HR has failed to embed diversity and inclusion policies into company culture, according to Chris Yates, chief learning officer and director of people and organisational development at Caterpillar.
"Part of the reason we're doing diversity so poorly is HR itself," Yates said. "HR is like the police of an organisation. They have to enforce policies, punish rule breakers, and run the administration. It's difficult for a department to play that role as well as that of change agent."
"HR is failing diversity. But it also has a real opportunity to own it," he added.
Liza Strong, group head of organisational talent and diversity for Royal Mail, suggested that the way to improve diversity and inclusion in organisations is to make the benefits clear to employees. "Seeing these benefits being showcased and highlighted is important," she said. "All I need is for the line managers to show authenticity around diversity."
Strong drew attention to the importance of diversity and inclusion analytics. "I conduct an analysis of our workforce every month to see who we're attracting and who we are losing," she said. "We can then ask 'why are we losing women?' 'Why are we losing disabled workers?' Learning what's going on around your demographics is really powerful."
Global diversity and inclusion leader for Diageo, Amir Kabel, expressed concern that HR is suffering from "fatigue" around the subject. "I think a third of organisations don't really understand what diversity and inclusion is," he said. "Another third know but they don't practically implement it. The last third have it implemented but they don't know how to take it to the next level.
"There has also been a big focus on diversity, but not so much on inclusion. If you don't have the right culture it becomes a revolving door. The people come into the business, have a look around, and then just walk out the door."