Five steps to creating a more diverse workplace

posted by Charlie Hart
9 October 2020

Silence on diversity is a “greater risk” to firms than openly discussing their journey to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.  

Yvonne Smyth, group head of diversity and inclusion at Hays, said firms shouldn’t shy away from talking about diversity because they feel as though they “don’t have everything in place”.

During a CIPS podcast on addressing the equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) agenda, Smyth said: “It is sufficient to show that you are committed and you're on a journey. No one has it right. But if you are silent, either because you feel that what you are doing isn't important and significant enough, or you're worried about people criticising you because you're on the journey, that is a greater risk. 

“Silence is a greater risk than actually talking about what your commitments are, the opportunities that you see for your existing workforce, and why you want to invite others to come along and be part of that journey. That's a very attractive message from a talent attraction perspective.”

Smyth added that ED&I programmes should be given the same level of respect and focus by organisations as other transformational projects such as IT rollouts. 

Scott Dance, director at Hays Procurement and Supply Chain, added: “When we're speaking to people that are looking for new roles, one of the questions that they ask us is, 'How diverse is the employer you're going to put me forward to?' 

“They will start looking at Glassdoor to see if there's anything on there that's untoward, but they also may now look at diversity and inclusion policies or what you have on your intranet. So actually not having a robust policy or direction of travel may hinder you in seeing potential candidates in the first place.”

Smyth shared her five tips to creating a more diverse workplace:

1. Identify business benefits

“The starting point would be trying to identify what is the business benefit to you of having a more diverse workforce and inclusive workplace. You need to be able to answer that question commercially. You have to have a red hot commercial answer as to why you are actually doing this.”

2. Secure leadership support

“You need to get executive leadership buy in, because if you don't have that level of inspection and accountability, and an authentic level of inspection and accountability, this is not going to grow wings and fly.”

3. Get measurements in place

“It's very important to have measures in place that allow you to demonstrate your progress internally.” Smyth noted that the gender pay gap had demonstrated a need for some external reporting on diversity figures too.  

4. Focus is key

“You cannot do everything. The issue with ED&I is once you turn over one stone, there are five other stones under every single one and it multiplies. It's very easy to get goal diffusion. It's important to do some things extremely well and you'll get to benefit from that.”

5. Start with quick wins

“Start with the areas that are easier wins for you. At the moment one of those things would be the implementation of flexible working and maintaining a more hybrid working pattern. It is one of the silver bullets. It was seen as being very hard to do by some organisations but they've had to embrace it let's continue with that. 

“It's really about looking at each stage of your talent attraction and career management, seeing where there are gaps and what small nudges can you put in place to make sure that everyone continues in a positive direction and everyone can achieve their full potential.”

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