The responsibility for improving diversity must not fall solely in HR’s lap and must extend to business heads and boardroom executives, research released today has found.
The report – Breaking the Deadlock – by employer-led group The 5% Club, included various recommendations to improve diversity in the UK workforce based on consultations with its members.
“In those companies which have been most effective at improving diversity, responsibility for leading change has often been moved out of the HR function,” one of the key takeaway points in the report read. “It is owned by the executive team or the board and made a priority for every employee.”
However, the research also found a significant number of employers had no strategies in place to improve diversity, even though many said this was a priority.
Leo Quin, chairman and founder of the 5% Club and group chief executive of Balfour Beatty, called on businesses to take immediate action to close diversity skills gaps.
“Businesses need to collect better data, think outside the box in how they recruit and ensure workplaces and business cultures are inclusive and welcoming to people from different backgrounds,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sandra Kerr, race equality director at Business in the Community, told People Management HR could help make boardrooms more aware of diversity and inclusion issues by providing recruitment and retention data and results from employee surveys.
“Businesses should want to see what people in the organisation are saying and how they feel,” Kerr said. “Sometimes the messages can be different. This is really powerful, and I think data can talk to the boardroom.”
The 5% Club report also found “traditional recruitment and retention strategies” were no longer effective for building a diverse, skilled workforce. It advocated the use of “blind CVs”, which hide details such as names, gender and educational institutions which could lead to potential bias.
Additionally, the research recommended unconscious bias training, reciprocal mentoring – “the pairing of senior executives with either people younger than them, [or] of a different gender or race” – and partnering business leaders with expert diversity organisations to develop further strategies.
Also today, the CIPD published the report Diversity and inclusion at work: facing up to the business case, which examined the moral and business cases for increasing workplace diversity.
Melanie Green, CIPD research adviser and author of the study, said businesses needed to take a holistic approach to diversity, and HR must make sure the importance of diversity is championed from the top down.
“Businesses that allow everyone – regardless of background – to flourish stand to benefit from diversity in a number of ways, including the ability to retain and recruit a diverse talent pool that reflects their customer base, contribution to society and enhanced corporate reputation.” Green said. “We also need to champion inclusion. An inclusive workplace is one where everyone, regardless of their background, is valued and has a voice. This is the key to unlocking the potential of diversity.”
Meanwhile, a survey by Crossland Employment Solicitors, published earlier this week, revealed one in three UK employers were “less likely” to hire a transgender person while two in five (43 per cent) were unsure if they would take on a transgender worker.
Only 3 per cent of the 1,000 employers surveyed reported having an equal opportunities policy that included applications from transgender workers.