Leadership must take responsibility for understanding the business case of diverse workplaces

A representative group for leading businesses believes organisations should be focusing on building diverse workforces and that a strong business case for inclusivity has been made.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) argues that companies must take action and show leadership to make workplaces more inclusive.

Business leaders were singled out for the role they need to play in making inclusion and diversity a natural part of their organisation.

As part of this process the CBI recommended best practices including name-blind recruitment and diversity targets to ensure diversity became embedded within organisations.

CBI president Paul Drechsler urged organisations to understand the importance that drawing on a wide range of people would bring.

“Inclusive workplaces give firms the chance to get ahead of their competitors by making better decisions, through diverse teams which draw on a wider range of ideas and experiences. Companies that place inclusion at their heart are better able to secure the skills that their competitors miss out on and better able to keep the people their competitors lose,” he told the Engage for Success conference.

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Drechsler highlighted that the business case for inclusive working practices had already been made.

“Inclusion isn’t a minority issue, it’s a majority issue that can benefit all people and all firms,” he continued.

“Ultimately, every employee can benefit from more flexible working and better decision-making. This is the real business case for inclusion and making progress means asking fundamental questions about how we work.

“Many business leaders are already leading from the front and there are many great stories of what’s already happening across the UK,” he added.

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Time for Action

The speech was made alongside the publication of the Time for Action: the business case for inclusive workplaces report from the body.

The report makes a series of recommendations to help companies take action, including:

  • Where possible, businesses should offer flexible working from job advert onwards,
  • Businesses should consider using name-blind recruitment and extending competency based assessment to challenge unconscious bias,
  • Managers’ performance appraisals must give weight to their roles in developing staff as well as short-term commercial performance,
  • Businesses should set tailored, voluntary targets to improve diversity and hold leaders responsible for plans to achieve them.

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Diversity supports engagement

Drechsler warned that with UK productivity second from bottom of the G7, employee engagement was now more than ever crucial to driving productivity

However, of the world’s 12 largest economies the UK ranks ninth for levels of engagement and he argued inclusivity was a key part of that.

“Great business is all about hiring, developing and leading great people,” he said.

“Raising engagement isn’t about slapping another zero on the budget for the staff Christmas party. It’s a complex process which takes time and hard work.”

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Leadership responsibility

Drechsler also made it clear that business leaders had a responsibility to drive the importance of inclusion and diversity within their organisation.

“Business leaders must make inclusion part of their employee relations strategy. Above all, it’s about accountability that starts at the top and stays at the top,” he continued.

“In business, what’s measured is managed and leaders should set stretching targets to embrace difference within their organisation. This isn’t about setting objectives, sending them to HR to sort out and forgetting about them until next year. It’s about setting a target which is right for that organisation and then leading the charge to achieve it.

“Ultimately, targets should be seen as something not driven by pressures from outside a business but by a real desire within a business to seize the benefits of inclusion for engagement and productivity,” he added.

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