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Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies in 2023 need to be sustainable to make lasting change in the workplace.

Our UK Reward Management Survey asks respondent employers to outline the initiatives that they have implemented to create a culture that embeds DEI.

Making the business case for DEI

The case for inclusion and the positive effect diversity has on the success of an organisation is well established. Movements like Black Lives Matter made a huge impact in the wake of the pandemic. Employers are striving to widen the lens of their DEI strategies to a range of demographics, including those affected by long-term disabilities, and neurodiversity, while ensuring their workforces are inclusive of all religions, to ensure that inclusion is truly embedded across the whole organisation.

Emerging results from our UK Reward Management Survey show that half of respondent employers so far have a strategy or action plan in place that they are happy with. A further one in five have a plan in place that they intend to review. 19 per cent say they plan to develop one.

Investing in sustainable change

With reports that positive intent from employers is present but progress is slow, employers are increasingly looking at how they can quantify the budgets they spend on DEI.

In identifying best practice, McKinsey have set out five success factors in their ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lighthouses 2023 Report’, which include:

  1. Nuanced understanding of root causes, identifying causes and drivers.
  2. Meaningful definition of success, setting out a clear case for change and clear aspirations.
  3. Accountable and invested business leaders, modelling and leading desired change.
  4. Solutions designed for context, developing changes into processes and ways of working.
  5. Rigorous tracking using data and feedback to course-correct, if required.

Setting out clear parameters for success can help companies introduce initiatives that will work for them. This approach is designed to help identify initiatives that make a significant, quantifiable, scalable and sustained impact.

Widening the talent pool

Especially in light of the current skills shortage affecting the labour market, many respondent employers are noting how they are focusing on attracting and retaining from a whole talent pool that may be overlooked by a stricter 9-5 working model.

By removing geographical parameters, offering flexible working patterns to accommodate, this avoids losing people who require greater flexibility around their hours and responsibilities. With skills shortages persisting and two-thirds of employers expecting recruitment and retention challenges in the next six months, removing barriers to accessing talent would help alleviate pressures.

Policies that create an inclusive culture

How inclusive you are with the policies you create is important. Education and support lie at the foundation of creating a sustainable approach to inclusion. Policies set the tone for the range of conversations employees feel comfortable having with their line manager and potentially, one another. By setting out clear policies to help the individual at crucial points in their life – whether they are experiencing domestic abuse, affected by miscarriages, undergoing fertility treatments or navigating the menopause – having some guidance about the support available to employees can equip employees with the tools they need to find balance during turbulent times.

Support groups are often created out of these policies set by HR, with groups dedicated to LGBTQ+ and Women, particularly in Construction which is traditionally a more male-dominated sector. These safe spaces offer networking and learning opportunities, bringing people together to share their experiences and help one another to meet similar challenges. These conversations, with first-hand experiences being shared, can offer employees the tools they need to tackle the challenges they face individually.

Scrutinising the figures 

Diversity data is also increasingly required for certain bids, particularly as part of tenders for public sector contracts. The Gender Equality Duty places a statutory requirement on public authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to take action to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation based on sex and promote equality. Therefore, equal pay audits for public departments are becoming increasingly popular, as they seek to understand the drivers behind their own data.

The gender pay gap is a persistent problem facing the reputation of companies forced to report their figures, but those who manage to close the gap will reap the benefits in terms of recruitment and retention. While many were disappointed that plans to make it mandatory to report the ethnicity pay gap did not go ahead, this is still a possibility to ensure that companies are holding themselves to account when it comes to scrutinising their record on diversity and inclusion. Respondent employers are reporting that they voluntarily publish their gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps to be transparent with their stakeholders.

Respondent employers also report making their recruitment process as fair as possible. Skills-based assessments as opposed to purely interviews can enable candidates to demonstrate their ability and fitness for the role. Processes in place that can prevent unconscious bias from the interviewer also help at this stage.

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