It’s rare to get the opportunity to listen and take part in a diversity and inclusion conference with such reach across business and both the public and Third Sectors. But that’s exactly what happened in March this year when delegates from organisations ranging from Lloyds of London, Barclays, Coca Cola, the Bank of England, KPMG, the British Council, Cabinet Office, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The City of London Corporation and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission shared thoughts, trends and best EDI practice from across the UK.
The results were startling. At this, the 9th annual conference, some familiar issues cropped up time and time again, but there was a general consensus that on some issues at least, things really had moved on – although one panel member rightly pointed out, “It takes a village to address some of these issues”. The importance of mentoring was stressed throughout many of the sessions. This was both in terms of outcomes from many of the commercial sector participants who were now seeing tangible results come through in terms of better representation at senior levels (in particular in terms of female and Global Majority representation), and also from the positive stories from many of the participants themselves.
The central role of HR in setting the tone for people priorities (“Everything comes back to people” was stressed), particularly the influence of the following on ensuring equity in the workplace:
- Learning, skills and capabilities, particularly for line managers – a role that was acknowledged to have got more “complex over the past 30 years”
- Pay and reward
- Employee experience
- Recruitment, retention and talent
- Ensuring a high performing HR function
The subject of the targets was a more contested subject with one large public sector employer stressing, “What matters is measurement rather than targets” – an issue likely discussed on a regular basis since the inaugural conference. The importance of tacking inequalities related to social economic background (SEB),however, nowhas a predominance unlikely seen at the initial conference. Despite the progress made in organisations as different as the UK Ministry of Justice and KPMG, two key challenges were identified: low declaration rates and also the best way to measure it. Is parental occupation really the best measure? Irrespective of the different views on this, there was broad agreement that SEB should be the 10th Protected Characteristic. Indeed, some organisations already treat it as one.
Equally prominent was the subject of neurodiversity as was the acknowledgement that like anxiety and any other mental health conditions, these were poorly understood by the public at large and positive initiatives like the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower didn’t have the profile they should. Allied to this is the subject of belonging in the workplace, and there were some very interesting cross-sector debates on its meaning in the workplace – ranging from “Belonging is when diversity works”, to the impact of the pandemic on the whole notion of what constitutes “workplace”, and the widely varying working models now in operation across all sectors.
The cross-sector discussion on racial inclusion and equity highlighted that whilst the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement brought the conversation around racial equity to the forefront, change is still behind where it needs to be. As executive search specialists, the topic of contextual recruitment was a subject of great interest to us and also to participants – with more than one person admitting that they had to “Google that one”. Essentially taking a job applicant’s personal circumstances when looking at their application, organisations like the Law Society of Scotland have led the way in striving for fairer and more inclusive recruitment practices – a subject central, of course, to our hearts here at McLean Public.
If you’re struggling to diversify your organisation’s workforce, please get in touch as this is something McLean Public can support you with.