Third of businesses do not have inclusion and diversity strategy, survey finds

Experts say findings are ‘disappointing’ and urge organisations to rethink ‘high risk, short sighted’ approach

Almost a third of UK businesses do not have a strategic approach to inclusion and diversity, according to new findings.

The survey of more than 2,000 HR professionals and business leaders across the UK and EMEA by Workday found that 31 per cent of UK respondents said their organisation did not take a strategic approach to inclusion and diversity, and had not taken any steps towards implementing one.

The study also revealed that more than half describe recording equity, diversity and inclusion as a “challenge”, and one in 10 UK businesses did not see the importance of diversity. 12 per cent believed it is “polarising”.

A further 15 per cent of respondents to the survey said they believed inclusion and diversity were “trivialised”, with a focus on similarities rather than celebrating differences.

On the other hand, a quarter (25 per cent) of those polled said their strategic approach to diversity was a priority. 

Almost half (46 per cent) of employers said diversity was recognised and celebrated in their business, and 38 per cent said their organisation planned to increase investment in diversity initiatives, while 37 per cent said they planned to maintain it. 

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The findings come after the CIPD earlier this week called for mandatory reporting of ethnicity pay gaps within the next two years following the revelation that just 13 FTSE 100 companies had so far reported their ethnicity pay gap data.

The organisation urged the government to require businesses to provide a supporting narrative to explain the nature and causation of pay gaps, and an action plan of initiatives to reduce and remove any such gaps.

Without this, it said, the reporting mechanism was unlikely to drive real change.

Commenting on the Workday findings, Sandra Kerr, race equality director at Business in the Community, said: “Employers often think that prioritising equity, diversity and inclusion is unimportant, and these disappointing findings come as no great surprise. 

“Employers will need to rethink their policies, however, when the lack of strategic action costs them a significant contract or they face negative media attention because something has gone seriously wrong in their organisation and they have no clear or transparent process in place to resolve it. 

“As we approach a new chapter in our push for racial equality in the workplace, I see these findings show a very high-risk, short-sighted view for businesses to take in today’s environment.”

Separately, a report last month by Green Park found that just 11 ‘top tier’ roles – made up of chair, CEO and CFO – among FTSE 100 companies were held by people from an ethnic minority background.

At the current rate of change based on Office for National Statistics data, the report said, it would take until the year 2237 for all boards across the FTSE 100 to be representative of the working-age population, of which 13 per cent is non-white.

At the time, Dr Scarlett Brown, corporate governance lead at the CIPD, said employers needed to give more consideration as to why certain sectors were viewed as more likely to lead to a C-suite position, and that boards and recruiters needed to think more broadly about the kinds of experience that are valuable – including leaders with experience in the people profession, public sector and sustainability.

“The pandemic has, more than ever, shown that people decisions are board-level decisions. Having a diverse group in terms of background and experience is vital for effective decision making,” said Brown.