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Is your DEI strategy effective?

TALiNT Partners discusses the results of a recent report by Inclusion at Work.

Content Insights

Some diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) practices may be ineffective or unlawful.
Government-endorsed framework for evidence-based DEI strategies.
A worrying trend of initiatives lacking evidence or impact understanding.

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A recent report from the independent Inclusion at Work panel suggests that certain, diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) practices may be ineffective or even unlawful. Initiated by business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch, the panel highlighted a growing need for a revamped approach to DEI, citing instances where well-intentioned practices have backfired or breached legal boundaries.

Among the findings, a Ministry of Defence review into the Royal Air Force revealed instances of unintended discrimination against white men due to pressure to meet recruitment targets for women and ethnic minorities. The report emphasises the complexity of navigating DEI issues, noting that many employers lack the necessary understanding of historical context and socio-economic data to effectively address disparities.

Despite a desire among employers to promote diversity and inclusion, the report notes a concerning trend of initiatives being implemented without solid evidence or understanding of their impact. Accessibility to relevant data and the presence of polarising debates further impede the development of effective policies.

The journey towards diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) often begins with framing the issue, allowing for better understanding and resource deployment. However, there’s a risk of prioritising initiatives that are easier to measure rather than addressing the most pressing needs. In a blog written last year, Ken Brotherston, CEO at TALiNT Partners, he highlighted that DEI efforts might overlook groups facing urgent challenges, such as individuals with work-limiting conditions, amid the UK’s labour market struggles. These individuals often face barriers to employment but are difficult to measure and support effectively. While current DEI initiatives are commendable, there’s a call to reassess and potentially redirect efforts towards these overlooked groups. This shift requires acknowledging complex issues and realising that collective action is necessary. While existing initiatives may indirectly benefit these groups, a more targeted approach might be needed. Ultimately, it’s about recognising the diversity within diversity and ensuring that all individuals have equal opportunities in the workforce, even if their challenges are less visible or easily quantifiable.

Some diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) practices may be ineffective or unlawful

Kemi Badenoch has stressed the importance of avoiding superficial gestures in discussions surrounding diversity and inclusion, emphasising the government’s commitment to upholding meritocracy and equality laws.

In response to these challenges, the report recommends a new framework endorsed by the government to guide organisations in implementing evidence-based DEI strategies. This framework would emphasise systematic data collection, regular progress reviews, and the establishment of clear performance standards.

Furthermore, the report suggests investment in digital tools to facilitate the assessment of DEI  practices and urges the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to provide clarity on the legal implications of recent rulings for employers.

While some, like Lutfur Ali from the CIPD, commend the focus on evidence-based practices, others, like Harriet Walker from Business in the Community, stress the importance of continued investment in DEI initiatives, citing both moral imperatives and business benefits. Walker suggests that employers leverage data and employee feedback to tailor action plans that address specific gaps in their DEI efforts.

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