Diversity refers to demographic differences of a group – such as age, disability, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. Inclusion is often defined as the extent to which everyone at work feels valued, supported and accepted, regardless of their background. It is about creating an environment where someone can be their genuine and best self at work. A combined effort of a diverse and inclusive workforce unlocks limitless possibilities for innovation.
Diversity at leadership level is also an issue for many industries. For example, if we look at gender, for every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 72 women are promoted and hired1 and this is particularly a challenge in male dominated industries such as engineering and construction for example.
Attracting and retaining a diverse pool of talent is a universal challenge for global businesses. So, creating a culture of inclusion is essential to allow everyone to feel they can be themselves and contribute their best work. This helps build a sense of purpose and provides a positive environment that is key to retaining staff.
Catalyst for change
Our company has 4,700 people working in offices across the world. Each individual employee contributes unique knowledge and experience, attitudes and ambitions. To benefit from this diversity, we introduced a framework for diversity and inclusion initiatives and projects based on values of integrity, collaboration, transparency and excellence. The framework enables assessment of diversity opportunities and measurement of results, building on research and best practices.
There is no single solution to diversity and inclusion. Critically, diversity and inclusion is not solely an HR responsibility – it is a company-wide challenge. All employees across the company should feel responsible for diversity and inclusion. Pooling knowledge is the optimum route to best practice. Our partnerships with the WISE Campaign and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) have delivered access to resources such as industry best practices for talent acquisition and development, statistics, knowledge sharing events, professional development activities for female employees, annual conferences and speaking opportunities.
To realise ambitions for greater diversity and inclusion, HR professionals might consider taking action in the following areas:
1. Talent Acquisition: Set up KPIs measuring applicant demographics throughout the recruitment pipeline. This ensures that you are hitting some basic criteria with a more balanced selection of candidates. Consider obtaining support from third party industry peers who can offer recruitment best practices and access to job boards. In our case, we partnered with organisations including WISE and Society of Women Engineers.
2. Talent Development: While more women are rising to senior levels in their organisations, women and staff from minority backgrounds tend to progress to senior and leadership roles at lower rates than white men. Consider how best to build communities of professionals of diverse backgrounds in your sector. Consider sponsoring and attending networking events and participating in relevant conferences – for example, for women in engineering that includes the Society of Women Engineers conference, WISE conference, Women of Silicon Roundabout and the Girls In Tech Catalyst conferences. We have also sponsored the RisingWISE programme, led by Oxford and Cambridge universities, to retain and progress women in STEM careers.
3. Learning and Culture: Maximise any opportunity to showcase more women and role models from diverse backgrounds in brand materials and social media. For International Women in Engineering Day 2019, one campaign highlighted female engineers. Another recommendation might be to invite and host speakers in offices around the world to speak on topics related to diversity and inclusion. Set up an in-house global diversity and inclusion committee, which includes global employee representation endorsed and supported by the leadership team, to bring diverse voices to the programme from around the world. Make sure that all people are represented within your diversity committees – men, women, different ethnicities, age, and race.
4. Outreach: Offer support to employees who become STEM Ambassadors and volunteer to run STEM outreach activities such as hosting work experience students to inspire them to consider a STEM career, and running science and coding clubs.
5. Analytics and Research: Develop internal diversity and inclusion dashboards to monitor progress. There is a wealth of industry best practice available through organisations like WISE Campaign and the Society of Women Engineers, and you may also consider to commission independent research of diversity and inclusion best practices.
6. Communications: Externally, consciously project a more diverse set of images and stories, while internally share stories and activities that support diversity and inclusion. Enshrine in Business Conduct Guidelines a written commitment to fostering an environment of diversity, inclusion and individual development, human dignity and respect.
Business success today comes from working together across cultures to develop innovative products. Our workforce has more than 50 nationalities and over 60 languages spoken. It’s still early days, but we are encouraged by the level of interest and engagement across our international workforce.
It is important to emphasise that a diversity and inclusion programme isn’t about someone doing better at the expense of others, but rather that diversity and inclusion is about creating a culture of inclusion and respect for everyone. Setting up a framework to support diversity and inclusion is an important first stage. But it must be supported by actions from everybody to embed diversity and inclusion into organisational culture. Like many other peers, we still have a long way to go, but we are on the journey. Our multi-year strategy and programme for diversity and inclusion, as with many companies, initially began with gender, but we are continually looking to go broader across each demographic that we can.
Now, internal and external research supports a programme that looks beyond gender diversity. Inclusion is at the heart of this programme – everyone must feel included and empowered at work. As the CIPD D&I reports, “Given that all employees are unique, inclusion is relevant for everyone in a business.”
Mark Cooper, Chief Human Resources Officer – AVEVA Group plc
1 McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org’s latest ‘Women in the Workplace’ report1 states: https://wiw-report.s3.amazonaws.com/Women_in_the_Workplace_2019.pdf
2 CIPD report 2019, Building Inclusive work places https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/building-inclusive-workplaces-report-sept-2019_tcm18-64154.pdf