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Diversity and inclusion targets need to be communicated and integrated to be successful – DIFF

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  • 17/06/2024
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Diversity and inclusion targets need to be communicated and integrated to be successful – DIFF
Diversity and inclusivity targets need to be communicated and integrated into firms in order to be successful and help overcome fatigue, a panel has said.

Speaking on a panel at an event for the Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF), which was discussing diversity and inclusion (D&I) fatigue, Dr Nic Hammarling, D&I specialist, said: “I think [D&I] targets in and of themselves do not bring about any change. I think they are a helpful measure for a small group of people to be working towards and to be aware of.

“However, the issues frequently that we come across is that they are communicated in a way that actually means that people, including the intended beneficiaries and the unintended beneficiaries, have a backlash effect, so people think that it’s all about tokenism, and that causes problems for successful candidates from those backgrounds.”

She said that the main issue was around D&I targets “not being set in a meaningful way with the data that’s helpful that really ties in with the business needs”.

Edwin Elder, head of delivery for retail savings and commercial shared services at Aldermore Bank, agreed, adding that it was “very easy to set targets”, but communication was key.

“If you think about the whole organisation, and you set targets, if you don’t communicate that in a meaningful way and be really clear about the intention… and you get your audience or your organisation to understand and buy into the intention, then quite frankly it is just tokenism and you get backlash, so it becomes meaningless. That’s what I have seen,” he noted.

Kevin Roberts, managing director at Legal and General Mortgage Services, said that in order for D&I targets to be effective, they needed to have “consequence[s]”.

He noted that sometimes within a business it can be easy to prioritise objectives that have commercial outcomes over D&I outcomes, as they are what an individual will be “rewarded on at the end of the year”.

“We’ve got to make sure that we find that balance, so there’s no point in the target unless it’s got consequence[s],” Roberts added.

Dawn Morton Young, diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) expert, senior HR professional, and host of the panel, said that sharing the “real-life stories” and “real-life impact” of D&I targets or policy was vital so you can show that policies were effective, as sometimes the slow pace of change or seeming lack of results can lead to fatigue.

 

D&I fatigue happening at both ends of spectrum

Roberts said that D&I fatigue happens at both ends of the spectrum; those who are “really trying to push and make change” and those who are not engaged and think it has “already been done”.

He said that some people, possibly middle-aged white men, will think “it doesn’t happen to me. We’ve gotten some targets, if we started to see the improvement, it’s done, isn’t it?”

“This is what I am passionate about: how do I encourage my genre of white middle-aged men [to engage with D&I]?

“We’ve got to be less passive; we’ve got to think that this is still an issue. We’ve got no scope for fatigue here. We’re just at the beginning of a journey. I think that we [middle-aged white men] are a massive part of the solution here,” he added.

Roberts said that “more carrots than stick” were needed, as some groups “need to understand why this is important, why we get better business results, why you get better functioning teams, why you get better internal scores” in more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

 

Data is crucial but ‘using it intelligently’ vital

Hammarling said that data was “critical” for D&I efforts, but “using it intelligently was really important”.

She noted that in a lot of cases, organisations were collecting data, such as employee survey data, but they were not processing what they already had.

Hammarling noted that she was “very surprised” that few organisations cut their employee data by different groups, which could show that there were “significant group differences”.

Another data source that Hammarling encouraged companies to use was adverse impact data, which is where organisations use data to uncover potentially discriminatory practices in their operations.

“For example, people struggling with things like promotion processes, and you have a process where you have to have at least three women in the shortlist, but they don’t look at the adverse impact data that tells you at what point in the process are these diverse candidates falling out.

“That will tell you if you have got a bias built into the process and that is about good-quality data collection. The analysis itself is very simple. Everybody could do this in the room today, if you’re not already doing it, and that will tell you so much about where the pain points are in your employee lifecycle.”

Gwilliam pointed to gender pay gap data as an example, noting that it was a highly comprehensive data set across the financial service sector, but that it was often underutilised.

He continued: “The very fact that it [gender pay gap data] exists, but that isn’t being used, cynically leads you to believe that you can create whatever datasets you like, but it’s about the will to want to use that in the world to be transparent.”

 

The DIFF is a network that aims to discuss and promote key ideas and activities to create a more balanced and fair mortgage industry.

If you would like to become a member, please get in touch with iain.cartlidge@ae3media.co.uk for more details.

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