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DE&I – it’s time to rethink values

Stephanie Coward, Managing Director for HCM - IRIS Software Group

It’s not just finding great talent that’s keeping HR teams awake at night. It’s holding onto it too. With a record number of employees leaving roles in search of better work experiences and higher salaries to offset cost-of-living struggles, building back stronger is proving to be far more difficult than any HR team ever imagined.

As a result, we’re seeing many businesses take precautionary steps to entice employees to stay while also attracting new ones. In some cases, we’re seeing offers of one-off bonuses to help employees with soaring living costs – Virgin Money for example is giving £1,000 bonuses to help staff. Others are introducing new perks to highlight employee recognition.

However, while both play an important part of employee retention and recruitment, what many businesses fail to recognise, and quite often sweep under the carpet, is the importance of sustainable Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I).

A diverse workforce increases employee morale. It encourages staff to be more effective and work more efficiently, increasing the productivity of any business. In fact, nearly a third of employees and job seekers would not apply to a job at a company where there is a lack of diversity among its workforce.

Yet sadly, with ongoing economic battles showing no sign of slowing down, unfortunately many organisations have decided DE&I is not a priority while they’re in survival mode.

The truth is, even if money and time is tight, DE&I cannot be ignored.

The case for DE&I
Not only is embracing DE&I the right thing to do for a fair and representative workplace. There is also a very compelling business case.

Businesses lacking diversity are at a significant disadvantage. When everyone looks and thinks alike, ideas and creativity can run stale. This can cause leaders to become stuck in a loop, functioning on historical ideologies that are no longer relevant and unable to connect with the world today.

A lack of diversity can also unintentionally create a hostile environment and contribute to higher turnover. Employees want to work for organisations that bring together different people, as it helps individuals learn and grow. They want to be a part of something where everyone is welcomed and valued – 57% of employees believe it’s very important that the company they work for is involved in social movements.

Despite clear evidence of what a diverse workforce means for business growth, over half of UK workers believe their company still has ‘a lot or a bit’ of work to do to progress DE&I policies within their workplace. It’s time HR teams rethink their values and unlock tools that will help build effective DE&I strategies. Only can they then find and hold on to the best talent.

To improve DE&I in the workplace, here are three key steps for HR teams to consider:

1. Change leadership’s mindset
Fostering a culture of diversity starts from the top down. A lack of diversity among leadership can affect the perceived diversity of the full organisation. Nobody wants to feel like an outsider or ‘token’ in the workplace. Even if a business has a diverse talent pool of junior employees, lack of diversity at senior and leadership roles may create a mindset that job or career progression is not possible, affecting employee retention.

The quest for having a diverse and inclusive workforce never ends for HR teams. Processes always need evaluating and adapting. However, for HR teams, prioritising inclusivity will be a challenge if the c-suite doesn’t prioritise it as well – leadership teams are their biggest allies. It’s therefore vital executives receive training to better educate themselves, so that once they’re comfortable and onboard, they can set an authentic, inclusive tone for all.

As well as C-suite training, introducing programmes or mentors for the wider workforce is a great way to boost awareness. Getting employees more involved in DE&I efforts means businesses will have an entire army on the ground, amplifying positive cultures and promoting core values both internally and externally.

2. Place DE&I at the heart of recruitment
Job seekers pay attention to the DE&I policies of potential employers, with 67% saying a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. For HR teams, this means reinventing and updating hiring methods that may have worked in the past, so that they’re inclusive and fair.

From introducing integrated systems that keep all CVs in one place, to utilising data as a starting point to locate areas that require improvement, having the right tools and software in place can ensure HR and hiring teams don’t miss the best applicants. Showing employee culture in job descriptions and social media channels, such as charity days, networking groups that celebrate diverse minds, also helps lift the employer brand.

3. Create a slick onboarding experience
A simple way to make new hires feel included is to emphasise DE&I during the onboarding experience. Sharing company commitments lets new hires know the company takes DE&I seriously. It’s also about ensuring the onboarding process is accessible and aims to remove any barriers that could hinder or prevent an employee from joining.

Using technology to digitise the onboarding process is also a necessity for HR teams. Cloud-based integrated HR systems can help to eliminate daily admin frees up time so that they can focus on what’s most important – evaluating and adapting DE&I strategies to ensure success.

Time for change
Ultimately, building an inclusive workforce that helps attract and keep talent goes beyond just the recruitment process – it requires a strong employer brand and company culture as well.

Every company’s journey to DE&I will be different. It’s no easy task. However, any business that chooses to push DE&I down its list of priorities will struggle.

Ensuring processes are in place to evaluate and adapt is critical – especially as workforces seem to face new challenges every single day. Setting transparent goals, utilising technology to streamline efficiencies, and updating employees on core DE&I focusses will go a long way toward building a truly inclusive workforce.

DE&I in the workplace matters. It always will. It’s time HR teams rethink values and really make a difference.

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