The events of the Covid era have cemented the importance of a company’s robust and holistic diversity, equity and inclusion strategy to embed a sense of belonging whether employees work in or outside of the office.
And according to an in-depth new research report produced by a Shropshire company, now is a prime opportunity for organisations to restructure with inclusive foundations, rather than bolt-on policies.
Inclusion 247 has released its ‘Accelerating Inclusion’ research report, grounded in data from more than 500 organisations, in a bid to uncover the ‘real state-of-play of inclusion and provide tangible recommendations for progress’.
The company says it demonstrates that whilst organisations are acknowledging inclusion responsibilities, much more tangible action is required to really shift mindsets and drive policy.
Inclusion 247 is a dedicated inclusion, diversity and belonging division of Jungle HR Ltd, the Shropshire company founded and run by award-winning businesswoman Teresa Boughey.
She is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Groups for Women and Enterprise and Women and Work and author of the author of the number one Amazon bestseller ‘Closing the Gap – 5 Steps to Creating an Inclusive Culture’.
Teresa says: “We know there is a growing recognition of the importance of workplace belonging and equality, but employees are tired of empty rhetoric.
“From our research there are some encouraging signs of increased awareness, but there remains much progress to be made in actually putting the policies into practice, embedding them into the organisation and reflecting on how they can make a wider difference in their supply chain and community.
“We hope that the recommendations contained within the Accelerating Inclusion Research report and the insights from the review committee will contribute to real, practical change at the heart of organisations across the country as they build back better and stronger.”
Respondents were asked questions on a range of topics including: effective, or lack of, utilisation of recruitment, reward and leaver information; inclusive people practices; role models, mentoring and allies; action plans and goals; accountability of senior leaders.
Review committee members such as Barry Boffy, head of inclusion and diversity at the British Transport Police, and Joanne Lockwood, founder of SEE Change Happen, have provided additional insights and commentary into the research, while the foreword has been provided by Asif Sadiq MBE, Senior VP Equity and Inclusion.
Teresa says: “Our goal was to create a business focused Inclusion Report, underpinned by business and academic reference. We wanted to shape a report that is practical in application and provides organisations and business leaders with an accessible framework to follow.
“We sought to provide benchmark information whilst looking holistically at inclusion and belonging and moving beyond the boundaries of singular protected characteristics, individual responsibilities, or departments.
“We are encouraged by the progress which those organisations who participated in the survey findings have made, but it’s also clear that there is still more to do.
“As a result, it’s recommended that regular health-checks are carried out and that each step of the maturity model is revisited to check on the continuing health of the organisation.”
Here, Teresa outlines some of the key findings of the project, which also includes a number of case studies including the Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust, Tarmac, and Alstom:
Taking stock focuses on the extent to which organisations use data to inform their decisions. Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging is likely to be on the leadership agenda, but many organisations are yet to have a fully defined plan, and those that do now find themselves having to revitalize their plans in response to the emerging economic and cultural demands.
The Accelerating Inclusion Research Report shows that from the 518 organisations surveyed, 60% have not shared their gender, disability, and ethnicity pay data and action plan with their entire workforce beyond publishing this on their website.
53% do not have a People Data Dashboard against which the board regularly measures progress and 45% have not provided Diversity & Inclusion training to all individuals who are involved in the recruitment and selection process so that they understand biases they may hold when making selection decisions.
Inclusive leadership and communication is vital when it comes to shaping an inclusive culture. Raising awareness builds physiological safety, getting to know all members of the team and removing barriers for all employees.
While 60% of the organisations surveyed do believe their internal communication channels are diverse, inclusive, and accessible and 62% have a senior leader who champions Diversity & Inclusion, there remains much room for improvement.
Perhaps most worrying, only 17% of respondents have set Diversity & Inclusion milestones against which each member of the board are held accountable and only 24% use Diversity & Inclusion metrics to engage with stakeholders and customers. This suggests that organisations continue to view DE&I in isolation rather than considering their wider supply chain or stakeholders.
Inspire and Involve
Inspiring and involving all stakeholders to recognise and value unique differences are important components of an inclusion journey. Encouragingly 73% of respondents indicated that employees are able to ask questions directly to senior management and 69% recognise and celebrate employees’ contributions.
However, 63% of organisations surveyed do not provide mentoring opportunities, including reverse and diversity mentoring and 56% of organisations do not proactively seek out opportunities to continuously share Diversity & Inclusion best practice with other companies of differing sizes.
Build for the Future
Covid-19 and the associated economic challenges are putting pressure on companies however, they are also presenting opportunities to build back responsibly and break with traditions. Building for the future requires the support of everyone in the workplace, however only 16% of organisations reported that they had a development programme in place so that everyone understands how they can become an Ambassador, Ally, and/or Advocate for others.
When asked if it was true to say: “Your organisation has in place a behavioural competency framework which set out clear expectations around inclusive language and behaviours?”, 42% answered yes, but 41% answered no and 17% didn’t know. This indicates that there is still work to do for all organisations to have essential behavioural competency frameworks in place.
More than half (52%) of organisations surveyed do not provide leadership development programmes that are inclusive and enable the advancement of underrepresented groups.
Organisations who have embedded Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging widely into their organisations are likely to be courageous in challenging the status quo across their industry and beyond. It is encouraging to see that from the 518 respondents, 74% have a zero tolerance towards discriminatory behaviour, but this still leaves around one in four organisations who either do not have this, or do not know.
Almost 50% (47%) of organisations surveyed work with local colleges, universities, and communities to increase their talent pool and 51% have regular career conversations with all employees to understand their career aspirations.
However, for 60% of organisations surveyed Diversity & Inclusion is not a key performance metric for each member of the leadership team against which they are held accountable. Despite the increased focus on pay gaps, more than half (53%) of organisations have not produced an action plan that sets out the steps they intend to take to close the gender, disability, and ethnicity pay gaps.