Rebecca Aston examines the results of the Chartered equality, diversity and inclusion survey
In 2019, the CII introduced a new requirement for all CII Chartered firms – to have an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policy in place. Many firms already had a relevant policy, or policies, in place to address and promote EDI internally within their businesses, recognising the emphasis and importance that has been placed on these issues in recent years. Other firms agreed to draft a new policy, with the result that all CII Chartered firms rose to the challenge and ensured they had an EDI policy in place for the benefit of their employees and their customers. In return, the CII committed to measure the impact these policies had and to share the findings and examples of best practice within the corporate Chartered community. As a result, in April 2021 the CII sent a survey to 864 Chartered firms, with the objectives of measuring the impact EDI policies have had (if any), enabling the CII to produce guidance to help Chartered firms navigate this often-complex area and gather best practice and effective solutions to promote EDI.
During April and May 2021, 328 responses – equivalent to 40% of all CII Chartered firms – were collected. This shows pleasing engagement with EDI within the Chartered community.
Some 80% of small firms (1-50 employees) and 89% of medium and large firms (+51 employees) indicated that their organisation had family and carer policies in place
During the survey, the CII received some feedback from smaller Chartered firms that the survey was not as relevant for them as it would be for larger employers. As a result, after the first week an option to answer ‘not applicable’ to many of the questions was added, and ‘not applicable’ responses were excluded from initial analysis of the data. Nevertheless, the key finding from the survey is that CII Chartered firms – no matter their size – are not that different in how they approach EDI. They share similar successes and challenges.
For example, there is commonality across firms of all sizes in terms of the practices most widely adopted to promote and embed EDI, which include role modelling through leadership behaviours and having family-friendly policies in place.
There is also similarity in the EDI practices that are least widely adopted by Chartered firms. Only about a quarter of all firms reported that they systematically collect diversity data and measure against targets. This is understandable for smaller firms, as fewer staff members mean that either diversity characteristics (for example gender) are fairly obvious, or that it is impossible to collect data related to diversity characteristics anonymously. However, it is also a challenge for medium/large firms, with only 28% reporting that they measure EDI against targets and collect diversity data across multiple dimensions of diversity.
As a result, diversity data gathering is one of the key challenges for firms identified by the survey. There are many barriers to diversity data collection, including: lack of standardisation across HR systems; the stricter requirements in the way these data points are used and stored under GDPR, compared to gender or age; the need for employees to self-report and, linked to this, the lack of trust employees may have as a result of concerns about how their personal data is being used.
Nevertheless, collecting and analysing data on wider characteristics including socioeconomic background, caring responsibilities, sexual orientation, gender identity and neurodiversity will enable employers to inform their talent strategy, while ensuring they provide equal opportunities and better support for underrepresented groups in their community.
Eight out of 10 firms (both small and large) consider to a great/moderate extent that their top-level management are accountable for the success of their EDI strategy, with responsibilities cascaded through all levels, and in similar proportions stated that their leaders role model an inclusive culture throughout the organisation
Firms should be prepared for this to become part of the way business is done in the future as the political will for mandatory reporting beyond the gender pay gap, where availability of data will be necessary, is gaining momentum. The government’s new disability strategy will require businesses with more than 250 employees to report on the number of people with disabilities they employ, while the Confederation of British Industry, unions and the Equality and Human Rights Commission have recently called on the government to press for mandatory ethnic pay gap reporting.
This is only one of the key challenges Chartered firms face in promoting and embedding EDI practices within their businesses. The CII will continue to report the survey results and to identify ways in which we can help our community of Chartered firms to navigate this complex area. However, in many ways it is encouraging to know that when it comes to diversity, we are all perhaps not so different when it comes to the challenges we face and the successes we celebrate.
Rebecca Aston is professional standards manager at the CII