Diversity & Inclusion

Prioritising Diversity

Organisations are approaching inclusion with innovation.

By Simon Kent

Whilst it may be difficult to extricate the pandemic’s impact from the work of HR leaders, other challenges are emerging driven by new priorities. Certainly much of HR’s time has been allocated to addressing the impact of the pandemic, including the ongoing evolution of where and how people will work. However, the challenge of finding and growing new talent is now becoming as pressing of an issue in diverse ways.

“Nurturing and developing female talent at every level of the organisation is a key priority for DHL Supply Chain, and that did not change during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Rob Rosenberg, the company’s global head of HR. “Our industry has been traditionally male dominated, but we know that a diverse workforce produces the best work, so we strive to attract, retain, and develop women so that they can have rewarding careers with us.” The business has had some success in this area, says Rosenberg, by hiring young women at the start of their careers, by working to unlock the potential of colleagues, and by fostering cultural change. Effectively they’re working to change the pipeline of talent and by doing so will increase gender diversity.

“Increasing the number of women in leadership positions has always been a business priority with 21.6% of global leadership roles currently filled by women,” Rosenberg adds. “By 2025, our goal is to have women in 30% of leadership positions. Alongside this, we have looked at boosting the entry-level talent pipelines. Our goal this year is to fill 40% of roles with female talent, and in regions like the UK, this target was hit in 2020 at 46%.”

The business has also introduced a new “Shift Up A Gear” initiative that aims to further support the progression and placement of female candidates for management positions, by offering bespoke and targeted support for career development. As part of this, a recently introduced “Development Companion” app encourages women to take responsibility for their development journey and define their own goals.

Skills and diversity are high on the agenda for Justin Kearney, SVP of HR at Logicalis Group. In this instance, attention is being paid to how internal talent is managed and developed. “It’s a priority of mine to identify where we can encourage re-training or upskilling staff we already have versus trying to externally hire,” he says. Whilst the pandemic has shifted the business’ recruiting tactics to be less bound by location, Kearney says HR data and analytics is also now being brought into play in order to understand and identify where within the 6,500-person organisation the ideal skills and technical certifications may already exist to plug gaps in each territory.

“There’s also an increased focus on diversity and inclusion within Logicalis,” he says. “According to McKinsey, a business with more diversity has up to 33% more chance of being further profitable than less inclusive ones. Yet, recent research reveals only 19% of all UK tech workers are women, and a mere 4% of the UK tech workforce is black, Asian or of minority ethnicity.”

In response to this, Logicalis has launched a new “Global Inclusion Council” and delivered inclusion workshops to senior leadership around the group. They also appointed a head of responsible business and increased their efforts to support the training and education of diverse individuals, encouraging them to enter the technology industry. In the past year alone, Logicalis has helped more than 7,000 individuals gain access to computer technology to further their digital skills.

Mary Asante, director of the membership organisation HRi says now’s the time for HR to address diversity, particularly racial inequality. “Talking about race in the workplace is often seen as HR’s job, with senior leadership very often passing the responsibility on,” she says. “The reality is that for effective and meaningful conversations to take place in the workplace, and for change to happen, the leadership team needs to be driving this. It needs to be on the boardroom agenda, not as a checklist exercise for HR to fulfil.”

HR’s role, she argues is to ask “challenging and uncomfortable questions” which can help leaders look at their own organisations. “HR can play a key role in highlighting the issue of racial inequality and racism within their organisation or when working with their clients as an external HR professional,” she says. “This must be done at all stages throughout the employee lifecycle.”

“Organisational leadership must be accountable for all aspects of race, racial discrimination, and racial inequalities,” Asante continues. “They must engage with HR, equality and diversity professionals, and legal advisors to enable them to address the issue holistically, for their organisation to benefit from the skills, knowledge, experience, and talent of a more inclusive workforce.”

Nick Gallimore, director of talent transformation and insight at performance management business Clear Review believes there will be a significant amount of employee turnover in late 2021 and early 2022, a result of businesses making hybrid working a reality and employees deciding whether the options offered suit them. HR will need to be ready to compete for diverse talent in this environment. “We are already seeing a real shift in candidate behaviour, and the inclusivity of an organisation has moved right to the top level of importance when candidates are assessing employers’ brand,” he says.

Gallimore advises business to hire “on the true predictors of success: cognitive ability, soft skills and value and behaviour fit.” Rather than simply buying knowledge, he argues, winning at talent will mean learning how to identify people with the potential to succeed, and creating an environment where people can learn the skills they need to be successful.

“How you interpret and apply hybrid working, how flexible you can be in supporting working styles, will fundamentally alter your ability to hire and retain staff,” says Gallimore. “Your organisational purpose and focus on DE&I will also lead into that. Getting key things wrong in your approach to these areas could fundamentally affect competitiveness and ultimately valuation down the line.”

As Gallimore says, the next few months will be an interesting time for businesses, as HR seeks to create the right brand, environment and approach to attract and retain the best talent for its organisation.

Tags: Diversity & Inclusion, EMEA July August 2021

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