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Are you at risk of losing your value-driven employees?

Kate Dodd tells HRNews why HR professionals should be alive to the 'anti-woke' debate in the workplace


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  • Transcript

    Is your diversity and inclusion policy causing your employees to leave the business? In the race for talent, are you losing your value-driven employees and, if so, what can HR do to about it? 

    This is the subject of an article by People Management that argues that in today’s workforce employees are increasingly driven by values, ethics and morals and are tuned in to what businesses are doing internally to make a difference. They cite a recent report from ADP that found that D&I was becoming increasingly important to employees, and that if employers had an unfair gender pay gap or no D&I policy, then more than two-thirds of workers would consider getting a job elsewhere. 

    But is there are threat from the so-called anti-woke movement? These are unprecedented time, politically, ‘wokeness’ is being talked about everywhere, including the workplace, and it does present a challenge to HR. Back in June HR Magazine asked the question; ‘Are anti-woke companies on the rise?’ and quoted Angela Peacock, global director of diversity and inclusion, PDT Global who made a number of good points. She describes anti-woke is ‘a worrying trend’ but warns there is a deeper meaning to woke that should be considered. She says: 
    ‘A great example of this would be stating that you support a woman’s right to choose – but not covering this in your healthcare policies. Employees don’t want woke statements – they want their basic rights protected, no matter who they are. It isn’t possible, as an organisation, to be politically neutral – each action taken, contract signed, product developed has political implications. Just ask any organisation with operations in Russia or Ukraine right now.’

    So, let’s get a view on this from our diversity and inclusion specialist, Kate Dodd. Kate is head of Pinsent Masons’ D&I consultancy, Brook Graham, and earlier she joined me by video-link to discuss this:

    Kate Dodd: “It’s a really interesting one - we have always had a bit of pushback. So, the work that we do, particularly at Brook Graham, around building understanding, building inclusive practices through creating shared knowledge, basically, and there will always be in those types of workshops that we will be facilitating, there will always be voices that will say, oh, gosh, is this not political correctness gone mad, or I don't agree with this, comments from people who feel, for one reason or another, threatened by what's happening, or they feel that the status quo is just fine, or they think that the whole focus on diversity and inclusion is unnecessary, basically. That has long been the case and I’ve been doing this for many years, 22 years, and we've been having those voices in all that time. Now, it’s been something that has been dying down a little bit, I think, because people have started to really understand the business value of diversity and inclusion, they've started to understand that it translates into financial performance. So these kinds of comments, I suppose, have been a bit less and what I've noticed is that, not just in terms of the professional work that I do but also social media etcetera, those voices are starting to gain traction again because, of course, it is part of the current political agenda.”

    Joe Glavina: “So what’s your message to HR, Kate?”

    Kate Dodd: “Yes, so my message to HR on all of this is don't pretend it's not happening, because there is a huge amount of political commentary around whether diversity and inclusion is necessary, does it single people out, does it objectify people, etcetera and that will be being echoed in boardrooms, in common rooms, in staff rooms, up and down the country. So, for HR it's really important not to pretend that it isn't happening at the moment and, actually, just tackle it and to say, look, we understand that these are very unusual political times at the moment, very uncertain times,  but as a business we remain committed to diversity and inclusion and so, for example, we're not going to start rolling back on our plans to publish our ethnicity pay gap, or we're not going to try and use an exemption to avoid reporting on diversity data, etcetera, because we're committed to this as a business regardless of what's going on outside of our business.”

    Kate has previously talked to this programme about the problem of employee scepticism towards D&I initiatives and how to address it. So asking whether D&I initiatives stop at an idea, rather than progressing to an active step that is implemented and that makes a difference. That programme is called ‘What is ‘diversity fatigue’ and how do you stop it?’ – we have put a link to it in the transcript of this programme.

    - Link to HRNews programme: ‘What is ‘diversity fatigue’ and how do you stop it?’

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