What works in diversity: turning evidence into practice

The CIPD and Westminster Business School launch latest research on diversity and inclusion practices

This week the CIPD and Westminster Business School launched their new report: Diversity management that works: an evidence based review. At a launch event at the EY offices in Canary Wharf, academics and people practitioners convened to discuss the reports findings and what it means for practice.

The research maps out the current evidence on the types of diversity interventions in organisations, analysing recent scientific evidence and exploring what works. It then tested these ideas with the professional expertise of practitioners and professionals who regularly work on diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices within organisations.

From these insights, six priority recommendations for practice were identified:

  1. Understanding organisational context and adapting D&I approaches accordingly
  2. Getting buy-in and commitment to D&I
  3. Making use of people data to guide and evaluate action
  4. Using diversity training effectively
  5. Managing the tension between ‘organisational fit’ and diversity
  6. The role of positive action approaches

The launch event picked up on these themes, with wide-ranging panel discussions on both the state of research in this area, as well as the challenges and issues faced within HR practice.

Particular focus was given to the current lack of research around the quality of diversity training within organisations. As many organisations are not recording or evaluating the quality of diversity training initiatives, it becomes harder to understand and gauge their effectiveness. This example was highlighted as a primary area where academia and business can work together more to build better diversity initiatives.

Practitioners then gave their own insights and personal experiences of furthering diversity practices. A number emphasised the importance of getting buy-in and support from senior leaders within an organisation. Having at least one senior staff member (preferably the chief executive), who is willing to provide adequate resources and support to further D&I will help to ensure it’s seen as a priority issue within everyday business practice.

Similarly, others emphasised the importance of line-managers in enacting diversity policies and practices. By doing so, they can be influential agents of change within an organisation.

The debate also explored what next steps still need to be taken to further progress diversity within UK organisations. One theme that emerged was the normalising and greater use of flexible working practices. These wide-ranging practices have been proved to support people of all backgrounds to enter and remain within the labour market.

Another point raised was the need to improve the quality of diversity data within organisations. The more − and better-quality − people data that employers collect, the better they can design and target D&I initiatives.

Other steps that were mentioned included the need to bring greater diversity to the HR profession itself, and to take an intersectional approach, considering peoples’ overlapping identities and ensuring that policies do not focus on single ‘strands’ of D&I.

Watch our latest Good Work TV video to hear from the practitioners who helped form our research.

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