In the midst of a global pandemic, with many countries dealing with a second spike in COVID-19 cases, businesses face a range of challenges. From maintaining revenue to managing a remote or socially-distanced workforce, HR and senior management have been handling unprecedented situations.
But there has been a worrying trend happening at the same time. Against a backdrop of Black Lives Matters, diversity in the workforce was being placed on hold.
In March, research by I4CP found that 27% of organisations had put all or most of their diversity and inclusion initiatives on hold as a result of COVID-19. 12% admitted that D&I was less of a consideration when making workforce changes like reductions and promotions.
Two months later, Glassdoor reported that there had been a 63% increase in discussions of diversity and related topics and 71% of people said they were concerned or dissatisfied with companies’ responses.
As the focus increased, there was a clear discrepancy between organisations’ focus and expectations from job candidates and customers. Data shows very slow progress again diversity targets, especially for big businesses.
There has been no increase in ethnic minority leaders on the boards of FTSE 100 companies. And while in the last year there has been a 3.8% rise in women on these boards, 41% of FTSE 350 companies have not reached 33% female representation and 18 boards within the FTSE 250 only have one female board member.
And it’s not big businesses that need to address D&I. At the start of October 2020, Glassdoor announced that it would be adding diversity and inclusion rankings into its measures. This is likely to raise the profile of diversity even more and make organisations successes and failures very public.
With 72% of job seekers saying they would check diversity figures when considering an employer and investors like L&G insisting on board diversity, companies clearly need to be doing more.
With so much focus on D&I, how do businesses think they are doing?
Our qualitative research on 25 organisations from a range of industries found that in-house recruiters had serious doubts about the effectiveness of current D&I strategy and initiatives. Whilst 92% of respondents said D&I “is a key area of focus” for them, only 16% rate their efforts as deserving eight or more out of 10. In contrast, 40% rated their efforts at three out of 10 or lower.
Recognising that improvements need to be made is one thing; implementing them is another. Whilst over 90% of the 25 organisations we spoke to recognised that D&I is a key business priority moving forward, a worryingly low number of respondents were able to then go on and evidence actual positive steps in this area.
But encouragingly this seems to be something that businesses are recognising, with companies now investing in dedicated resource to manage D&I – key at a time when HR teams find themselves increasingly stretched.
Back in 2018, our research found that only 20% of the organisations had an executive or team in place dedicated to D&I. This is on the rise. Data from Glassdoor shows a 106% increase in D&I roles in the UK and a 30% increase in the US.
Further data from LinkedIn showed a 71% increase worldwide in all D&I roles over the last five years, with job adverts for Chief Diversity Officers up 68% and Head of Diversity roles up 107%.
This focus perhaps recognises the positive impact of improving diversity and inclusion and the many benefits it brings to businesses.
Now is the time for organisations to maintain and increase their focus on diversity in recruiting and beyond. And if you're looking for a diverse talent pool or want insights into the marketplace to guide your strategy, we can help.
Want to know more about the latest D&I trends and how businesses can meet their objectives?
Our guide contains in-depth information about diversity and inclusion in 2020, including the latest trends, challenges for businesses and advice on how to implement a successful D&I strategy and reap the rewards of a diverse and inclusive workplace.