Diversity management ‘superficial at best’

Diversity management ‘superficial at best’

Released just in time for this year's annual conference in Harrogate, a new report from the CIPD suggests that, in the UK, diversity management remains superficial at best, with the majority of employers merely fulfilling their basic legal obligations.

Two-thirds (68%) of the employers surveyed ranked legal pressure as their most important motivation for implementing diversity policies and practices.  Just 30% have any budget for diversity management, with only 29% currently building diversity into their business goals.

The findings also suggest that, even when a diversity strategy is implemented, organisations are failing to embed it throughout their business, the majority (60%) using it exclusively for recruitment and retention purposes.  Other key drivers - such as marketing, product development and customer relations - are simply not being given sufficient attention for diversity management to enhance business performance.

Those organisations that do take diversity seriously, however, make efforts to measure its effectiveness, seeking quantifiable feedback to demonstrate the link between diversity management, customer satisfaction and business performance.  Survey findings also show that a majority of employers (72%) use employee attitude surveys to drive diversity progress into mainstream activities.  However, only a small number of organisations use complaint, grievance and labour turnover statistic tools, such as balanced score card (17%) and impact assessments (27%).

Given the report's findings, the CIPD is warning that the Equality Bill due before parliament this December will be destined to fail unless the business benefits of diversity can be promoted effectively.

"Education and awareness on the business case for diversity must be a priority for government as it progresses the Equality Bill," says CIPD diversity adviser Dianah Worman.  "Our research clearly demonstrates the business case for diversity.  But it also shows that too many businesses are driven more by the concern to meet minimum legal standards.  A shiny new legal framework runs the risk of simply creating a slightly higher level of boxes to be ticked, while failing to bring about the real progress that promotion of the positive business benefits of diversity can bring.

"By building a workforce that reflects the society it operates in, organisations will be able to evaluate and understand exactly how best to deliver a product or service. This current lack of joined-up thinking is letting business performance down.

"The objectives behind the proposed legislation are welcome.  But we believe the real opportunity lies in nudging business in the right direction on diversity through evidence of the business case in action, rather than wielding a gradually bigger stick to force compliance.  Our research reveals powerful examples of organisations building a diverse workforce that has a positive impact on their effectiveness, adaptability and understanding of their customer base, and ultimately on their bottom line.

"Diversity management could have more impact," she concludes.  "Understanding the business advantage of managing diversity will attract employer interest and drive real change more than fear of the law ever can."

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

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