Diversity & Inclusion: Words or actions

Written by: Andrew Wilkinson
Published on: 17 Jun 2017

    Overwhelming evidence indicates that organisations need to continue to grow diverse and inclusive workforces to access the richest source of talent.  The supporting data is wide and varied, coming from multiple sources.  Let’s remind ourselves of a few:

    • McKinsey’s 2015 Diversity Matters research shows that gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to perform above the national industry median
    • The same report shows that for ethnically diverse companies this percentage rises to 35%
    • The Diversity Dividend: Canada’s Global Advantage report shows that a 1% increase in ethno cultural diversity among employees is associated with an average 2.4% increase in revenue and 0.5% increase in workplace productivity
    • The McGregor-Smith Review claimed that the UK economy could be boosted by £24bn if employers did more to support the professional development of BAME employees

    To highlight the practical reasons as well I recently came across a global law firm where a prospective new customer was grilling the HR team for evidence on its diversity and inclusivity activity.  A multi-million pound legal account was scoring prospective suppliers on this very issue.

    Despite this evidence and the incessant noise that we hear from CEOs to D&I specialists, I was amazed by an article I read recently where Olga Mack and Katia Bloom reviewed the diversity and inclusion statements of many Fortune 500 companies to see if “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.  It would be a fair reflection of their article to say that they were hugely disappointed with the evidence.  Time and time again the policies would make bold statements of a company’s intent but then the evidence would demonstrate that these statements achieved little, particularly at board level.  A further study shows that since Google released its first diversity report in 2014, little has changed in the tech industry in the USA.

    I genuinely think that there is huge progress being made and know of many successful initiatives and sectors where diversity can be evidenced.  The UK legal sector is one such success story where activities ranging from blind CVs, to contextual scoring of academic achievement are driving a different talent pool from which to select their graduate intake – light years away from “did you go to my school/university?” or “are you connected to an existing partner of the firm?”

    The challenge for many organisations can be broken down into four key areas of focus:

    Attract – how do you ensure that your pipeline of applicants is diverse and inclusive?

    Select – is the process that you use to review, select and assess your candidates fair and unbiased? Is it going to achieve a more diverse mix of hires?  Are there risks in the process where the intentions and the outcomes may differ?

    Retain –through the on-boarding and induction process, the right support has to be in place for all recruits, particularly those for whom settling into their new environment and engaging with work colleagues could be more challenging.

    Promote – are the internal selection processes for career development and promotion supporting the intentions of a more diverse and inclusive employee base at all levels?

    If organisations want to achieve a more diverse and inclusive workforce, then each of these key areas need to be mapped out and executed well. None are sufficient alone or the plan will fail as each step is interdependent rather than a separate initiative.

    Technology can play a part in supporting organisations to drive change but can also be an inhibitor if not part of a clear strategy.

    Texio is a positive technology enabler: it is an AI based tool that reviews the wording of job postings to predict the performance of your listing and give guidance on how to make them speak to audiences you want to reach – for example females; increasing the likelihood of more female applicants.

    LinkedIn is one of the recruitment tools that have changed the talent search landscape, but how helpful is it really in finding, attracting and engaging diverse talent? If you want to engage with a more diverse and inclusive talent pool, is sourcing a smallish number of profiles the way to achieve your goal? Is the fixation on the time it takes to hire the right metric if you want encourage a more diverse candidate pool?

    There is no doubt that this topic troubles all organisations, commercial and public sector. From board level, to resourcing and HR teams, there is a desire to change the approach.  However it is a complex issue that begs so much more than policy change.

    Real change will come from a concerted and joined-up strategy, followed by brilliant execution at every touchpoint that attracts, selects, retains and promotes the right talent.

    Only in this way will diversity become about actions, not words.

    Andrew Wilkinson, CEO, TMP Worldwide UK