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New survey reports on the real story of diversity in the UK workplace

ImageThe UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has revealed the first findings of a survey carried out to assess the state of diversity in the UK workplace.  A more detailed report will be published later this year after closer analysis of the survey responses.  

More than 50% of Working Population Increase will be non-White

Other research indicates that the working age population in the UK will increase by a million in the next ten years and that minority ethnic communities will account for more than half of that increase.  The business case for promoting and implementing a diverse workforce is clear, both in terms of accessing a wider pool of labour and in recognition that a diverse workforce is more likely to attract a wider customer base. 

Allied to this is the growing evidence that companies which are perceived as ethically and socially responsible are more likely to attract and retain top talent.  Promoting the employer brand as one that is socially responsible is, therefore, key to a company’s ability to differentiate itself in an increasingly competitive marketplace.  

Background to Survey

The CIPD survey was carried out in the first quarter of 2006 and has produced important statistical information that shows what the drivers for diversity are, the kinds of policies and practices that organisations have developed and how well these are working.

Managing diversity involves recognizing all types of difference and, says the CIPD, involves “a more proactive and inclusive agenda than minimal compliance with equal opportunities legislation.”  It requires employers to adopt strategic and coherent approaches that add value to business. 

Since the first equality legislation was introduced in the UK in the 1970s, initially covering race and gender, a wide range of further regulation on subjects such as equal pay, disability, religion and sexual orientation has followed, with age regulation in employment and training to be introduced in October 2006.

Key Findings

The survey findings, say the CIPD, show encouraging signs that companies recognize the business need to progress diversity, but that “UK plc still has a long way to go before diversity management is a mainstream business issue.”

  • The survey results indicate that the most important motivator for managing diversity is ‘legal pressure’, with 68% of the respondents ranking it among the top five drivers. This is followed by business-case reasons such as the ability ‘to recruit and retain best talent’, to deliver ‘corporate social responsibility’, ‘to be an employer of choice’, and ‘because it makes business sense’
  • Legal compliance is by far the strongest motivator for progressing diversity, with almost one-third of respondents ranking ‘legal pressure’ as the most important reason for making progress.
  • Only around 17% of respondents reported the ‘business case’ as being the most important driver for diversity in their organisations. This suggests, says the CIPD, “that the concept of managing diversity hasn’t yet been grasped by most employers and they’re therefore more likely to be missing out on potential business benefits.”
  • Most respondents fail to consider the different ways in which diversity can add value to business, even though 60% recognise that diversity makes business sense. Respondents simply focus on the contribution of diversity to the bottom line predominantly in terms of recruiting and retaining best talent.
  • These findings demonstrate that diversity management activities in organisations remain at a very superficial level – largely focused on training activities. The CIPD suggests that “there is much mileage to be gained in organisations making managing diversity a more systemic business process, for example, by linking diversity to objective-setting and reward and recognition, applying diversity standards and using ways of measuring the impact of diversity initiatives.”
  • Although respondents believe that senior-level ownership is very important, less than half agree that senior management encourages diversity.

Conclusions from Survey

Observations from the first findings of the CIPD diversity survey, says the organisation, suggest that “UK plc is failing to reap the benefits of managing diversity.”

Diversity has so far been linked to and addressed through Human Resources policies and practices, indicating that the business of managing diversity is still far from being considered as a mainstream business issue in corporate Britain.

The full CIPD survey ‘Diversity in Business: How much progress have employers made? First Findings’ can be found at: www.cipd.co.uk

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