Why tracking your firm’s diversity performance matters

Diversity tracking can help you improve workplace equality

Checking your diversity performance is a crucial component of ensuring a successful strategy; not only can it can help highlight workplace inequality, but it can identify the underlying causes of discrimination and help to remove unfairness and disadvantage for your most valuable assets – your employees.

Most organisations know that earning a reputation for having a culture of discrimination and bullying is detrimental, not only in terms of external perception but also when looking to attract and retain talent. A poor diversity record can stunt the development of a business, preventing it from attracting the best talent.

Diversity isn’t just limited to achieving balance in terms of race, sexual orientation, religious views, age, and family situations; it extends to being open to taking on employees on different and non-standard working contracts. For example, an employer choosing not to employ any part-time workers could be missing out on talented pools of potential employees, such as working mothers looking for more flexible working opportunities.

1. Understanding tracking diversity performance

While most employers have now put diversity measures in place, fewer have had the foresight to recognise the importance and value to be gained from consistent and regular tracking of their workforce profile and regularly testing and revisiting the effectiveness of their diversity and inclusion policies.

To track diversity performance effectively, employers should look at the whole lifecycle of the workforce – from recruitment stages to when considering promotions or selecting individuals for redundancy. In all these situations, capturing data about the successful – and also the unsuccessful – individuals helps to build up a full picture of how well the business is doing at promoting and maintaining its policies.

Diversity tracking questionnaires are a good way of gathering the necessary information. These forms track the workforce typically by gender, age, and race, among other categories. If particular employees seek to pursue internal vacancies, diversity tracking should also be included alongside these application forms to ensure company records are kept up to date. However, to ensure the information provided does not influence the decision-making process, diversity forms should be separated from any other relevant paperwork, such as a job application form or CV, and, ideally, all information that is collected should be anonymised.

There may be instances where anonymity is not possible. In such circumstances, data protection obligations will arise, and much of the data, for example, information about disabilities, health conditions, sexual orientation, religion – and even about trade union membership, will amount to ‘sensitive personal data’, meaning that there are further restrictions on its use.

2. Provide diversity training

For existing workers, it is important to provide diversity training, which can open up communication and provide an opportunity for employees to learn more about the recruitment strategy, reinforcing that decisions about hiring are based on finding the best candidate for the role and are not just an effort to tick the diversity box. It’s also important to relay the benefits of a diverse workplace to leadership members.

Offering benefits aimed at assisting specific groups within the workforce, such as onsite childcare for parents, is a good way for businesses to demonstrate to potential new and existing employees that they are diversity-friendly.

3. Clamp down on anti-discrimination and bullying

Even for firms with a robust diversity strategy in place, issues can arise if they fail to regularly relay their anti-discrimination policies to the workforce.

Increasingly, employers are becoming involved in discrimination cases arising from complaints of harassment and bullying between employees in the form of workplace ‘banter’. Cases like these can be hard to resolve as they often rely on one person’s word against another.

Trying to portray the behaviour as mere banter does not help – the test in such cases is how the behaviour was perceived by the “victim”, not what was intended by the perpetrator.

Discrimination and diversity in the workplace often go hand in hand, and in order for business owners to mitigate the risk of running into any potential disputes, a watchful eye is crucial. A vigorous approach to workplace policies, coupled with diligent reviewing processes, will help create a diverse workforce and an open and accepting culture.

Jon Heuvel is an employment law expert and a Partner at Shakespeare Martineau.

In this article, you learned that:

  • Tracking diversity performance involves examining the whole lifecycle of the workforce – from recruitment stages to promotions and redundancy
  • If staff seek internal vacancies, include diversity tracking with application forms to keep records updated
  • Diversity tracking questionnaires are a good way of gathering the necessary information. These forms track the workforce typically by gender, age, and race, among other categories

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