Exclusive diversity survey: HRDs talk the talk but don't follow through with strategy


HR decision-makers in the UK are paying lip service to diversity strategy, but they are not following this through with strategic action, HR magazine can exclusively reveal.

HR surveyed 271 HR directors, chief executives, MDs and HR managers to find out if diversity is a strategic imperative in UK business, or just a 'nice to have'.

Some 28% of respondents said diversity and equality were at the very core of their business, 17% said it was 'a top priority' and 37% said it was 'high on their list of priorities'.

Although only 11% said it was 'not a business imperative' and 8% said it was 'unimportant', just over half (57%) of the total sample had a diversity strategy.

One in five of the employers surveyed online (20%) admit to 'monitoring diversity regularly', in lieu of a comprehensive diversity strategy. While 9% say they 'plan to introduce a strategy', more than one in eight employers (14%) have no plans to put such a plan in place in their organisation.

Commenting on the survey, Helen Wells (pictured), director at diversity campaigning group, Opportunity Now, said: "Employers seem to be saying diversity is vital, but what they appear to be doing is just paying lip-service; it's very much business as usual.

"It is encouraging employers are saying the right things about diversity and equality, but how can they engage their employees with these issues if they don't have a strategy?"

Looking specifically at the strands of diversity, although 82% said diversity and equality were either core to their business, a top priority or important to them, 16% are doing nothing to address age equality, 46% are ignoring sexual orientation, 37% are not addressing ethnic origin, 18% are not implementing gender equality measures, 19% do not have any disability initiatives in place and a massive 70% are not addressing diversity and inclusion dependent on nationality.

In spite of this, 64% agreed the most important reason to have a diversity policy was to attract and retain the best talent from the largest pool; 45% said it was to support and relate to customers they serve and 55% believe a diverse workforce leads to an increase of new ideas and better collaboration all round.

A third (33%) said it is fair and appropriate to give a chance of employment to everyone applying for a role and this was one of their top three reasons for valuing diversity.

Wells added: "Respondents have seen the commercial imperative in diversity strategy, but if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always had.

"Diversity needs a strategy and a route map. It needs to be part of a mainstream business process and people have to be made accountable. Employers will not be able to have a more diverse and inclusive workforce unless they have measures and data in place looking at talent management [and diversity] together. This needs to feed back into the business case for having equality in the first place and the effects will be successful and dynamic."

HR magazine surveyed 271 HR decision-makers online during June, July and August 2012. Of the sample, 17% were CEOs or MDs, 24% were HR directors or heads of HR and 21% were HR managers.

HR will publish the full results and analysis of the findings in the October issue of the magazine.