Employers need to be focused and demonstrate a clear commitment to improving inclusion and diversity to ensure workplaces are fair for all, say the CIPD and Reed

New research from the CIPD, in partnership with Reed, highlights that just under half (47%) of employers don’t have an inclusion and diversity (I&D) strategy or action plan in place, and a quarter (25%) said their I&D activities are entirely or mostly reactive, when issues or reporting requirements emerge.

To improve workplace fairness, and demonstrate a long-term commitment to achieving real change, the CIPD and Reed are urging employers to be proactive in their approach to I&D and formalise these efforts in a strategy or action plan.

The CIPD’s Inclusion at Work 2022 report, in partnership with recruitment agency Reed, provides an overview of what UK employers are currently doing to improve inclusion and diversity in their workplaces and the practices they have found to be effective. It also highlights where more action is needed. The survey of over 2,000 UK senior decision-makers found:

  • Around half of employers (48%) have either a stand-alone strategy or action plan on I&D or integrate I&D into their wider people strategy. Encouragingly, among those that do have a plan, more than three-quarters of those (76%) evaluate the effectiveness of their plans.
  • A quarter of employers (25%) say their approach to I&D is entirely or mostly reactive. For example, in response to societal events like the Black Lives Matter protests or mandatory reporting requirements.
  • Over a third (36%) of organisations aren’t planning to focus on any specific I&D areas over the next five years. This is a significant shift, given that only 5% of organisations said they hadn’t focused on any I&D areas in the past five years.
  • The most common areas of I&D that employers have focused on in the past five years are mental health (29%), race/ethnicity (23%) and gender (21%). These remain the top three areas of focus for the next five years, but the percentages are notably smaller (21%,15% and 14% respectively).
  • Only four-in-10 (38%) employers collect some form of equal opportunities monitoring data from employees and/or job applicants.

Overall, the research points to a need for organisations to take an evidence-based, proactive and strategic approach to I&D to better support individuals and improve business outcomes.

Jill Miller, senior diversity and inclusion policy adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, says:

“While there’s been greater attention and gradual progress on inclusion and diversity in recent years, there’s clearly still a long way to go to create truly inclusive and fair workplaces for all. We need to see real commitment from employers to understand and address the barriers particular groups face in access to work and to progression.

“Effective action to improve equality, diversity, and inclusion requires a systemic approach across the organisation. We urge employers to be proactive and have a clear strategy or action plan in place, tailored to the organisation and workforce needs. There are simple actions that employers can take to improve inclusion, regardless of organisation size or budget. For instance, a focus on inclusive recruitment, people management, development and leadership behaviour can really help create fairer workplaces with equality of opportunity.”

Ian Nicholas, Global Managing Director at Reed, says:

“It’s clear that there’s a lot of work still to be done by businesses throughout the UK when it comes to inclusion and diversity. In the current jobs market, with many organisations crying out for talent, they can’t afford not to be as inclusive as possible and champion talent from all backgrounds.

“While this has been a hot topic for businesses, that hasn’t translated to a formal strategy for almost half. This really needs to be addressed. Until organisations start building inclusion and diversity into strategies and truly incorporating inclusive cultures, we won’t see the level of progress that’s needed. Business leaders need to embrace inclusion and diversity, and measure it more, using data to inform change throughout the organisation, identifying areas where more can be done. Without change you could see your business lagging behind, risking damaging your reputation among new and existing employees and customers.”

The Inclusion at Work 2022 report provides seven key recommendations for employers on how to create diverse and inclusive workplaces, including building a strategy or action plan, taking a long-term and data-driven approach, and enabling and giving responsibility to managers and leaders to champion inclusion and diversity.