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Practical ways your organisation can improve diversity and inclusion

By Donna Newton on 14 Apr 2016

There has been an increased focus on improving diversity and inclusion in organisations throughout the UK, backed by forthcoming Government legislation designed to help close the gender gap and reduce racial bias.

Studies have repeatedly shown that improving diversity and inclusion lifts performance. Organisations that do not have inclusive environments see lower employee satisfaction, higher levels of conflict and higher staff turnover.

Not for profit organisations are also increasingly focussing on diversity and inclusion as methods to help them respond to faster moving and more turbulent environments and create more supportive and productive work places.

In this blog, we look at some practical tips for helping your organisation boost its employee diversity and inclusion.

What’s the difference?

Diversity and inclusion are often mentioned at the same time, but do mean different things.

Diversity is a representation of many different types of people, including those of different genders, races, abilities, religions, etc. Diversity generally focusses on the differences between people and is sometimes referred to as “the mix”.

Inclusion is the act of creating a work environment where all these different kinds of people can thrive and succeed. Inclusion is “making the mix work”.

The focus in organisations is increasingly shifting from diversity to inclusion, as simply having a diverse workforce is not enough. You need to make sure everyone has the same chances to contribute, share and succeed to take full advantage of that diversity.

Diversity and inclusion apply to more than the protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act. You want to make sure everyone in your organisation is empowered and feels engaged, regardless of whether they are gay or straight, male or female, shy or outgoing, a part-time mum or junior hire, a cat lover or an avid base jumper.

Blind Recruiting

Blind recruiting involves taking all personal information off applications (including names, gender indications, nationality, and even the university attended) to eliminate unconscious bias during the recruitment process. Applications are reviewed based purely on skill set and experience.

A great deal of research has shown that applications from “foreign” sounding or ethnic origin names have a lower level of success than exactly the same application with a “whiter” sounding name, regardless of the hiring policies of the organisation. UCAS and the Civil Service both currently use name-blind applications, and this practice is becoming increasingly widespread among larger organisations.

Assigning job-specific tasks to candidates can also give you very useful and unbiased information when shortlisting, as it demonstrates their ability to do the role, rather than the impressiveness of their CV.

The most obvious downside is that removing this personal information can be a laborious process, but there are recruitment software packages that can help you do this. You could also talk to your recruitment agency about whether they can help you with blind recruiting – a specialist agency like TPP Recruitment will be able to supply you blind CVs or applications.

Introduce a Rooney Rule

The Rooney Rule is a US National Football League policy that requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. It was named after Dan Rooney, a team owner and chairman of the league’s diversity committee, and is designed to improve diversity by simply ensuring minority candidates have the opportunity to interview. Variations of the Rooney Rule are now used in many different types of industry.

It’s important to note that the Rooney Rule does not involve any “positive discrimination” – there are no quotas for filling jobs or any preference given to minority candidates in the hiring process.

The Rooney Rule works particularly well if your organisation is trying to improve representation among staff of a particular group or gender, for example to better mirror your service users. You can then ensure that candidates meeting these criteria are not automatically discounted from the recruitment process.

Review your Gender Pay Gap

Upcoming legislation means that organisations with more than 250 employees, including not for profit organisations, will have to disclose the gender pay gap in their workplace. This could potentially lead to negative publicity for those organisations who have a wider than average pay gap.

Make sure your organisation is ahead of the curve by measuring your gender pay gap now and taking action wherever possible to ensure men and women are paid equally for equivalent roles.

You can find out more in TPP’s charity gender pay gap report.

Consider Hiring More Disabled People

Disability is the only protected characteristic that you can positively discriminate against. Normally the Equality Act forbids any discrimination, for example against a man in favour of a woman or vice versa. However, it is not unlawful to discriminate against a non-disabled person in favour of a disabled one.

The turnover rate among disabled employees is much lower than the national average and many disability charities, such as Scope, Back Up,  Action on Hearing Loss or Rethink Mental Illness, choose to employ a significant number of disabled staff.

It’s important to make sure your application process is transparent and accessible, particularly any application forms. One thing to bear in mind is that it may still be unlawful to discriminate in favour of people with a particular type of disability over other disabled people, unless having a particular disability is an occupational requirement.

An Access to Work grant can help your employee by covering any adjustments needed for practical support, such as special or adapted equipment, travel costs, or support workers.

Advertise Roles Widely

Many organisations rely on a combination of referrals and internal promotions to fill their roles, with some possible social media advertising thrown in. The problem with this is that it relies on the networks of your existing employees to fill vacancies, and most people tend to know people who are similar to them.

To recruit people who are different to your current staff, it’s important to advertise roles on as wide a variety of websites, job boards and in physical places as possible. Wherever possible, ensure your organisation’s volunteers and service users are aware of vacancies and encourage them to apply (if appropriate) or share roles.

Promoting Inclusion

Having a diverse work force is a great starting point, but if it is not an inclusive environment, staff may begin to seek out other opportunities. Research shows that organisations with an inclusive environment are more creative and innovative, with higher levels of employee trust and retention.

For example, Affinity Housing implemented an inclusive leadership program and saw employee engagement raise to 90% and customer satisfaction to 89% and an overall increase in profit.

Recent ENEI research into inclusivity in the workplace has shown that it is something that needs to be fostered from the top down. They have identified 15 core competencies that inclusive leaders display, including empathy, listening, unqualified acceptance and foresight.

There is a view that sees Inclusive Leadership as a tool, not only to enhance diversity but also to creative a competitive edge and attract and retain a diverse range of talented people. Leaders who are aware of their own biases and preferences, actively seek out and consider different views and perspectives to inform better decision-making.

But everyone can help foster a culture of inclusivity in their workplace, by allowing everyone’s voice to be heard. Creating opportunities for quieter or overlooked employees to speak up and contribute to decisions, often by asking for constructive feedback, is necessary to take advantage of the knowledge and insight they possess.

In group conversations, it’s often easy for the same people to dominate, but interrupting them to allow others to speak can help to prevent this. Equally, don’t hijack conversations with your own agenda. It’s also extremely important to actively listen – give your full attention to each person speaking and ask questions to clarify points if necessary.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up

If you do decide to introduce policies to help improve diversity and inclusion, it’s important to measure the impact those have on your organisation. Comparing the results year on year will let you see the difference your work is making and can be used to help back up further improvements.

An equal opportunities questionnaire is a vital tool to measure the diversity of people a) applying for your roles and b) actually getting hired by your organisation. It’s also really useful to ask candidates how they found your recruitment process and what you could do to improve it.

Other useful measures include staff retention rates and sick leave taken, which can be an indication of staff welfare and morale. An annual staff satisfaction survey is used by many organisations to judge the impact of their policies.

TPP are currently members of the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI) and our Head of Client Relations, Donna Newton, recently attended their annual conference “Inclusive Leadership driving performance through diversity”.

If you would like to discuss further how diversity and inclusion can add to your future recruitment plans, please feel free to contact us on or 020 7198 6000 or contact Donna directly on 020 7198 6110.

Update: the BBC has just announced it will remove names and universities from job applications in order to improve social diversity