Just under half (47 per cent) of leaders do not have a ready equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy or action plan in place, a report has found.
In the CIPD’s Inclusion at work 2022 report, in partnership with Reed, a quarter (25 per cent) admitted their EDI activities were entirely or mostly “reactive to issues or reporting requirement changes”.
Its poll of 2,009 senior decision makers during May and June 2022 found that just two fifths (38 per cent) of employers collected some form of equal opportunities monitoring data from their employees and/or job applicants.
Dr Jummy Okoya, senior lecturer in organisation behaviour and HRM at University of East London, said she was not surprised by the report’s findings as “it merely confirms what we already know – diversity and inclusion receive enough discussion, but what is missing is tangible actions, real commitment and follow through from many organisations”.
The data also showed that organisations’ EDI plans were up for debate as more than a third (36 per cent) of companies were not planning to focus on any specific EDI areas over the next five years.
The most common areas of employer focus over the past five years were mental health (29 per cent), race/ethnicity (23 per cent) and gender (21 per cent). While these remained the top three priorities over the next five years, their percentage share is now smaller – 21 per cent,15 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively.
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As a result of the findings, the CIPD is urging organisations to take an evidence-based, proactive and strategic approach to EDI to better support individuals and improve their business outcomes.
The report provides seven key recommendations for employers on how to approach EDI, including building a strategy or action plan, taking a long-term and data-driven approach, and enabling and giving responsibility to managers and leaders to champion EDI.
Jill Miller, senior diversity and inclusion policy adviser at the CIPD, said: “Effective action to improve EDI requires a systemic approach across the organisation,” adding that there were simple actions that employers could take to improve inclusion, regardless of an organisation’s size or budget – “for instance, a focus on inclusive recruitment, people management, development and leadership behaviour can really help create fairer workplaces with equality of opportunity”, she said.
Echoing this, Naz Pauperio, senior communications EDI consultant, said that while EDI was moving up the agenda for many businesses, this “is often as a reaction to an issue that has occurred, or a 'we should do this because everyone else is', rather than a proactive and meaningful shift in company culture and mindset”.
“To really move the needle on EDI, organisations have to think beyond compliance and fully commit to fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce,” she said. “This commitment needs to come from the top and must have clear goals aligned to a strategy for organisations to track their progress”.
Regarding organisational approaches to EDI, Cheryl Samuels, deputy director of workforce transformation at NHS England, said that more firms needed to foster an open culture that promotes learning, where mistakes are supported and used as pivotal learning opportunities.
“Getting things wrong improves skills, competencies and cultural literacy and fosters stronger relationships. This includes having leaders opening up and being vulnerable to support a learning culture illustrating that they do not know everything and are learning as much as, if not more than, their fellow colleagues,” she said.
Similarly, Matheus Carvalho, head of global services at Inclusive Employers, said it was not only HR that needed to take responsibility for EDI; leaders should also recognise the importance of their roles as allies and take appropriate action. “They must not only pledge to create inclusive workplaces that are fair and safe for everyone, but also use their influence and position to ensure that this is reflected in the organisation's culture and policies,” he said.