“People matter, and we all should have equal opportunity to develop, progress, and be rewarded and recognised at work. Organisations must ensure that their people management practices champion this fundamental principle.”
So says the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the summary of its recently released report called ‘Diversity and inclusion at work: facing up to the business case (https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/diversity-and-inclusion-at-work_2018-facing-up-to-the-business-case-1_tcm18-44146.pdf). This kind of statement is nothing new, but it holds nonetheless. And any diversity and inclusivity initiative needs to have this fundamental principle at its core.
The report starts by referencing the moral reasons for making workplaces more diverse and inclusive and the fact that every individual should have access to the same opportunities. It then goes on to say that people professionals and organisations need to consider a much broader range of outcomes that are achieved by having a more diverse workplace.
To date, there has been lots of research into the business case for diversity and the focus has been primarily on organisational performance and the financial impact. While this research is very important, it has not always been conclusive and the CIPD argues that the traditional notion of the ‘business case’ and the outcomes are too narrow. It is calling for the more human aspect of diversity to be taken into account - how it benefits individuals, organisations and society generally.
What are those broader outcomes of diversity? The CIPD says that diversity is a broad, far ranging term and therefore, the outcomes are also broad and far ranging. It would like to see a greater emphasis on individual-level outcomes, such as employee wellbeing and satisfaction and the retention of diverse talent.
However, the CIPD says that there is a lack of real understanding of what actions organisations can take that will lead to greater diversity and inclusion. It says there are three key questions organisations need to consider. They are:
- What are the outcomes of diversity and inclusion?
- What factors keep inequality in place?
- What supports greater inclusion and diversity in the workplace?
What is needed is informed, evidence-based action. And organisations need to think hard about question 2: what factors keep inequality in place? Why? Because inequality is still in place, despite diversity and inclusion being on the business agenda for several years now. Think about the fact that certain groups of people – women and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, for example – are still underrepresented in senior management in the UK. Why is that the case despite initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion?
Previous CIPD research from 2017 found that BAME employee are more likely to say that their career progression has failed to meet their expectations than their white British counterparts, with many of them saying that discrimination is a contributory factor.
With regards to question 3 – What supports greater inclusion and diversity in the workplace? - the CIPD says people professionals are absolutely key here: “It is evident that people management practices, alongside the culture and values of an organisation, hold the key to unlocking truly inclusive working practices that add value beyond compliance with equality legislation. People professionals have a key part to play in ensuring that what is espoused in policies is acted out in practice, ensuring fairness and encouraging diverse voices to be heard.” says the report.
The report also states that it is important to recognise and research intersectionality – the fact that humans have multiple, overlapping identities. Those intersectionalities affect how people interact with each other and are important when considering diversity. That is another reason why there is such a need for a more holistic, broader view of diversity.
This report makes for interesting reading, encouraging people professionals to reflect on their current practice and policies and to think about how and why diversity and inclusivity could be improved.