Holistic approach vital to improving inclusion and diversity, report says

Research finds discrepancies between employers’ promises and actions around I&D, as experts urge HR to set ambitious targets and track data

Inclusion and diversity will remain an aspiration, rather than becoming a reality, unless companies take action based on facts and tackle the issue in a holistic way, suggests a major new report.

The inaugural McKenzie-Delis Packer Review found that in many areas of I&D there were gaps between what companies said and what they actually did in practice.

The review, which looked in depth at 10 areas of I&D, found 71 per cent of firms claimed to be making progress on gender diversity at senior levels, but just 54 per cent specified gender diversity in their succession planning.  

For race and ethnicity, only just over half (56 per cent) had initiatives for increasing ethnic diversity in their leadership teams, and fewer than half (49 per cent) specified ethnic diversity in succession planning.

Just 38 per cent said they gathered and monitored data on the sexual orientation of their leadership teams.

And while 91 per cent said they had processes to ensure employees with disabilities and long-term conditions had the adjustments they required at work, only 58 per cent explained the importance of disability inclusion to their workforce.

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The majority of employers (89 per cent) also failed to collect and monitor data on the socioeconomic backgrounds of their staff. And fewer than one in five (19 per cent) used ‘contextual recruitment practices’ to support applicants with less advantaged backgrounds, according to the review.

The report said individual aspects of I&D needed to be looked at in the round rather than treated separately, and argued that open and honest analysis could help organisations understand where they had equity issues. I&D goals were only realised when key decision-makers were held accountable, it added, and said employers needed to take a data-based approach to setting goals.

“Establishing realistic, achievable and relevant goals tied to accountability serves to drive change and results,” the report said.

The report’s findings were based on in-depth polling of 79 major employers between June and October this year, including Boots, Tesco, NatWest, KPMG, Lloyd’s of London, Diageo, the NHS and The Football Association. The 10 aspects of I&D it considered were gender, race and ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, mental health, disability, socioeconomic background, nationality, religion and parenthood.

Leila McKenzie-Delis, chief executive of DIAL Global – one of the organisations that launched the review – said businesses were not doing enough to be more diverse and inclusive: “One of the oldest pieces of management advice is ‘what gets measured gets done’. Our goal is to bring the same standards of informed decision-making used throughout management to the business of I&D.”

Commenting on the report, Suki Sandhu, founder and chief executive of INvolve and Audeliss, said: “We must set ambitious diversity targets, track and measure data, and hold ourselves and others accountable for taking real, actionable change for the betterment of business and society more generally.”

The review found the majority of companies recognised the benefits of a diverse workforce that includes a wide range of religions or beliefs (87 per cent) and collecting data on the nationality of their employees (77 per cent). But when it came to dealing with an ageing workforce, only 58 per cent had measures in place to reduce age bias in recruitment.

Nine in 10 (92 per cent) recognised the importance of employee mental health, but only 81 per cent claimed to have a strong mental health strategy that includes tackling stigma.

Similarly, while 92 per cent of businesses recognised the benefits of having parents in the workplace, just 74 per cent offered staff enhanced maternity pay.

Abdul Wahab, I&D adviser at the CIPD, said employers that collect data on a large number of I&D areas would be “better placed to identify and address bias and discrimination throughout systems, processes and organisational culture to create genuinely inclusive organisations”.

This was echoed by Jeya Thiruchelvam, managing editor for employment law at Xpert HR, who encouraged employers to look beyond their recruitment practices. “Organisations often concentrate on measuring their performance in relation to diversity at the recruitment stage, but then don’t track the progress or experience of employees with diverse backgrounds after joining,” she said.

“If those employees are being recruited but not progressing, organisations need to ask themselves why that is – this is another crucial step to progress.”