Businesses expect to increase investment in diversity

Glassdoor study finds more than half of hiring decision-makers view lack of diversity as a barrier

More than a third of hiring decision-makers at UK organisations (35 per cent) expect to increase investment in diversity and inclusion initiatives, according to a new study by Glassdoor.

The employer review site surveyed 750 hiring decision-makers in the UK and US and found that employers were increasingly placing a higher value on diversity and inclusion programmes, with 59 per cent reporting that a lack of investment in diversity and inclusion was a barrier to attracting high-quality candidates. 

“Greater diversity in the workplace is a high priority effort for many businesses,” said Carmel Galvin, chief human resources officer at Glassdoor. “With increased investment in diversity and inclusion programmes, it signals that employers are recognising the value these efforts are having on recruiting and on financial performance.”

But despite plans for greater investment, only 28 per cent were optimistic that they would make progress towards their diversity and inclusion goals in the next 12 months. This group also reported that they felt six times more likely to convert applicants to ‘quality hires’ as a result of improvements in diversity and inclusion.

“We know diversity is a pressing issue and it’s vital that employers ensure their workforces reflect the customers, clients and communities they serve,” said Sandra Kerr OBE, race equality director at Business in the Community. “This will enable business to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging world, as research shows that the top quartile of ethnically diverse companies outperform the bottom quartile by 35 per cent.”

In light of the recent allegations of sexual harassment emerging in Hollywood and Westminster, it could be argued that employers should be focusing their resources on grievance procedures and whistleblowing mechanisms, rather than investing in diversity training. Yet Kerr said she believed it was important for organisations to cover both aspects.

“Workplace bullying and harassment are a huge concern; our Race at Work survey found that 30 per cent of employees witnessed racial bullying or harassment in the previous year,” said Kerr. “Employers should provide reporting mechanisms, communicate zero-tolerance policies and support victims of bullying and harassment, as well as provide unconscious bias training, monitor the diversity of candidates at each stage of the recruitment process and have fast-track programmes. Only by taking these approaches can we ensure we are creating workplaces that work for everyone.”

Stephen Frost, principal at Frost Included, said Glassdoor’s findings were positive, but the success of increased investment would be dependent on how the money was going to be spent.

“If they’re going to spend it on compliance, such as grievance procedures, that’s great, but it’s not adding value to the diversity performance of the organisation – you can’t kid yourself that it’s going to change the culture,” said Frost. “If it is spent on training their people to think about inclusion differently, that can add value. My worry is that we revert back to a basic 101-type approach and don’t think deeply about how we really want to create change.”

Diversity and inclusion programmes were also seen as being important in attracting candidates. Nearly one in five of those surveyed said these types of initiatives were among the elements that have the greatest influence on a candidate’s decision to join an organisation.

Claire Williams, director of inclusion and diversity at Inclusive Employers, said the findings mirrored its own experience of working with employers across all sectors. “Candidates investigate a potential employer’s diversity and inclusion credentials to understand the culture, levels of inclusion, development and promotion opportunities and whether difference is valued,” she said. “Employers know that they are in a race for talent – it’s a huge commercial driver and many are having to review these cultural issues as a result. Inclusion doesn’t happen by osmosis. Employers must make a plan and take action to create the shift that is required to attract the best talent.”

Investing in diversity and inclusion programmes is not the only way that businesses are trying to be more open about this issue. In September, professional services company PwC published its black, Asian and minority ethnic pay and bonus gaps. It hoped to encourage other organisations to take action and look beyond gender pay imbalances to help achieve true workplace diversity.

Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at the firm, said: “The progress made on gender shows the importance of organisations openly discussing the barriers and challenges, and learning from each other on how we can all create truly inclusive organisations.”