Seven ways to improve diversity and inclusion

Do you have a diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy? Have you checked that it’s working? Well done if you answered yes to both. You’re doing better than most.

Of 2,009 employers who responded to a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey, only 48% have a stand-alone D&I strategy. It gets worse. Of those that have one, 18% fail to monitor whether it is effective.

So how can you improve D&I in your business?

1 Build an evidence-based strategy and check that it’s working

Only reacting when you have a problem will not make lasting change.

Focus on the key issues for your business. Those issues should be based on evidence and complement your business strategy. In addition to qualitative data from staff surveys, you need quantitative data from your metrics. That will enable you to measure the impact of your strategy, where it is working, and where you should re-evaluate it.

2 Use data to gain investment

To know what to do, you must not only identify trends but also explain them. Equal opportunities monitoring data about employees and job applicants will tell you who is applying for jobs, who you recruit, and how they progress.

Train your team to collect, analyse and interpret your workforce data. How representative is your workforce? What are the characteristics of those who apply for jobs, versus being called for an interview, versus joining the organisation? How are different employee groups progressing compared to each other? Whose performance do you manage? Whom do you discipline? And who is leaving?

Your leaders may ask ‘What’s the point?’ Connecting your equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) data to your other business metrics will get your leaders to commit to your strategy. Demonstrate how EDI activity can remediate skills shortages, aid retention, and make money.

3 Assess your policies through an EDI lens

87% of survey respondents who review their policies to ensure they are fair and inclusive found it an effective way to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace. The tone and emphasis of policies set the scene for the people management style that the business expects of line managers and tells employees how the business values them. Your people have different identities, backgrounds and circumstances. Ask them. Use their responses to inform your review.

4 Train your leaders to manage inclusively

Often people leave a manager, not a job. Train managers to manage people fairly and inclusively. Your managers may deal with discrimination, bullying or harassment promptly, seriously, and discreetly. But what about their softer skills? Show them how to manage people with empathy, fairness, and compassion. Ensure your managers have the time and resources to demonstrate a commitment to EDI. Make it a performance objective. Consider whether your managerial jobs are designed to balance operational demands with good people management, including diversity and inclusion. Tell them how they and the business benefit from a fair and inclusive workplace including equality of opportunity.

5 Support your leaders to champion EDI as role models

You should train and support your employees, managers and leaders on diversity and inclusion so that they understand what it means for them and their role. The whole business must own the EDI agenda, starting with leaders.

They need to exemplify inclusive behaviour as well as ensure inclusion is a key consideration in strategy and high-level business decisions. They won’t have lived experience of all aspects of diversity, yet they need to be internal and external champions of inclusion and diversity, including promoting equality of opportunity. Make tangible action on EDI a part of how you judge senior leaders’ performance. Encourage them to hold people accountable for progress in this area. Is it a regular feature of board-level and leadership conversations? If not, why not?

6 Tailor your EDI approach to your business

Each business’s circumstances, needs and resources will be different. But the principles of inclusive and fair people management apply whatever the type of organisation or sector and whether it employs 10 people or 1,000. The ability to attract and retain talent is crucial for any business. Some practices that were rated highly effective in the survey are simple to implement. For example, using structured or standardised interview questions will ensure that recruiters follow objective assessment and scoring criteria.

7 Take a long-term view

Failing to focus on EDI for the next five years may harm your ability to recruit and retain the people you need to flourish and grow in a competitive labour market. Identify the risks for your business of not taking action to create a fair, inclusive and diverse workplace. Decide how you will eliminate that risk.

Source: CIPD: Inclusion at work 2022 (7th December 2022).