Diversity and Inclusion As the Golden Thread

Discover how, even in an era-defining crisis, diversity and inclusion is the golden thread that can support business to survive and regrow successfully on the other side.

Peter reflected that there have been increases in the diversity and inclusion focus. Language and dialogue have changed as well as a ‘big push on gender balance and pay gap reporting’. Despite all the discussion and legislation, it’s probably, ‘not enough and not fast enough’.

He says, ‘If you go into other aspects of diversity, ethnic diversity, different abilities, experiential diversity and social mobility there are real challenges in terms of progress.’

To make real progress, Peter believes you have to start with why having inclusive workplaces is important for the business. “Innovation, skills and talents depend on different experiences and backgrounds. To get an organisation that’s properly reflecting the customers and societies of communities of which it is truly a part are very powerful drivers for inclusion.’

Peter strongly advocates the use of data, to provide the insights organisations need. These help us understand the ‘inhibitors and accelerators for inclusion, from recruitment and unconscious bias to how we train managers. As a discussion theme, it’s certainly a very cool one for our profession of HR, but we still have some way to go.’

Since I was speaking to Peter virtually, amid the global pandemic, I asked him for his thoughts about how the crisis might affect D&I.

‘I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this crisis is era-defining. I mean, people have equated it to crises of the last century, like the great wars. This is different in its form, but the impact could be as big on societies, on economies, on jobs. We’re already seeing massively increased numbers of unemployed people. That it will drive an awful lot of uncertainty for some time to come, in business behaviours.’

It’s a concern for Peter that economic crises make business both risk-averse and needing to cut costs. People costs are amongst the largest. That could have an impact on diversity and inclusion as it might get ‘pushed to the side’.

However, ‘I fundamentally believe we will emerge from it in positive ways… humanity, compassion, well-being, human-centred thinking will and must emerge from this alongside a profound readjustment of what is important in business. Financial stakeholders are important but, oh my goodness, your workforce as a stakeholder group is equally important. Those two things are not in opposition. Look after your people effectively, create inclusive workplaces and you can create very positive economic and business outcomes.’

Peter believes the future is about multi-stakeholder capitalism. He explains this as the idea that businesses should not just be driven by maximizing profit for the sake of it. ‘Be financially sustainable, but within the context of behaving ethically and responsibly, looking after your people properly, looking after your customers and suppliers properly, being part of a responsible business within your communities. And let’s not forget also that there was leading into this health crisis, there’s an environmental crisis as well. Responsible business looks after its environment.’

Peter believes that it’s important that actions employers take now, whether it’s cutting hours or reducing workforce size are consciously viewed through the diversity inclusion lens. Reasonable adjustments may be needed for different workforce segments and particularly those who are more vulnerable. As people return to work in different phases, it’s important to keep the wellbeing of staff at the heart of it all as this drives inclusion.

This resonated with me strongly. I’ve developed the Inclusive Response, Inclusive Regrowth webinars to support business in the crisis. The role of the D&I leader has changed to inclusive crisis manager, focused on the business-critical response. Whether it’s working from home, furloughing or making people redundant, it’s making sure there is an inclusive lens across it. And on the other side of the crisis, diversity and inclusion can support healthy business regrowth in an inclusive way.

Peter liked my description of thinking of diversity and inclusion as part of a response to the crisis the businesses are facing. In the past, he has thought well being might have been seen as a bit ‘fluffy’ so he considers it’s important to place inclusion in the context of business-critical functions.

I also asked Peter what boardrooms should be doing to take responsibility for D&I given the current environment that we’re in. He replied that responsible business should be holding the executive to account and maintaining inclusion.

‘Even in these very tough times, where some industries have up to 80% staff furloughed or made redundant, we shouldn’t lose sight of inclusion. I would say to any board that they should continue to talk about these issues of strong and inclusive corporate cultures which will maintain and sustain you as we come out of this crisis. Even if you’ve had to let people go, these practices will allow you to attract the talents and skills that you need in your workforce and retain them in the future. As D&I practitioners and HR leaders we have a responsibility to have that lens on the organisation so we can continue to report back and encourage the dialogue at board levels about inclusive corporate cultures.’

I asked Peter what inclusive growth means for the CIPD and he was clear that the organisation thinks about the issue across several dimensions. Firstly, contributing to the wider debate about diversity and inclusion, advocating and sharing research and policy. Secondly teaching through the HR profession about good diversity and inclusion practices. ‘We’ve launched a new profession map with core skills and capabilities and are developing all the new qualifications behind it. Diversity and inclusion is a golden thread through everything we teach. It’s integral not a sideshow.’

Thirdly CIPD encourages the profession to be more diverse. ‘We want HR to be the change it wants to see. Finally, we are mindful about what we as the CIPD represent as a good organisation. I’m proud that the CIPD represents inclusion in all its different forms, all the way from the board through to every level of the organisation. We champion these ideas, we continue to measure and understand how diverse we are as an organization.

We have the internal diversity and inclusion networks. We hold ourselves to account as an organisation. I can speak with credibility if people ask me “What are you doing?” I can say, “We do these things at the CIPD. I want to hold us up as an exemplar of all these ideas.’

The CIPD has been established for over 100 years. It’s grown out of the Welfare Workers Association, who did what it said on the tin and were concerned with the welfare of employees.

The CIPD now has 160,000 members, with an international presence in Singapore, Dubai, UK, and Ireland.

CIPD exists to promote the HR profession and the practices and thinking of the profession. It engages in policy and governmental discussions on the future of work and employment legislation. To find out more go to the website which has huge amounts of trusted source information on diversity and inclusion, including specific guidance around responding to COVID-19.

Diversity and Inclusion As the Golden Thread - Mildon