Over the last few years, many companies have ramped up their commitment to D&I; implementing initiatives, setting targets, creating employee groups and hiring dedicated D&I personnel.
While a lot of progress has been made – there are frequent reports from companies that they have successfully increased the diversity of their workforce – this doesn’t always result in more inclusive cultures, and it often focuses on gender and race rather than some of the more underrepresented minorities.
Here are just a small number of things we can learn from major companies leading the way in D&I. Of course, these are large organisations, but even the smallest business can take inspiration from their activities and aim to implement a more inclusive culture.
- Engage all your employees with D&I
When the entire workforce is aware of D&I and engaged in improving it – with effective leadership and HR-led initiatives – it’s much more likely that there will be progress.
Employee resource groups and mentoring programmes are fairly common ways of involving a varied group of employees. Johnson & Johnson has found success with these, and the company also has a ‘Diversity University’ website, a resource for employees to understand the benefits of collaborative working.
Unilever, meanwhile, has a network of nearly 100 champions to drive D&I across the business. Combined with its dedicated D&I team and changes to recruitment processes, the company has seen significant improvements, and recently announced that it has the same number of women as men in leadership roles for the first time.
Accenture provides diversity training to employees that is broken down into different categories – awareness, management, and professional development – to build understanding, skills for career success and ability to manage diverse teams. This acknowledges that D&I is much more than simply ensuring that there is a diverse workforce and aims to fully educate staff.
- Avoid focusing on only one area of diversity
In some sectors, there is a huge focus on gender and racial diversity, but not many initiatives or discussion around socio-economic background, age, disability or religious affiliation.
In terms of age, it’s vital for any business to have employees that span generations and can offer varying perspectives on your products or services – and vital that your culture enables people of all ages to contribute and make decisions. To address generational barriers, Mastercard started a one-on-one social media reverse mentoring programme, enabling staff to share their knowledge with older members of the company.
Focusing on disability inclusion is Virgin Media, which partnered with Scope on the ‘Work with Me’ campaign to support a million disabled people in getting into and staying in work by the end of 2020. The campaign includes a disability awareness guide for managers, work with partners to ensure accessibility is considered when hiring, and an online hub to help applicants gain confidence and skills.
Meanwhile, EY and Microsoft have specific hiring programmes for neurodiverse and specifically autistic individuals, who are often underrepresented in D&I work generally.
- Consider the specific D&I challenges in your own sector
Each industry has its own particular challenges when it comes to D&I, so ‘a one size fits all’ approach isn’t suitable; your company’s initiatives and targets should be based upon research of your own organisation and the sector and tailored appropriately.
Tech and engineering companies, for example, may focus on STEM outreach in schools. Mastercard operates Girls4Tech™, a STEM curriculum, with employees mentoring 8-12 year olds to support future careers in fraud detection, digital convergence, big data and more.
The construction industry is particularly male-dominated and not always seen as welcoming to women, so prominent companies like Sir Robert McAlpine and Wates have set a strong example by overhauling parental and care leave policies to help retain a more diverse workforce.
- D&I must be championed from the top
It’s essential that the senior leaders in the organisation are invested in improving D&I and role model diversity of thought.
Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, is a good example of how a passionate leader can contribute to positive D&I outcomes, which in turn helps to improve business performance. When he became CEO, Cook quickly demonstrated his desire to have a diverse workforce, adding three women to the executive team and hiring directors from underrepresented groups. He also launched an annual report on D&I and improved recruitment practices. This commitment and sustained approach resulted in a greater percentage of females being hired by the company and Apple being considered one of the best in the tech sector for D&I.
Our upcoming D&I events for the Construction, Utilities, Law, Finance and Technology sectors are online and free of charge – take a look at the schedule and sign up here.