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Diversity a key component of future success

Organisations run the risk of hampering their own growth by failing to see through the implementation of diversity and inclusion policies. By focusing on introducing policies and overlooking how to embed diversity and inclusion, organisations run the risk of not responding to the diverse customer base of modern business.

Instead, firms need to consistently emphasise to front-line managers the simple fact that more diverse teams are more effective, innovative, and better equipped to deliver superior performance and growth. This is one of the themes that came out of discussions around new research conducted by Bernard Hodes in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). The research, Diversity & Inclusion – Fringe or Fundamental?, explores the increasingly mainstream nature of diversity and inclusion issues but highlights areas where strategies could be better embedded to deliver lasting change.

The report finds that diversity and inclusion (D&I) is increasingly fundamental, rather than a fringe issue: 83 percent of organisations have strategies and policies in place and 57 percent expect D&I to become more important in the next 5 years. However, too many organisations are still not looking beyond their legal requirements and too few have a truly embedded approach to D&I that is integral to their talent management strategies. Commenting on the research Helen Rosethorn, CEO of Bernard Hodes says: “There is good news and not such good news in the report findings. Clearly D&I is being considered at a more strategic level than ever before – but it is not translating effectively enough into building more inclusive workplaces and people practice”.

Dianah Worman, diversity adviser at the CIPD says: “The overall message from the discussions was simple – a more diverse workforce is one that delivers superior business performance. This isn’t about ticking boxes or chasing fads, it’s about assembling the best teams, that are effective, innovative, creative and can deliver growth. While understanding about the business case for diversity and inclusion has grown, UK businesses cannot afford to rest of their laurels. Despite all the great progress that’s been made, there is still more to be done to really land the message with top teams and front-line managers that they should embrace diversity and inclusion because it helps them to achieve critical business objectives better than if they are allowed to keep subconsciously recruiting teams dominated by ‘people like us’.” Also commenting, Liz Bingham, Managing Partner for People at Ernst & Young, said: “The research demonstrates that whilst many organisations have embarked on a journey of change, they are at different stages on that journey. It appears that companies have frameworks and policies in place but don’t know how to bring them to life.”

The challenge, she feels, is now less around the “D” for diversity and more around the “I” for inclusion – making D&I an essential aspect of the way we all do business. Key to that is recognising that D&I is not just about creating an inclusive culture, it can improve business performance. Donna Miller, European HR Director for Enterprise Rent-A-Car stressed that when diversity in a workforce reflects the customer base, there is a positive impact on sales.

She said: “The business case must be led from the top and needs to be integrated throughout every area of the business including IT people, sales people, accountants and suppliers – it is not only an HR issue. We have found that attracting people from different cultures helps generate new business and open up new markets.” Overall, the survey of more than 350 organisations confirmed that D&I is considered a fundamental issue, but reveals some concerning limitations to the extent to which it is embedded within organisations:

• The link between diversity and talent management is too loose in many organisations (less than half of organisations’ D&I approaches cover talent management)
• Less than half of those organised surveys address D&I in their reward or internal communications strategies
• Less than half include D&I in line manager training
• Despite a focus on meeting regulatory requirements, certain areas of compliance are still not being addressed by some organisations
• There are weaknesses when it comes to demonstrating impact (only 40 percent use specific key performance indicators, and the majority of these focused on demographic data and employee survey results).

The CIPD has also launched a practical guide, Game On! How to keep diversity progress on track, to actively help organisations embed diversity in a lasting and game-changing way. It is based on the personal learning and experiences of leading practitioners in the field, including Stephen Frost, who was responsible at LOCOG for embedding diversity and inclusion from day one in the delivery of London 2012. It highlights how progressing diversity and inclusion can be part of business as usual.

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