Companies head for disaster over diversity

Diversity will be a pipedream until HR, directors and line managers
collaborate to make it a reality, finds our new survey in association with DLA

The UK’s employers risk skills shortages, recruitment and retention problems
and costly tribunal claims because they are failing to promote equality and
value diversity, exclusive research reveals.

The survey, by Personnel Today and law firm DLA, of HR professionals across
1,400 employers, reveals there is not enough support for diversity issues from
top management.

It says line managers have inadequate skills to deal with a diverse
workforce, and most employers don’t even measure the diversity profile of their
staff.

It also highlights that just 42 per cent of respondents believe the most
senior people in their organisation are ‘genuinely committed’ to improving
diversity.

A quarter of those polled say the attitudes of their directors or chief
executives towards diversity are ‘neutral’ and 19 per cent report their leaders
pay ‘lip service’ to the issue.

Of the remainder, 10 per cent of HR professionals think the top management
tier sees the issue as a legal minefield, and 4 per cent feel their leaders perceive
diversity issues as ‘nonsense’.

Pauline Matthews, partner at law firm DLA, said it was "almost
impossible for organisations to make progress in improving attitudes towards
equality and increasing the overall diversity among staff unless the most senior
people are on board".

She said: "I think this finding is extremely worrying. Without
commitment from the top, you are not going to make much progress in changing
attitudes towards diversity."

Just as worrying for business, 62 per cent of HR professionals don’t think
their line managers have the skills to deal with the issues. Half those polled
report line managers don’t understand the business benefits of equality and
diversity strategies.

Research by Opportunity Now shows that, by 2010, only 20 per cent of the UK
working population will be white, male, able-bodied and under 45. A staggering
80 per cent of the growth in the workforce by 2010 will be created by women.

Julie Mellor, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), said she
was particularly concerned by the shortcomings at line management level.

"Line managers are the vital connecting point between good intention
and actual delivery. It is a real challenge to get it right and if they don’t,
the business loses out by failing to recruit or keep and motivate its staff.
These survey results show that HR managers know that."

Mellor said the EOC is to produce checklists with the help of employers, to
help line managers on equality and diversity issues.

The research also reveals that most organisations have no clear idea of how
effective their equality policies are because they don’t measure the diversity
profile of their workforce. Just 38 per cent of employers report they monitor
their employees to generate a picture of how diverse they are.

Makbool Javaid, partner at DLA, was surprised how few employers are
monitoring diversity. He believes the changing demographics of the UK’s
workforce mean all employers will have to take the issue seriously.

"The Government has re-iterated time and again, if you don’t know the
profile of your workforce you will never know where you have problem areas and
won’t be able to take corrective action."

He said progressive employers that benchmark their workforces, such as
Lloyds TSB and B&Q, do so because they understand there is a real
competitive advantage in being able to recruit from as broad a pool as
possible.

The study finds that 38 per cent of respondents believe the proportion of
ethnic minorities in their workforce has increased over the last two years and
33 per cent report the proportion of female staff has increased over the same
period.

However, Javaid said that for most employers, these figures must be based on
perception and anecdotal evidence because the survey shows that so few
organisations actually measure the profile of the workforce.

Alarming shortage of training for line managers highlighted in study

Nearly half of organisations have
inadequate equality and diversity training policies to help line managers deal
with workplace issues.

The Personnel Today and DLA survey reveals that 35 per cent of
employers don’t run any training for line managers, and 13 per cent of HR
professionals describe the training in place as poor.

Just over a fifth claim their training is fair, 21 per cent
report that is good and just 5 per cent describe it as excellent.

The survey also finds that an alarming proportion of
respondents believe diversity is not embedded throughout an organisation and is
often regarded as ‘just an HR issue’.

More than 40 per cent of respondents agree that diversity and
equality are not integrated throughout their organisation.

There is also a significant gap between the success of
employers in implementing equality systems and in creating a culture of
diversity.

Nearly 50 per cent think their organisation’s implementation of
equality systems is good, compared to 39 per cent who believe their
implementation of a culture of diversity is good.

Verbatim responses from the survey

● "A position was filled with an external male
candidate without being advertised internally. There were several interested,
suitably-qualified, internal female candidates who would have applied."
● "A temporary member of staff was not hired permanently as the
director did not like people from that ethnic group. The position was offered
to a white female with less experience and relevant skills. It was not
investigated because it involved a director."
● "There is an acceptance by management that a certain manual
workforce, by their nature, make racist, homophobic and sexist comments."
● "Time off for prayer was allowed at the person’s home, but no
provision was made at the office. Consequently, the person was absent too much
and their flexitime was terrible."
● "A female manager returned to work after maternity leave to be
offered a lower-grade job. It had been assumed she would want less
responsibility, so someone else had been appointed."
● "Senior management’s reaction to yet another attempt by HR to
introduce an equal opportunities policy is: ‘What’s the least we can get away
with?’"

Case study: Arriva on track for challenge ahead

Transport giant Arriva has launched
an innovative training programme to help senior managers change values and
attitudes towards diversity across the group.

Members of the company’s senior management are to take part in
an interactive conference featuring actors who will perform role-play based on
potential real-life diversity issues.

The action will stop just before the point of conflict and
managers must decide what course to take, drawing on their own experiences and
judgement.

The scheme is part of Arriva’s new diversity initiative,
designed to help promote awareness of diversity across the organisation.

Alison O’Connor, director of HR development at Arriva, said:
"We recognise that our staff have not kept pace with what is happening in
the wider world. We want to create an environment where people’s differences
are accepted, understood and appreciated."

O’Connor said Arriva’s new diversity drive would help it comply
with the forthcoming legislation on sexual orientation and religious belief,
and just as importantly, would generate real business benefits.

"We need to be able to reflect the communities in which we
serve, in terms of our staff’s diversity. We believe employers which ignore the
importance of promoting diversity will ultimately enjoy limited success when
employing people and trying to increase their customer base."

O’Connor said the support of Arriva’s board ensured the issue
was taken very seriously. HR director Mark Saxton, who sits on the board, is on
a diversity committee featuring senior managers from across the group. There is
a best practice forum on diversity set up to share ideas.

Arriva also benchmarks the diversity of its workforce on an
annual basis to gauge how effective its policies are.

Feedback from the profession: Policy needs buy-in from top
downwards

Niccola Swan, diversity director, Barclays:
"If you get the culture right at the top of an organisation, it will
filter down. It is unfair to blame middle managers as blockers. It has to be
‘do as we do’ and not ‘do as we say’. The lesson HR must learn is that if
there’s inappropriate behaviour, it has to be dealt with properly. It
demonstrates to everybody that it is very serious. Diversity is definitely a
growing area with lots of goodwill, but there’s still a long way to go."
Fiona Bartels-Ellis, head of equal opportunities and diversity, The
British Council:
"I agree that line managers
typically lack the skills required to promote diversity. People still don’t
understand the business case. There is still too much emphasis on the equal
opportunities agenda, which tends to be just reactive."
Terry Devoil, head of diversity training, Metropolitan Police:
"I think that without senior management commitment, efforts to try to
bring about a culture change, so diversity is valued, will fail. Diversity
should not just be bolted-on as a policy. Everything we do as individuals must
take into account the implications of diversity."
Mary Mallett, president, Socpo:  "I think a lot of managers are
really nervous about issues of diversity because they perceive they have to
tread very carefully. Everybody has had the political correctness lobby kneecap
them. It has made people really frightened. The big issue is to make people
feel this is a straightforward part of managing and that there are real
organisational benefits."
Brendan Barber, general secretary TUC: "If
you are asking if employers are doing enough on diversity, the answer is ‘no’.
The gender pay gap is still too high and employers have been resistant to pay
audits, which look at the factors behind this. If you look at the issue of race
in the workplace, all the evidence points to discrimination and a bad deal for
ethnic minorities. Unions must push employers to really address these problems
in concrete terms."

 


HOW TO GET THE REPORT

The Workforce Diversity and Equality research report is available from
Personnel Today Management Resources for just £49 inclusive of postage and
packaging.  To order, go to www.personneltoday.com/resources

DISCRIMINATION
EVENTS

The
sponsors of the Personnel Today Workforce Diversity and Equality
research, DLA’s Equality & Diversity Group, will be running a series of
events on the hot discrimination topics:.


July and August 2003: Tailored in-house training programmes to help
organisations understand the changes to race discrimination legislation,
including the new definition of harassment.


October 2003: a series of workshops enabling employers to get to grips with the
new legislation outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation
and religion or belief.


February and March 2004:  Seminars on
the wide-ranging changes to the Disability Discrimination Act, and the positive
steps employers can take to tackle age discrimination before the new legislation
comes into force.

If
you would like to receive details of these events please contact: Dennis
Taylor, DLA Equality & Diversity Group at: mailto:dennis.taylor@dla.com

 

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