Equality and Diversity: Buy-in is the key

Equality and Diversity are two words that are regularly mentioned in the business media, which is of no great surprise when you look at today’s society.

Due to our diverse culture the protection of minority groups has been high on the Government’s agenda, which has led to organisations investing in equality and diversity training.
Although many organisations have invested in equality and diversity training, a recent survey conducted by the Ethnic Minority Foundation charity revealed that almost nine in 10 recent graduates have experienced some kind of discrimination at work.

The findings of the report were also supported by another survey, this time conducted by Milkround.com, which interviewed 200 graduates and found that 86% had faced some form of discrimination.

The results included:
·        Race discrimination affected two in five respondents
·        14% of respondents experienced age discrimination
·        Gender discrimination was encountered by 12% of respondents
·        Other motives for discrimination included sexual orientation and height
These figures are worrying and are a strong argument as to why organisations need to invest in equality and diversity training.

Kasmin Cooney, Managing Director of learning and development specialist Righttrack says, “The demand for equality and diversity training over recent years has grown significantly, which when you look at the focus placed on it by the Government, the regular changes of diversity acts and the number of organisations being taken to court, it comes as no great surprise. Equality and diversity can bring many benefits to organisations when all of the surrounding issues are understood – equality and diversity make good business sense.”
“Yet some organisations are still just going through the motions rather than fully embracing the subject and, when the training makes no real difference, they believe they were proved right in it being a waste of time. Diversity development is like any other, to make a positive impact there needs to be a buy-in from the board level. If this is done, equality and diversity will be proved as a worthwhile investment.”
It is not just a myth that equality and diversity result in business benefits, it has been proven and examples of the benefits include:

·        Creating an inclusive environment motivates employees, which has positive benefits on organisational productivity and efficiency
·        Aids in the search of finding and retaining good employees
·        Encourages creativity and innovation
·        Improved employee relationships

Many people believe equality and diversity courses are a ‘ticking the box’ exercise, but as the list above shows, it can be so much more if organisations and business leaders placed greater importance on diversity issues.
If you were to ask employees from any organisation in the UK about equality laws the chances of them fully knowing and understanding all of them is highly unlikely – particularly as there are constant amendments to the acts.

The most recent example is the Sex Discrimination Act – the new changes come into force on the 6th April 2008.

It is for this reason why equality and diversity training is an important area for businesses to address – it constantly changes.
As Kasmin says, creating buy-in from business leaders is essential when implementing development topics like equality and diversity as everybody has an opinion.

For organisations to fully realise the benefits it is up to business leaders to embrace the topic.
Whatever your personal opinion on equality and diversity training, the issue itself is extremely important and as Krishna Sarda, Chief Executive of the Ethnic Minority Foundation, said, “It is a sad and depressing fact that in 21st century Britain, discrimination on ethnicity is rife and ruining the life chances of so many young people.”
So let’s push equality and diversity up the business agenda further still. After all, if we were all the same the world would be a very dull, uninspiring and unproductive place.

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