Developing diversity in the workplace

Written by
Changeboard Team

10 Mar 2015

10 Mar 2015 • by Changeboard Team

How has diversity evolved over the past decade?

Stephen Frost, head of diversity and inclusion, KPMG (SF): Diversity thinking and practice hasn’t evolved enough over the past decade and that’s part of the current challenge. Diversity is a reality, inclusion is a choice. There are three main paradigms before us today: Diversity 101 (compliance-based change), Diversity 2.0 (marketing-led change) and real inclusion (Inclusion 3.0, a systems approach). Whereas a few organisations have moved on from Diversity 101 and a few from Diversity 2.0, many are still stuck in a compliance or marketing-led paradigm that is ill-equipped to deal with current commercial realities.

It’s important for businesses to be diverse and inclusive for five main reasons – customer relevance, employee recruitment, productivity, decision-making and ethics. Different reasons will resonate with different people and different organisations depending on their purpose.

Charles Thompson, founder, BP’s Positively Ethnic Network and 2014 Race for Opportunity Champion (CT): There has certainly been a significant shift in BP in the past decade on diversity issues. Most people are now aware of what diversity means to them on a personal level and how it contributes to the richness of the company. It’s important for businesses to be diverse if they want to recruit from the very best of talent available to them. Diversity allows business to incentivise their existing workforce to strive to do better and it helps to drive performance when employees can see someone like themselves at senior levels within the organisation.

What strategies are in place to inspire diversity?

SF: We have developed a new inclusive leadership strategy to support the chairman’s One Firm vision, which is forging the future of the business. This is based on four pillars: diversity, inclusion, clients and thought leadership. Rather than adopt a ‘strand’ approach based on gender or disability, we are accounting for infinite diversity throughout the system, from attraction and hiring, promotions and development, to retention and career transition. In addition, we work on supplier diversity, clients and research and development.

CT: We have a wide range of strategies for diversity and inclusion addressing disability, gender, sexual orientation, race and age encapsulated in a framework called the D&I Ambition. These include mandated diverse interview panels and encouraging diversity within the candidate pool, as well as strategies focusing on educating leadership about their unconscious biases and managing diverse teams.

BP partners with, or holds membership of, numerous external organisations working in the D&I space, such as the Business Disability Forum, Race for Opportunity, Stonewall, Women’s Business Forum and Global Citizens of Tomorrow. The companys ponsored the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and sponsors many paralympic associations and athletes around the world, who can act as role models for employees. There is a long-established Schools Link programme in place to inspire young people in education to develop a career in the energy industry.

It’s fair to say that D&I is an explicit part of our core values and is seen as a strategic priority by our group CEO.

Do you think the UK's workforce diverse enough?

CT: Absolutely not and that’s not just a feeling, it’s a fact. The statistics for ethnicity alone show that there are as many as one in four children in primary schools from a BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) background and yet as few as one in eight make it into the UK workforce. In my view there are issues that need to be addressed along the entire pipeline of progression from education to employment, beginning with our schools and leading up to our employers.

While the figures for gender representation in the workforce may look a lot healthier than those for ethnicity, we still have a problem attracting young girls into STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in higher education and this reflects poorly in terms of gender diversity within our engineering disciplines in industry. Our businesses need to do better by firstly recruiting from a more diverse candidate pool, then ensuring that there is progression in their careers and at the same time working hard to make our organisations a more inclusive place to work.

SF: The diversity of the UK population is not represented in the workforce and our data unequivocally demonstrates that. I’m proud that KPMG has decided to be brave and transparent and share its data on sexual orientation, disability and ethnicity as well as gender with the public and marketplace. This shows where we are and more importantly our targets demonstrate where we want to be. Beyond ethics or any moral argument, this is a question of efficient and effective talent management and we are determined to improve.

I have an allergic reaction to ‘initiatives’ because they tend to be a net time and cost sink, divorced from the real profit and loss or purpose-led centre of the organisation. I believe it is better to embed inclusive decision making in the system, rather than waste time decorating the tree. So, we now have fewer initiatives than we did, and more systematic change instead. An example would be how we recruit, changing from a linear system to a balanced scorecard approach that allows for cognitive diversity and doesn’t filter out brilliance and impose conformity on our candidates. I think our drive for honest conversations allows people to truly bring their whole selves to work, and this is far better for productivity than any training programme.

How do you measure the success of diversity?

SF: We measure success in four ways. Firstly, through progress against diversity target zones. KPMG recently went public on our target zones across sexual orientation, disability and ethnicity, as well as gender, and we will measure our progress against those at partner, director and senior manager level every quarter for the next three years.

Secondly, we look at progress against inclusion measures in our people survey. This asks diagnostic questions that we can cut by diversity characteristics to ascertain a measure of inclusion. At London 2012 it was great to see progress being made towards an inclusive culture, as in 2008 some minorities were less engaged than average. However by 2011, the same groups were above average.

Thirdly, through profit and loss and the financials in terms of correlation between diversity involvement and client wins and satisfaction.

Fourthly, through share of voice in a communications plan to ensure our key clients recognise the importance we attach to inclusive leadership.

CT: BP networks widely with other organisations and promotes leadership in diversity, so that we’re continually tested against the best in class. As individuals within the organisation, we’re encouraged to adopt BP’s core values of courage and respect and, with the support of senior leadership, we’re empowered to put diversity at the forefront of all we do. I’ve personally seen a great deal of the innovation around diversity initiatives coming from the bottom up, with the employee networks often leading the way and setting the agenda for the company to follow.

Does diversity help you to foster relationships?

SF: It’s often a myth that the way to build strong client relationships is by banging on about how great you are. In fact, sharing vulnerability or something deeply personal can be a far more effective and sustainable way to build relationships. We believe this in terms of our key client relationships. Rather than avoiding ‘difficult issues’ such as staffing a demanding client team with colleagues who want to work flexibly or those who may not be out or disclosing mental health issues, we find it can be incredibly profound to surface these issues and deepen the client relationship as a result.

CT: I believe the values we hold because of our passion for diversity enable us to acknowledge our ‘unconscious bias’ and instead develop strategies to build a working environment based on trust and mutual respect. On a personal level I try to put in place some practical techniques that, in my experience, have helped others feel valued at work. This can be as simple as listening to the quietest voice in the room and perhaps seeking out the opinion of someone in a meeting who has not felt comfortable in a room dominated by loud, confident speakers.

At a recent meeting I attended, the presentation was led by an external client who spoke with a pronounced stutter and long pauses between many of their words. I was extremely proud that each and every BP employee in the room demonstrated the same values as me, by listening intently to what was said and giving this person the space to take an active part in the presentation and subsequent conversation. The opposite could so easily have been true. I imagine the presenter left the meeting with a positive feeling, both as an individual who had been heard, and as a client that would want to do business with us again.

How can HR improve diversity in the workplace?

CT: Begin by taking a fresh look at how you recruit. Take steps to make sure that your job postings are visible to a diverse group of candidates. Perhaps make use of special interest newspapers and magazines, along with social networking sites, as well as your usual job bulletin boards. Work only with recruitment agencies that share the same values as you do in terms of diversity and insist they provide you with a diverse pool of candidates for each and every role on offer. Review the content of your job advertisements to make sure that you do not use words, phrases or photographs that immediately exclude certain groups. Make sure your interview panels are staffed by a diverse group of individuals and consider providing them with training to ensure that interviews are conducted both fairly and consistently. Share best practice, pick up the phone and seek advice on how other leaders in your profession are addressing these issues in their organisations.


SF: In a nutshell, there are three steps for leaders to follow. One, be brave: it’s frightening to challenge the norm and received wisdom in a culture but often this is a necessary step. Two, be creative. Rather than confront issues head-on and make yourself enemies, partner intelligently with people who will not have a perceived vested interest in the ‘agenda’, so men talking about

gender equality and straight allies talking about LGBT issues and so forth. Three, relentlessly focus on talent. Talent is consistently one of the top three issues on the global CEO agenda.

Stephen Frost

Stephen Frost 2 head of diversity and inclusion, KPMG

Stephen is head of diversity and inclusion at KPMG. He is author of The Inclusion Imperative: How real inclusion creates better business and builds better societies.

Charles Thompson

Charles Thompson founder, BP’s Positively Ethnic Network (PEN)

Charles, who has been at BP for more than 10 years, won the 2014 Race for Opportunity Champion award for creating the PEN, which promotes the inclusion of ethnic minorities.