of Rhianna’s Fenty Beauty range, which has 40 different skin tones and colours “so that women everywhere would be included” as a prime example of this.
Her beauty range provides a form of inclusion that is not seen in other mainstream beauty companies, and has truly thrown open conversations around why other ranges do not have the same focus on inclusive products.
Next year, there will be a significant shift in D&I attention as companies serve customers as well as talent.
What comes next?
The future looks bright for diversity and inclusion. But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done by organisations if they are to truly move the needle.
These three trends are paving the way for more inclusive and diverse workplaces. Transparency is the foundation of D&I, without it, organisation’s efforts will crumble.
However, with it, organisations can build a work environment in which every single person feels included, but also encouraged to be who they really want to be.