How can professional bodies and other organisations ensure they’re being proactive enough when it comes to diversity and inclusion – and that their workforce reflects this? The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development‘s (CIPD) latest survey report is filled with interesting findings. Claire McCartney, Associate Research Adviser at CIPD, discusses the report and provides some useful solutions for addressing diversity at your organisation.
Most people would not dispute that employees should have equal access to employment and development based solely on merit and be treated fairly throughout their careers. We’re also now seeing wider understanding that by having the workforce profile mirror the external community, organisations can better understand their customer base, appeal to top talent, and improve their market competitiveness.
But while much of the attention to date has been focused on the diversity of boards, which is important in many ways, in order to create sustainable, diverse and inclusive organisations in the long term, organisations need to ensure they are threading approaches to diversity and inclusion right the way throughout their organisations and within their people approaches including their recruitment channels and their overall talent pipelines.
While UK legislation – covering age, disability, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation among others – sets minimum standards, an effective diversity and inclusion strategy goes beyond legal compliance and seeks to add value to an organisation, contributing to employee well-being and engagement. It helps organisations tie together different programmes and policies to create a holistic, measured and effective framework for diversity to flourish and to help create an inclusive environment where everyone feels able to participate and achieve their potential.
However, according to the latest CIPD/Hays Resourcing and Talent Planning survey, the amount of organisations with a formal diversity strategy has reduced over the last four years, from 58% in 2015, to 52% in 2017. While this is only a slight reduction, with diversity and inclusion rising so quickly up corporate agendas over the last few years, and with companies acknowledging the social justice argument as well as the business case, we would have hoped to have seen a larger increase in the number making this view a strategic reality. In light of ever-increasing competition for talent and recruitment difficulties, organisations need to broaden rather than restrict their potential pool of candidates.
The survey finds some stark sector differences – over four-fifths (82%) of public sector organisations are most likely to have a formal diversity strategy, compared to just two-fifths of private sector organisations (43%). There are a number of reasons why this could be, such as the tighter regulation around reporting on public sector equality, or perhaps because they are more likely to offer flexible working options so attract a wider group of candidates to their jobs. Either way, they are setting the benchmark for what good looks like, and will likely be reaping the benefits of a diverse workforce in terms of their ability to innovate, make the most of different perspectives and ultimately create value.
So what can we learn from the public sector about how to manage diversity? There are three methods our research suggests they commonly use to address diversity issues.
Monitor recruitment information
If you don’t understand the make up of your workforce, you won’t be able to know where the gaps or barriers are in terms of diversity. Most organisations already have basic measures in place when it comes to monitoring recruitment information – however, actually using that data to improve their processes when it comes to diversity and inclusion is where the real value comes. By monitoring those coming into the organisation, you are analysing the beginning of the talent pipeline, so can assess how easy it is for different groups to progress, identify blockers and make the necessary changes to ensure you are inclusive, diverse and equal in terms of opportunities afforded across the workforce.
Train anyone who recruits
Many organisations in the public sector say they also train interviewers to understand what diversity is about. In most UK organisations, there are a wide variety of people who will recruit on behalf of the company. With so many different people involved, it’s vital that everyone represents the organisation’s values around recruitment, especially as this might be the first experience of the candidate engaging with your brand. Training anyone who will be responsible for hiring about the best way to hire fairly and inclusively, will help you reap the benefits of having a variety of perspectives and experience, and externally by having a reputation as an inclusive and progressive organisation.
Actively attract talent of all ages
While we have seen evidence of many organisations making progress in developing the skills of younger employees, it’s important that they don’t take their focus away from talent of any age. With more generations in the UK labour market than ever before, it’s crucial that organisations make the most of the variety of experience, skills and insight that exists, and combine it to create a workforce that is innovative and more successful.
Previous CIPD research has found that employees actually prefer working as part of an age-diverse group. Young people appreciate that older age groups have valuable practical experience and expertise, while older colleagues will typically look to younger groups for skills training and new ways of working.
But in order to benefit from an age-diverse workforce, you need to make your organisation attractive to workers of different ages. Different age groups have different work priorities – commonly, younger age groups focus on values such as trust, recognition and freedom, whereas older age groups can be more interested in achieving work-life balance and flexibility. Think about whether your organisation ticks these boxes and focus on the changes you can make to ensure that you are able to respond to individual needs.
Claire McCartney, Associate Research Adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development