An evolving workforce

Research advisor at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Melanie Green (pictured), on the trends and changes to the workforce

Melanie Green

What are the key trends that are reshaping the way the workforce looks today in terms of diversity?

Rapid technological change, external events and globalisation means that organisations are operating in an increasingly diverse world. Put simply, our workforces need to reflect this in order to stay competitive, attract the right talent and be future-fit for the world of work.

With recent figures from the CIPD Labour Market Outlook Survey highlighting a fall in European Union migrant workers coming to the UK, tapping into wider pools of talent to fill vacancies will be crucial for organisations to remain competitive. Technological change also means businesses are increasingly globalised and have the tools to allow many types of work to be done flexibly.

With gender pay gap reporting, amongst other high-profile reviews in the UK shining a light on inequalities at work, organisations need to pay attention to diversity and inclusion. Not only will prioritising diversity enhance the employer brand, there’s an increasing expectation from both current and potential employees that organisations will prioritise diversity and inclusion.

“Equality and diversity means that everyone, regardless of their background or identity, can thrive at work”

What does ‘equality and diversity’ in the workforce mean to the CIPD? And why is it important for businesses and their employees to address this issue?

Equality and diversity means that everyone, regardless of their background or identity, can thrive at work. Work should be an equal business throughout the organisation, from access to jobs right through to having a seat at the boardroom table.

Whilst progress is being made, we know that inequality still exists in the workplace. Organisations must go beyond legislation to highlight the value that diversity and inclusion can bring. The CIPD’s latest research, Diversity and inclusion at work: facing up to the business case, highlights areas across the employee lifecycle where HR professionals and the wider business can drive change.

There’s a compelling case for diversity, for businesses and the individuals within them. We all deserve to be treated equally at work, and inequality has unsurprisingly negative consequences, such as reduced job satisfaction and poor well-being.

Having an equal and diverse workforce makes sense for businesses too. Enabling employees to participate and succeed at work can have benefits for productivity and staff retention, as does tapping into a diverse range of ideas and perspectives. Organisations have a key role to play in making workplaces equal, and should be mindful that diversity and inclusion must go hand in hand to create truly equal businesses.

What three simple steps could the CIPD give to an optical business that is looking to develop a more inclusive culture? And are there any key steps to avoid?

An inclusive culture is one where all individuals feel valued, and are supported to participate and reach their potential at work. Inclusive organisations also recognise that diverse perspectives are beneficial to business. Developing a more inclusive culture requires a holistic strategy that requires sometimes courageous conversations alongside targeted action.

A good first step is to understand the current culture for inclusion; is your organisation diverse and do all members of staff feel valued regardless of their background? If not, what are the structural and cultural barriers which are maintaining workplace inequalities? This could include using staff survey data or employee focus groups to pinpoint where change is needed.

Secondly, employers should ensure that all staff have appropriate channels to have their voice heard, give feedback that will be acted upon and have a say in decision making.

Thirdly, organisations need to be flexible and avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to inclusion; inclusive organisations recognise that whilst we are similar in many ways, we are all different too. HR professionals should review policies and people management practices from recruitment to progression to ensure they are inclusive.

It is vital that workforces are diverse, and targeted action is taken where necessary, but organisations should avoid focusing only on diversity representation; an inclusive culture is key to realising the potential of diversity.

“Whilst progress is being made, we know that inequality still exists in the workplace. Organisations must go beyond legislation to highlight the value that diversity and inclusion can bring”

Can you highlight an example of a leader in business that is a positive case study for equality and diversity?

Skanska UK, the 2017 winners of the CIPD People Management Awards for best diversity and inclusion initiative, tackle diversity and equality head on to achieve their vision to become a D&I leader by 2020.

Skanska operates in an industry with long-standing diversity challenges, and takes a holistic approach to tackle these. As well as introducing a new recruitment strategy that encouraged a diverse pool of talent to attend insight days or internship programmes, they rolled out training focused on inclusive recruitment to target biases in the recruitment process. Further training and mentoring networks have also been introduced in the company, resulting in positive impacts on recruitment and progression.