In its survey of 1,800 managers, seen exclusively by HR magazine, almost four in 10 (38%) junior managers said they viewed diversity as a ‘tick box’ exercise in their organisation. Only 15% of board directors admitted to seeing diversity as a tick box exercise.
Overall, about a quarter (26%) of managers said diversity is a tick box exercise, with the percentage of managers who are more cynical about their organisations’ diversity agenda increasing at more junior levels.
The Roffey Park Management Agenda found 52% of all managers surveyed believe that diversity is very or extremely important to the success of their businesses. Only 5% said that it wasn’t important at all.
Roffey’s director of research, practice and qualifications Andy Smith told HR magazine people in junior positions are “often cynical” because “things don’t change as fast as they should”.
He advised HR and diversity professionals to “draw attention to the bottom” of the organisation. “We need to create a clear strategy that is communicated properly, and an election process of network representatives to include voices of those we aren’t hearing,” he said. “You need more than just one process. You can’t project manage cultural change.”
Roffey Park head of research Dan Lucy advocated using a “multi-pronged strategy” to create change in this area.
Commenting on the findings, senior HR manager at Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) James Hyde said while D&I should be “part of corporate strategic thinking and planning at the highest level”, it’s important not to lose sight of people lower down the organisation.
He said: “It will not truly impact and benefit the business unless it resonates at all levels of staff and management. Junior managers will more often than not ‘own’ and drive innovation in an area when they can see how it is going to enhance the performance and outputs that they and their teams can achieve.”
Cafcass revised its D&I strategy in 2013, introducing ‘Diversity Ambassadors’ in every team across every region. The ambassadors were self-nominated and endorsed by their line managers. Hyde said: “Their role ensures that the D&I strategy is championed, fully understood, developed and delivered.”
Catherine Conchar, head of equality and diversity at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Stonewall’s top employer for LGB people, said showing people why diversity “matters to them” is key.
“Make it real to people, to involve them, value them and engage them,” she said. “It is vital that equality and diversity is reflected in an organisation’s vision and values, with clear leadership and communicated from the bottom up. It’s about meaningful engagement with your staff to find out what matters to them and how you can meet these needs.”
The diversity debate is hotting up as the deadline for 25% women on boards set by Lord Davies approaches. Business secretary Vince Cable has also mooted introducing targets for ethnic diversity on boards.
Smith said the UK has a “long tradition of setting targets and achieving them”. “I’m all for goals, not quotas,” he added.
The CIPD’s D&I expert Dianah Worman said diversity “is a long-term agenda of change”.
She added: “It’s not something you fix overnight so panicking isn’t going to work. You need to get your head around why it’s important.”