Diversity agendas: more than meets the eye

Diversity agendas are less advanced than we thought

Fewer organisations have a formal diversity strategy compared with previous years. That’s the surprise finding from the latest joint CIPD and Hays Resourcing and Talent Planning survey. It seems the problem with workplace diversity agendas runs deeper than initially meets the eye.

For our upcoming white paper, we examined the diversity agendas of the top 20 UK companies by revenue but were unable to identify any company that target employees from disadvantaged backgrounds. From this we concluded that while many employers have committed to making great strides at creating greater opportunities for women and minority groups, they have a real blind spot when it comes to class that leaves their diversity agendas wanting.

The CIPD report, based on feedback from over 1000 HR professionals across the UK, reveals that many organisations don’t even have a formal diversity agenda, let alone an incomplete agenda.

According to the survey,

  • Only just over half of organisations (52%) have a formal diversity strategy
  • The proportion of organisations with a diversity strategy has fallen compared to previous years; 2017: 52%; 2015: 58%; 2013: 58%; 2012: 56%
  • Private sector organisations are even less likely to have a formal strategy (43%)
  • The proportion of organisations monitoring candidate information to improve recruitment of under-represented groups has increased only slightly, as has the proportion advertising vacancies via different sources to attract under-represented groups.
  • Most other methods to attract under-represented groups have decreased compared with 2015. The initiative that has experienced the largest decrease, –13 percentage points, is for attracting talent of all ages.
Diversity agenda
Initiatives adopted to improve diversity in organisations. Source: Resourcing and Talent Planning 2017, CIPD in partnership with Hays
Why it’s in employers’ interests to invest in a formal diversity agenda

The need to focus on diversity more couldn’t be clearer or more pressing. Four fifths of organisations feel the competition for well-qualified talent has increased over the past year with 72% anticipating competition further increasing over the coming years. Three quarters report having recruitment difficulties in the last year. For this reason, organisations need to broaden their potential pool of candidates.

The task ahead

A fundamental expansion of diversity agendas is needed in response to Britain’s deep social mobility problem. Employers need to commit to adding class to the diversity agenda. But for many employers the task is more fundamental – they need to create a formal diversity agenda. For some this will necessitate a fundamental shift in the way they perceive diversity in relation to the employer brand.

They need to appreciate that the diversity agenda is not separate from the overall employer brand, but an integral component of the overall employer brand. The diversity agenda supports the overall employer brand by helping to define what’s expected of employees – that you will treat everyone fairly and equally. In return it is an opportunity to define what employees can expect from you, that you will have full and equal opportunity to demonstrate and fulfil your ability, regardless of your upbringing or appearance. The diversity agenda shapes the give and get of the employment deal.

As the competition for talent becomes greater, the needs for employers to have a clear, compelling and distinctive employee value proposition (EVP) to attract talent.  An organisation’s values are of increasing importance to both candidates and employees, and deserve to be at the heart of the EVP. Notably organisations that have made a conscious effort to improve their employer brand have done so by improving the communication of their values. To do this successfully organisations need to articulate the value they place on promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Employers need to embed diversity values into their overall employer brand, rather than seeing them as a separate entity. By doing this it will pave the way to a formal diversity agenda, and that will start to improve the access to a broader talent pool.

Want to know more? Our whitepaper on the social mobility problem in the UK is being released later this month. Enter your details below and we’ll send you a free copy on launch day.

The blog is part of our diversity discussion series. For more blogs on diversity click here.

Katharine Newton is Head of Insight at Talent Works International (TWI). TWI is a global talent communications firm that helps organisations around the world build effective and efficient talent strategies through our research, sourcing and creative teams.