Whitehall HR chief calls for profession to lead CEOs on diversity

Whitehall’s HR chief has urged the profession to convince chief executives of the need to take responsibility for improving diversity in the workplace.

Gill Rider, director general of leadership and people strategy at the Cabinet Office, said HR has to make sure that senior business leaders see diversity as a number one business issue, and do not simply look to HR to provide the answers.

The news comes months after equalities guru Trevor Phillips called for the diversity function to be taken away as the sole responsibility of HR and turned into a wider business issue.

She told Personnel Today: “HR has a role in many things to do with the workforce, with all people issues of education and awareness. We should be taking issues to line managers with a view that they understand how diversity will impact on the business and business results.

“When it comes to employing a more diverse workforce, HR has to make sure leaders have got the right messages, policies, intervention, recruitment, and that line managers have responsibility for these things.”

Rider called on HR to ensure recruitment policies attract staff from different backgrounds.

“HR needs to think about how to position roles so they are more open to a diverse group of people – to make sure they are interesting and appeal to all backgrounds,” she said.

The diversity champion for the Civil Service, Bill Jeffrey, also insisted that diversity needed to be a wider business issue – owned and led by chief executives – if organisations are to improve the numbers of black and minority ethnic people and other minority groups in the workplace.

However, he denied this was because HR had failed to promote diversity effectively until now.

“HR has not failed,” he told Personnel Today. “If you talk to HR directors or senior people, they will say they have been impeded by the fact it’s hard for them to change the attitudes of senior business managers, who are up to their necks in pursuing business issues.

“HR has done its best but cannot lead the diversity agenda alone.”

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