Date: 05/06/07 Duration: 00:19:49
In this podcast we examine the business case for diversity, in interviews with Dianah Worman, CIPD’s Diversity Adviser, Caroline Waters, Director for People and Policy at BT, Sally Milne, Head of Resourcing and Diversity at ITV and John Nicholson, Head of Staff Diversity and Equality at HM Prison Service. In addition, Trevor Phillips, Chair of the new Commission of Equality and Human Rights, explains how the work of the commission will develop in order to take forward diversity and equal opportunity in the UK.
Nigel Cassidy: Welcome to our podcast on diversity. I’m Nigel Cassidy and in this episode we explore the business case for diversity. We bring you examples from organisations that are already delivering measurable business benefits. Plus you’ll hear how the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights aims to contribute to a streamlining of regulation.
The consolidation of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission, and the Equal Opportunities Commission is a major development in the regulatory framework of diversity. Trevor Phillips, Chair of the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights, told us about his hopes for the future.
Trevor Phillips: It will change this country. I mean, the real problem that we still have is that we are not quite comfortable with the diversity that we have in society and I think that we can have a much, much better situation than we do now and we can do it quite rapidly. But people do need help and support and we hope to be able to give them that.
NC: So how might the new Commission offer such support? Trevor Phillips gave us an insight into their short and longer term goals.
TP: We open doors at the Commission of Equality and Human Rights in October. And I think, you know, we want to make sure that the service that exists for employers, at that point, is no less good than the one they have now – that they ought to be able to ring up, they ought to be able to look at the website, and they ought to be able to get good guidance about, you know, what does the law mean, what does it permit, what does it forbid. So that if you are a moderate sized company or even more than that – an SME – that you can get some guidance which applies to you. But in the long term, and I mean in the long term, 3, 4, 5 years, what we really want to do is to make sure the law is massively simplified, that it is much easier to negotiate, it doesn’t have 4 or 5 different regimes within it, so that when an employer asks themselves, what must I do about recruitment, what must I do about trying to embrace the needs of my older workers or female workers and so on. It’s simple. They don’t have to spend days with hot flannel tied to their foreheads trying to work it out.
NC: While many employers are going well beyond the legal minimum and embedding diversity right across their organisation,Dianah Worman, the CIPD’s Diversity Adviser, believes many are daunted by legislation. So is this, paradoxically, holding back real progress in some places. Philippa Lamb talked to Dianah.
PL: We hear a lot about Diversity, it’s all over the media. You’ve been looking at it in real detail – do you feel British employers are really getting their arms round it, that they’re translating all this talk into action now?
Dianah Worman: I think the leading edge players are, but there’s an awful lot of people in the long tail who actually understand diversity in very different kinds of ways, and are very scared about their legal obligations and I think that takes their eye off the ball. But yes, over the last decade, I guess – we first started talking really about this concept of diversity what, about 10 years ago – that it is beginning to, you know, people are beginning to grab hold of it and understand it, but there’s miles to go in order to really gain advantage from it. The problem is that because it’s very resource intensive in terms of time, because it’s very complicated, because they’re going to get conflicting messages back from the legal eagles they may consult, trying to then take time out to really bed down the good practice is much more demanding.
NC: So if legislation is making some employers strive for compliance but no more we asked Dianah how to really convince managers of the business case for diversity.
DW: You got to make them understand what’s in it for them, why it’s important, and it has to be natural. It has to be a natural way of thinking in the organisation so it’s just part of the way you do things, a kind of almost a knee jerk response, like a reflex, it’s part of what you do, part of the way you think, so you have to inform the person’s thinking and understanding in a way, and I think that’ll leverage change much more quickly.
NC: One organisation that’s clearly going beyond the requirements of the legislation is ITV. Philippa Lamb asked Sally Milne, ITV’s Head of Resourcing and Diversity, about their approach.
PL: It’s self-evident you’re a firm believer in cultural change rather than just ticking the boxes on the legislation. But legislation is there perhaps for organisations that perhaps don’t think in the same way as you do. Where would you like to see the regulatory framework go now because we’ve got legislation covering the broad discriminatory areas. There is now talk about further legislation in much less tangible areas, such as physical appearance or, you know, personal attributes that are less easy to define. Do you think it would be a good idea to go down that road or do you think we have to work on producing the culture within organisations where they just do that stuff themselves?
Sally Milne: Obviously my answer will be that I think you achieve more by looking at the latter, that by looking at the culture of an organisation, you are able to impact and embed ingrained thoughts and mindsets. I think you need to have both. I think the detail scares a lot of people off, so I think it’s how you communicate that. And I just think, actually, that if people understand it under a broader umbrella of difference, and culture and values then I don’t think it should be seen as such a nightmare, you know, a maze of issues and detail. I also think that we worry too much, that I, as head of diversity, should be the expert in it. You know, I wouldn’t say I was, I’m just really passionate about it and I think, again, that people think ‘oh gosh, there’s so much happening in diversity’ you know ‘that I don’t know where to start.’ And, you know, I think go out there and find the information when it’s relevant to what you’re trying to achieve. You know, provide support and resource so that people know where to go to find information and to get help. But don’t be flummoxed by this ‘there’s so much going on’.
PL: So really rather than getting hung up on the legislation and whether you’re ticking the right boxes it’s more a question of approaching this entire issue on the basis of are we behaving fairly, are we behaving in a way that really benefits our business and it’s as simple as that.
SM: Yeah, I think it is as simple as that.
NC: A refreshing approach there from Sally who clearly doesn’t think that diversity needs to be any more confusing than any other business issue. BT’s Director for People and Policy, Caroline Waters, agrees. Philippa asked her how BT has embedded diversity across the organisation.
PL: Obviously BT’s made enormous strides in terms of diversity amongst your customer base, what about internally – the people who work for you. How do you spread the message that diversity isn’t just an issue for HR, and it certainly isn’t just an issue for the boardroom?
Caroline Waters: If you really want diversity to live in your organisation, it has to be part of every policy and every process that you have, and in order to do that it can’t just be about your people policies, it has to go well beyond HR. So we’ve looked at every bit of our business and we’ve created the business reason. So if you look at marketing for example, what any marketeer wants to do is to bring their product or their service to the attention of the most possible people, to make it relevant to the most possible people, and the most different groups, so they understand diversity in that context, the same with our procurement services as another example. What procurement want to do is to bring you innovative, creative, cost-efficient, timely, supply needs. And we’ve helped them understand that they can do that by reaching out to lots of different kinds of suppliers. So it’s all about talking to each part of your business, understanding the relevance, and helping them see that and measure it.
NC: It’s clear that by understanding how it can affect every area of the business, BT’s made sure that diversity is an issue for the whole of the business and not just for HR. Philippa asked Dianah Wormanwhat organisiations need to be doing to replicate this kind of achievement.
PL: When as you said, the key to success in this is engagement, isn’t it, taking the whole issue of diversity out of HR, off their desk, off the boardroom table, and out into the wider organisation. In practical terms, how do you do that?
DW: Well I think it’s going to be very tough because HR really needs to be a motor engine to make that happens if we’re saying it’s so important for the HR practices to support the delivery of business goals.
PL: But as you say the low levels of financial resourcing that organisations are devoting to this area suggests, you know, they’re really not taking this as seriously as they might be.
DW: Yeah, I mean that is the problem, and almost, it’s like, well you say you should be mainstreaming it, and everybody should deal with it, and, yes, of course they should, but you can’t just hope it’ll happen by default. You’ve got to put it there in the first place. And bearing in mind that we’re saying diversity’s part of a dynamic change process, that you have to keep fueling the learning as you go along. Because it is such a complicated issue and such a pervasive issue, at the end of the day, we are constantly learning about the subtleties of difference, the way it blocks change, or the way it can have advantage, so you have to keep on passing those messages down the line. That’s why you need the engine house, I think, otherwise we will…, again, the progress will stop.
NC: Again we’re reminded that diversity has to be a continuing process for an organisation. One person who certainly agrees is John Nicholson, Head of Staff Diversity and Equality with HM Prison Service. He talked to Philippa about getting employees to engage with the diversity agenda.
PL: Your role now is Head of Staff Diversity and Equality at the Prison Service – what sort of response are you finding from colleagues so far to the ideas you’re putting forward to them? Are they cynical? Are they viewing diversity management as political correctness? Or can they get their arms round the idea that actually this is about recruitment and retention of good people?
John Nicholson: Lots of employers have, I think, overloaded people with things that are being seen as initiatives, and some people will see diversity as another initiative. But I think there is really a willingness on people to engage when they realise it’s not just about certain minority groups as it’s sometimes been seen in the past, that it is a more holistic approach to valuing everybody as individuals as to what they bring to the organisation. The age regulations, in particular, I point to and say they actually impact on absolutely everybody in the organisation. And that’s been a wonderful lever to talk to people about diversity issues.
(Break) The CIPD Podcast
NC: Caroline Waters also talked to Philippa about the role diversity plays in supporting BT’s drive for effective talent management.
CW: Talent management is incredibly important because it’s no point in just bringing in diverse people. You’ve got to make sure they can spread everywhere into your organisation and become the decision makers, become the opinion formers. That means that what we’ve done – to take a very practical step – is we measure the diversity of our talent pools. And we’ve run particular campaigns to get more people from different, diverse backgrounds into those talent pools.
PL: See, I think this is particularly interesting because we’ve all seen those organisations where the numbers look great on diversity. But as soon as you just dig tiny bit deeper, you realise that a lot of their minority people are in very low grade jobs.
CW: I think it’s a real danger of taking a superficial approach to diversity. We’ve heard about – in diversity terms – the whole thing about ‘snow capping’ which is the way they describe having a very diverse workforce but a completely white management board. Now we just don’t want to be that way. That’s not getting the best out of the resources you have. What we’ve set ourselves as a target is that the total representation of minority groups be absolutely equal and equivalent across all of our grading structure. Only then can we say that all of our policies and processes are fair.
PL: Which aspects of diversity are you particularly focusing on at the moment, because I know you have a campaign running at the moment about female apprentices.
CW: One of our priorities is making the field force much more diverse and for some reason we know that in, not just in the UK, but across Europe, there is real occupational segregation, with girls and women not really thinking about science, engineering – technical – jobs as a suitable career for them. We really want to have a more diverse engineering workforce. We found a magic little piece of information: 60% of all of the readers of Climbing magazine are female. Now, if women love climbing, and they love those kind of things, maybe they’d love an outdoor job that involves a bit of climbing. It’s really about helping people see the relevance, the enjoyment, the reward that they may get out of a role that they’ve never even considered before.
NC: ITV’s Sally Milne gave another great example of how they’ve reached out to a wider talent pool.
SM: The goal was that we needed to get a wider group of people from different backgrounds because we wanted our news output to be authentic.
PL: How did you do that?
SM: Well we’ve, I think… you’ve got to make sure that you lead from the start and you back up your promises all the way through. We advertised on the radio this year because we wanted to attract any mums at home who were wanting to return to work. We’ve, for the last two years, we’ve advertised in the Voice magazine and online, Able magazine, the employers’ forum on disability. We’ve looked at advertising methods which are different to what we would have normally gone for. And it’s cost us more, you know, there has been a commitment – you can’t go out there and say ‘we want more diverse journalists’ unless you’re willing to back that up.
PL: But has it yielded results?
SM: Absolutely, I think, last year we had some awesome success stories. We had a head teacher, a 40 year old head teacher, a mother of two, who’s never worked in news before. She’s now been offered a permanent role within ITN. And there are lots of anecdotes like that.
NC: So far we’ve heard how understanding the subtleties of difference and taking action on that understanding improves organisational performance. And that to realise such understanding requires an informed, yet simple approach. Diversity need not be so complex. Integrating diversity across an organisation is about knowing where to seek guidance, understanding the law and communicating the benefits to colleagues in a relevant way. Many employers will be turning to the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights for information and support. Philippa asked John Nicholson about the challenges facing the new CEHR and what he as an employer would want from the commission.
PL: What do you see as the big challenges facing Trevor Phillips in his new role, and indeed, the Commission in its wider sense?
JN: I think from an employer perspective, for what, I suppose, have a concern, would be the concern I would sort of address to the CEHR, is I would like to be able to go to the commission and being able to have a very honest and open dialogue with them about issues that faced us, that we had problems on and trying to engage them for advice, best practice and help. I wouldn’t… there may be issues that I’d be uncomfortable with that if I felt they were also going to, as soon as I’d gone away, slap an enforcement notice on me because of the open dialogue with them.
NC: Trevor Phillips describes how he wants the commission’s powers of enforcement to work in practice.
TP: I think they should regard us as a modern regulatory body. An enforcer, yes, but one which really uses its powers not in a bureaucratic way, not in an oppressive way, but in a way that tries to make sure that those who are trying to do their best aren’t being undermined by cowboys who don’t care about these things. So, for me, you see, regulation is principally a way of ensuring that competition is fair. Not a way of oppressing the employer, but making sure that everybody who is covered by that legislation plays by the same rules. That’s what our enforcement role is about.
NC: So how can organisations continue to move the diversity agenda forward? Philippa asked CIPD’s Adviser. Dianah Worman, about the ongoing challenges for employers.
PL: So, just looking a little bit further down the line, what do you see as the big diversity issues over the next year or two.
DW: Well, I think the challenges organisations experience, or the fact they’ve got all these different diversity strands they’ve got to actually join up, and they don’t always seem to require the same kinds of activities to respond to them, recognising that law can’t deliver on everything. So it’s actually making sure we’ve got more synchronisation, that there’s more coherence in business, that it’s not just parked in employment policies and practices, that people are not going to expect more than is practically possible in business, that businesses aren’t… it has to be seen that businesses aren’t there out of altruism, they’ve got to exist as economic entities, which is back to arguing the value of the business case, what it is, how it can add a dividend. So, moving this agenda from ‘it’s a problem, we have to comply, we have to have a compensation model for those who aren’t normal’ to one, ‘hey, difference is good for us, it can be all sorts of different things, how can we leverage from that,’ I think, is where we need to move it.
NC: So there are clearly still some challenges ahead for employers but also some positive signs that the diversity agenda is moving forward. From October 2007 we’ll have a commission that aims to streamline legislation, and offer relevant, accessible, and timely guidance. Examples of innovative, integrated good practice are on the increase and what’s more, they’re proving the business case for diversity. But perhaps most promising of all is the evidence that diversity can be understood, acted upon, and its benefits measured.
Our next podcast is a special edition featuring Greg Dyke. In an exclusive interview he talks about why leadership is ultimately defined by, as he puts it, the stories people tell about you.
Until then, goodbye.