The role of HR in promoting diversity

Written by
Changeboard Team

07 May 2010

07 May 2010 • by Changeboard Team

What's the role of HR in diversity?

There is a strong business case for HR to embrace diversity beyond what is mandated by legislation and government targets. Organisations that embed diversity in their working cultures can significantly benefit in a variety of ways, even indirectly improving the bottom line.

HR is critical in providing the hard data which can support change in the workplace and, as business partners, HR has the opportunity to discuss the data on a regular basis with colleagues.

An inclusive workforce that values diversity enhances staff motivation, reduces absenteeism and improves productivity. It enables new and varied ideas to be introduced from professionals with a variety of different experiences and beliefs. New ideas are vital to the development of any business as they are often responsible for tapping into new business opportunities and recognising potential areas of future growth.

Diversity - helping you engage with consumers

Ensuring that you have a diverse workforce enables you to have a greater representation and understanding of all of your customers. In todays society it's increasingly important to people that businesses reflect their own ideologies and represent standards that they find admirable.

It's no longer just good enough to offer an excellent product or service; consumers want to understand the company behind it. For international companies, or those that are hoping to develop internationally, it's highly beneficial to have employees on board who have an understanding of other cultures, countries and a grasp of other languages. Many financial institutions have demonstrated that building a new client base or product line which is directly targeted at specific groups has real Benefits; for example, the rise in popularity of women-only insurance products.

How can you attract diverse talent?

Demonstrable commitment to equality can support recruitment through the creation of a wider pool of workers who view the organisation as an attractive place to work. 

Increasingly, professionals want to know that they are working for an employer that shares their values and is ethical in its day-to-day practices. Businesses must demonstrate their commitment to equality and diversity in the workplace as well as corporate social responsibility.

Recruiting diversity specialists

More and more companies are beginning to recognise the Benefits of promoting diversity in the workplace and are increasingly hiring HR professionals who specialise in this area. These specialists are brought in to operate at a strategic level, positioning equality and diversity as part of the core business to improve organisational performance.

They will often work alongside line managers to build equality and diversity into core processes and implement actions and policies to encourage its improvement within the work environment.

Although much of the increase in demand for these professionals is in response to the governments focus on this area, a large number of employers have recognised that provisions to improve diversity in the workplace are a good investment. We are starting to see the recruitment of these professionals at a more senior level; in the past it was common to recruit a dedicated diversity manager whereas there is now more demand for directors who specialise in this area.

Using L&D to promote diversity

Employees should understand that diversity refers to age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability and cultural background.

Providing learning and development opportunities to staff is one way of developing their knowledge and ensuring they have a greater understanding of why it is important and how it can affect relationships with customers and consequently the bottom line.

Preparation for the Equality Act

There are no specific guidelines but by now HR departments should have started preparing for the Act. Given that it builds on existing legislation, the majority of HR professionals will be aware of what it means for them and what must be done over the coming months.

Some organisations will need to address pay gaps that exist between their male and female employees as well as their approach to recruiting under represented groups. Robust action plans will need to be put in place and there will need to be a strong level of understanding across the business about what the act means for them.