The majority of diversity and inclusion (D&I) programmes in UK organisations are failing with only 35 per cent being fully adopted. These are the findings of O.C. Tanner’s 2021 Global Culture Report which surveyed 40,000 employees and leaders across the world including over 1,600 from the UK.

The main reasons given for the poor adoption rates are that leaders aren’t prioritising diversity, employees don’t care enough about diversity and there’s an overall lack of organisational commitment to D&I. In fact, just half of UK leaders (52 per cent) have communicated their D&I goals and just a third of organisations (33 per cent) have dedicated senior employees for D&I.

“Most diversity and inclusion initiatives are failing to deliver on their objectives”, says Robert Ordever, Managing Director of workplace culture expert, O.C. Tanner Europe. “Too many organisations still view D&I as a means to reduce exclusion rather than promote inclusion. The difference between these two approaches is significant, with programmes that focus on mitigating risk rather than truly celebrating differences, more likely to fail.”

Almost a half of UK employees surveyed (47 per cent) believe that their organisation is more interested in categorising them than understanding them, with 39 per cent stating that their organisation has implemented D&I technologies ‘just to look good’. And with a quarter of employees believing that discrimination is a real problem in their companies, D&I initiatives are failing to promote inclusivity and address genuine concerns.

Ordever says, “The research tells us that employees who identify as “different” in some way suffer greater burnout, feel a lesser sense of belonging, and experience more instances of microaggressions. It’s therefore key that organisations address D&I in a way that isn’t simply a compliance exercise but is about creating a truly inclusive employee experience.”

O.C. Tanner recommends building inclusion into multiple aspects of the employee experience so D&I efforts are ongoing and consistent rather than seen as one-off events at certain points in the employee journey. Ways for employees to feel included must be prioritised with any D&I plan including measurable goals. And by teaching leaders how to be inclusive, holding leaders accountable and ensuring they talk about inclusion in their team meetings, this will help to ensure D&I becomes an everyday focus rather than a mere ‘tick box’ exercise.

Ordever adds, “It’s time to change the approach and conversation around D&I. It’s no longer about reducing exclusivity and how to best mould a diverse set of employees into an existing culture, but must be about how to create a culture that embraces and celebrates every single individual.”

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.