It’s time to make a DEI difference

3 minute read

The People Space is partnering with executive search and intelligence agency Armstrong Craven to investigate why the dial is not moving fast enough on diversity, equity and inclusion

Armstrong Craven logo

Experts in talent mapping, pipelining, executive search and talent insights. Working with the world’s most influential & respected businesses undergoing transformational change, gaining market insights needed to identify & recruit specialised talent

Let's make a DEI difference ©The People Space

Four in 10 companies regard diversity and inclusion as a risk mitigation and compliance issue and have no comprehensive DEI strategy (Bersin).

• Just 53% of black employees believe their co-workers value and embrace diversity compared to 75% of white employees (McKinsey).

• Disabled people are over a third less likely to be employed than non-disabled people (Labour Force Survey)

• The US gender pay gap is 17.7% and even wider for women of colour (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020) and 15.5% in the UK (ONS)

• In Australia the unemployment rate for people with autism spectrum disorders is 34.1%, almost eight times the rate of people without disability at 4.6% (ABS 2019). In the UK just 22% of autistic adults are in full-time employment (ONS).

Diversity, equity and inclusion in work has been a focus for organisations for many years. In 2020 many organisations accelerated their DEI commitments on the back of the Black Lives Matter protests and lived experiences through the pandemic. According to Gartner, a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is one of the five critical future of work decisions that HR leaders must make in 2021.

Yet, while there have been some positive steps forward, the dial is not moving fast enough or far enough, as the above statistics show. Early findings from this year’s annual HR Competency Study conducted by Dave Ulrich and the RBL Group suggest companies across the globe have taken a strong line on directly and unequivocally addressing discrimination and harassment. At the same time, the broader goal, and resultant business impact, of ensuring everyone has equal opportunities to succeed remains elusive.

This is despite multimillion pound budgets on DEI initiatives. So why is this? And what actions can HR and organisations take to get that dial moving faster? These are questions The People Space is looking to answer in a new series in partnership with talent mapping, insight and executive search firm Armstrong Craven.

Over the year we will be looking at HR’s capability in DEI, whether the asynchronous workplace could improve inclusion, the role of organisational culture and the lived experience, and the impact of technology on DEI to examine what is going right and what is going wrong and to suggest actions that HR leaders can take to make a real difference.

“We've been working with a lot of clients as a diversity partner, for 15 years in many cases, but a lot of our historic diversity work has been female diversity in sectors like technology and engineering, the traditional environments that are male dominated,” says Peter Howarth, joint managing director of Armstrong Craven.

“Over the last 18 months our clients have put a lot more emphasis on broader diversity issues. It is becoming more of a strategic focus and much more embedded within the talent communities that we work with. Whereas some 80 to 90% of our diversity work five years ago was gender, now it's probably the reverse where around 80% of our work is about other forms of diversity. The challenge over the next several years is to go beyond just appointing a chief diversity officer, who can end up being a figurehead, to ensuring they are embedded in the team with the budget and tools to improve the way they manage diversity rather than just talking to people about diversity.”

There is plenty of research to show that diversity brings many business benefits such as increased profitability and creativity, stronger governance and better problem-solving abilities. A Boston Consulting Group study found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation. 

With employees expecting action on DEI, more flexibility, autonomy and remote working and the increase in Fourth Industrial technologies such as artificial intelligence changing the nature of human work, the time for action on DEI is now.

“DEI is one of the areas I hear about most when talking to HR leaders about key areas of focus. Yet there is clearly a big chasm between the talk and the walk,” says The People Space’s editorial director Siân Harrington.

“We believe it’s time to move DEI from compliance tick box or mere intention – what Wharton professor Stephanie Creary calls an unrewarded side hustle – to action and results. DEI is an enabler to success in the future of work.”

The new series starts in May 2021 with a feature examining HR’s capability in DEI. For more resources on DEI check out Armstrong Craven's Diversity & Inclusion Hub here.

Published 7 April 2021
Enjoyed this story?
Sign up for our newsletter here.