Updated: Jan 6, 2020
Diversity and Inclusion Networks. Organisational Change or Mere Legislative Compliance?
Firstly as I write this blog (my first one of the year) I would like to wish all my connections on LinkedIn a happy, successful and healthy 2019.
In this blog I am going to be talking about Diversity and Inclusion Networks and whether they have been implemented by organisations as genuine cultural change or are they just a way of complying with the minimum expectations laid out by the Equality Act.
Diversity and Inclusion Networks in organisations have become increasingly at the forefront of businesses strategies to be seen as socially responsible. Having Diversity and Inclusion networks in businesses is great if it helps people like me who have Asperger's Syndrome get a job and play a role in the organisations diversity and inclusion strategy. Yet for organisations to be successful with their D&I strategies there has to be a willingness within the organisation that the culture and ethos of the way the organisation does business and how it treats its workforce must change for a D&I strategy to be successful. According to Forbes one of the main problems organisations face when they decide to implement a D&I strategy is a willingness to jump straight into action and get a cross-functional group of people together to brainstorm, events and partnerships. Now when this occurs success is often viewed as executing ideas and plans as quickly as possible. The net consequence being that short-term, employees within the organisation do experience D&I training programmes and events, yet these will often lack the structures and resources needed to be successful. It is indicative of an organisation that wants to be the best at delivery of D&I strategies, without willing to instigate the necessary cultural change that is required.
Yet if D&I strategies are implemented with the intention of actual cultural change. Then the business benefits to an organisation can be immeasurable. One key driver that often occurs as a by-product of a successfully well structured D&I strategy is the enhancement of an employer's brand. In a 2017 survey that PWC carried out 54% of women and 45% of men surveyed said they researched if a company had a D&I strategy before deciding to accept employment with that organisation. While a recent Glassdoor survey found at 59% of employers said that the lack of a structured well resourced D&I strategy was a organisational inhibitor to them attracting top talent into their business.
Furthermore, another key benefit of a well structured D&I strategy is the enhancement of greater innovation and creativity into organisations. A workforce that has individuals who are LGBT, Black & Asian, disabled and female is far more likely to deliver innovative and creative business strategies than an organisation which is homogeneous. This can also help improve a businesses bottom-line as according to the US consultancy firm McKinsey, diverse businesses particularly in the boardroom have a 95% higher equity return than non-diverse board rooms.
However, despite the above points being an essential part of any organisations D&I strategy a note of caution should exist. Studies carried out by Forbes as to the effectiveness of mandatory training programmes found that internal diversity training programmes were seen as largely ineffective and in many cases harmful to the organisations objective of a Diverse and Inclusive workplace. Forbes found that isolated D&I programmes without ongoing dialogue about how to improve the organisations D&I strategy often triggered feelings of otherness in minority and underrepresented groups in the workplace. A factionalist workplace is not a healthy one and employee resource groups would be a better way for organisations to increase self-worth and belonging among underrepresented groups in the workplace.
In my honest view I believe that for organisations to have successful D&I strategies, D&I should be a business function within every single organisation. The effect of having D&I team as a business function will be a useful check and balance on the other business areas such as Finance, Legal, IT, HR and recruitment in ensuring that these business areas recruit on meritocratic grounds and not on grounds of wealth and connections. It's time that all organisations had D&I networks and implemented these as business functions within their business models. Hobby networks for D&I and mere compliance to appear to be socially responsible should not deemed to be acceptable in the 21st century. Only when organisations have D&I as a business function will the workplace see an equalising of opportunities for all people regardless of race, skin colour, gender, and disability.
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