My New Year's resolution for HR: Get D&I right

D&I stayed in the spotlight last year but there's still a way to go. What should HR start, stop and continue doing?

Last year diversity, yet again, held the spotlight. But that doesn’t mean we’ve been doing it correctly. Despite inclusion consistently being hailed as key to a successful workplace, figures show that we still have a long way to go before we can expect to find diverse workforces at all levels across all sectors.

So, with this in mind, what can HR do to progress diversity further in organisations and to create workforces that are truly representative of the society around them? What should HR stop, start and continue doing?

Stop... benchmarking

I am constantly asked ‘Who is doing the best in D&I?’ I no longer answer the question – because there are few organisations that create policies and interventions that are truly sustainable. Diversity is seen as a ‘one off’ approach. Often people will decide on their initiative based on what they have seen or heard others do.

The obsession with benchmarking has a reasonable enough basis; people don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Except that it has become the basis for at best people taking shortcuts to action, and at worst being intellectually and practically lazy.

Take setting targets. I have been against this all my career as a psychologist. But more organisations are setting targets for gender. They are doing it not because they believe it is right, but because more organisations are doing it. Very few consider setting targets for minorities, however, which is not only inconsistent but hypocritical. I don’t think targets are the solution, but if you are going to have them then at least try and do it with some logic. And if you are not prepared to be logical then be honest that you are more concerned about gender than ethnicity.

Start... producing your own solutions

I had the pleasure of working with three very different organisations last year where the HR team decided to think through from scratch what they believed would work for them in their context. One size does not fit all when it comes to D&I, and individual organisations must work to make changes that will create positive impact while still remaining fair to all parties involved. We must learn to approach diversity and bias in the workplace within the individual context of each organisation; otherwise we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Continue.... being prepared to focus on D&I

HR has made an important contribution because it has championed D&I and forced senior leaders to take an interest, if not take the lead. This willingness to put D&I on the agenda has ensured that it is being taken more seriously than ever. So HR needs to remain focused and keep on discussing the subject while at the same time recognising that the approach needs to evolve.

Binna Kandola is co-founder of Pearn Kandola