Susi Donaldson tells HRNews about the importance of data in driving D&I change in the business


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  • Transcript

    Two-thirds of UK workers would look for new job if their employer did not prioritise diversity and inclusion, yet two in five businesses have a specific D&I budget. So how can HR help secure funding and change that picture? As we’ll hear shortly, it’s all about the data. 

    This is research reported by People Management in two articles. The first is the ADP report, People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View, which polled 33,000 workers in 17 countries. It found that workplace diversity was becoming increasingly important to employees and that most businesses recognised this. However, around a third of UK workers said their employer either talked about the importance of a gender pay policy or DEI, but did not have one, or never mentioned it at all.

    The second article reports on research by XpertHR, the research arm of Personnel Today. They studied 218 UK businesses and found that of those that plan to allocate budgets, only a third considered their current or planned D&I budget sufficient. Nonetheless, 96% of them were pressing ahead with D&I initiatives over the next 12 months. Katy Neep, gender director at Business in the Community, said the findings showed that employees wanted to work for organisations that take pay gaps and DEI strategies seriously and those that didn’t do that risked losing employees.

    The articles quote a number of experts, but the key point is made by Dr Jill Miller, senior policy adviser at the CIPD. She says HR professionals can use a data-driven approach to secure D&I funding and demonstrate the need for action and the impact of any existing funding. She says it’s critical to have buy-in from all sides of the organisation, and leaders should act as role models for inclusive behaviours.

    We agree. This needs to be a strategic priority within the business, driven by HR, with support at the most senior level - and that is something we are helping a number of our clients to achieve. Susi Donaldson is involved in that work and she joined me by video link from Glasgow to discuss it:

    Susi Donaldson: "It’s absolutely essential that this flows from the top and boards should be absolutely instrumental in the development and implementation of their racial diversity, equality and inclusion policies. We need to ensure that they're role modelling the correct behaviours, there needs to be executive sponsorship for these initiatives, and it needs to be embedded into the company's overall strategy. So, I would say it should be a standing item on the board agenda, for example, and there should be the key performance indicators. Board members could be involved in various mentoring schemes, for example, and also should be encouraged to be open about how they progressed to the senior levels within the within the organisation."

    Joe Glavina: "So what's your key message, Susi. One point for HR to focus on?"

    Susi Donaldson: "I think it's absolutely critical to have the data. If you don't know what is going on within your organisation you can't take steps to improve your policies and procedures, there's no measurement there for you, there's no reference point. So, I think the first step is for organisations to gather the data and then, once they have the data, they can set aspirational targets and have some accountability. So many of our clients, for example, at the moment are in the process of collecting their diversity data and traditionally, because it's sensitive data, special category data under the GDPR, companies would do this on an anonymous basis, but I think there's a growing realisation that this sort of data has much more value if it can be linked to the individual. For example, many companies are now gathering the data through their HR systems and where it can be linked to the individual it means that you can track progress in terms of diversity, so you can track the effectiveness of your policies and procedures, your succession plans and talent programmes and promotion schemes in terms of the different diversity strands and that feeds into your target setting. Equally, there are a lot of organisations for example who are proactively reporting on their ethnicity pay gap even though it's not yet a mandatory requirement and, again, that sort of initiative just helps to shine a spotlight on the issue of ethnic diversity, helps them to understand what's happening within their organisations and to devise their initiatives accordingly."

    It's worth saying that the HR teams of a number of the clients involved in that data exercise are supported by Pinsent Masons’ D&I consultancy, Brook Graham. They use a product which has been developed by Brook Graham which is, essentially, a benchmarking tool which, once the data has been fed in, will help HR to understand where the company is now, and what needs to be done going forward to hit the business’s targets and aspirations. We will be covering that in detail in a programme coming soon so do watch this space.


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