Diversity and equality in the workforce have become a demographic phenomenon and reality (Sadri and Tran, 2002) that has been witnessed and acknowledged across the globe since several years ago. Yet, evidence suggests that such actions and practices are being conducted for the mere compliance to established laws and regulations (Bouten-Pinto, 2016) leaving a gap in the implementation of formal follow-up procedures that reinforces firms’ commitment to diversity and equality. Acknowledging this drawback, this report highlights XYZ’s follow-up practices that ensure its perpetual commitment to and compliance with the established diversity and equality policies.
Xyz is a medium-sized IT, software and computer services company that is characterised by its diverse workforce which forms a crucial part of its success due to the innovation and creativity that is fostered through the integration of varied ideas and perspectives. This creates an urge to go beyond mere compliance to the UK’s laws and regulations and develop a firm and rigorous approach not only to ensure the company’s commitment but also, to form a follow-up basis through which current efforts and initiatives could be monitored, assessed and improved to seek perfection. The following paragraphs analyse and assess the company’s commitment to diversity and equality.
2.1 Organisations’ commitment to equality and diversity
Xyz has demonstrated multiple forms of commitment to diversity and equality; these include publishing regular statements on the significance of diversity and equality, developing guidelines that govern actions and attitudes in relation to diversity and equality, outlining the implications of the failure to adhere to the established diversity and equality policies, providing training programs that ensure diversity awareness, developing internal and external communication strategies, expanding its efforts to attract a more diverse workforce, etc (Hershock, 2014). These efforts and initiatives although are extremely beneficial as a means through which the company’s commitment could be manifested, there still are areas with potential for improvement.
To start with, similar to many other firms, the company’s diversity initiatives are defined to tackle the basic forms of discrimination against sex, sexual orientation, age, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religion and disability. However, Embrick, Collins and Dodson, (2018) argue that firms and organisations should give up on the usage of both terms “diversity” and “inclusion”. Rather, companies should shift their focus to address the general issues of oppression and inequalities to be better capable of attaining positive changes (Embrick, Collins and Dodson, 2018); thereby, demonstrating a real, tangible and authentic commitment to diversity and equality.
Secondly, it is apparent that a huge part of the company’s adherence to diversity and equality policies is attributed to the perceived benefits of having a diversified workforce. While attaining performance enhancements is a strong and justifiable driver, more emphasis should be placed on considering the general welfare of employees. This could be done by developing and enforcing policies that tackle the specific needs and requirements of employees. For this reason, two primary factors should be considered namely, managing personal growth and mentoring programs that positively contribute to the employees’ well-being (Sadri and Tran, 2002).
Thus, the company should implement workshops, development discussions and continuous feedback to create a hostile working environment for diverse employees (Sadri and Tran, 2002). On the other hand, mentoring activities should involve coaching and protecting employees from adverse forces (Sadri and Tran, 2002). Besides the aforementioned, the provision of career planning services is essential to provide employees with different career progression opportunities (Monitor, 2015). Furthermore, other physiological roles that should be manifested by top management includes promoting acceptance and providing personal support and counselling (Sadri and Tran, 2002). The incorporation of such efforts would reinforce the company’s commitment to diversity and equality while boosting the job satisfaction rates; such efforts would definitely have multiple positive reflections on the company’s productivity, profitability and sustainability.
Thirdly, the company’s existing policies tend to acknowledge differences among individuals while promoting general tolerance and acceptance towards such differences. While this aspect is significant, there is a wide momentum towards a paradigm shift that values diversity and equality as a critical resource (Hershock, 2014). As stated by Hill, (2009), “successful diversity efforts are based on the intrinsic worth of plurality”(p.49). Accordingly, the organisation’s policies should be based on the fact that the honour of individual differences and to see “business” value in workforce diversity (Kirton, Robertson and Avdelidou-Fischer, 2016) are main strengths and sources of competitive advantage.
2.2 Monitoring and evaluation of commitment measures
With regards to the company’s monitoring and evaluation of its commitment measures, it has been apparent that minor changes and amendments have been incorporated into the company’s diversity and equality policies since they were established. Bouten-Pinto, (2016) views that adherence to diversity and equality is a dynamic “action-reflection-action” developmental process. This implies that monitoring and evaluation activities should be conducted on a continuous and regular basis not only to identify existing weaknesses and deficiencies but also, to accommodate and adapt to the changes in the workplace environment.
Accordingly, the organisation should consider adopting the reflexivity practice proposed by Bouten-Pinto, (2016); where both managers and employees regularly deconstruct the diversity and equality practices in a collaborative approach and critically and constructively reflect on such practices to be able to identify flaws that could be rectified while reconstructing new work environments.
Secondly, the significance of diversity and equality indices in measuring the outcomes of a company’s initiatives and efforts have been acknowledged by multiple researchers (Sposato, Feeke, Anderson-Walsh and Spencer, 2015). Yet, the company seems to be lagging behind its competitors with regard to the utilization of such indices to ensure that diversity and equality policies are strictly enforced. Through the usage of such indices, not only would the top management be more motivated to show higher levels of commitment to diversity and inclusion but also, it would facilitate the development of a framework that tackles areas with potential for improvement (Sposato, Feeke, Anderson-Walsh and Spencer, 2015). Thus, such indices would provide a concrete basis to inform future decisions and strategies to enhance the company’s commitment levels.
3.1 UK’s equality and diversity legislation and regulations
The UK’s government has had an active role in the development and promotion of diversity and equality (Johnson, 2018). Several Acts has been enacted to promote equality and diversity throughout the past few decades including the Equal Pay Act, the Sex Discrimination Act, the Race Relations Act, the Disability Discrimination Act, etc (DeltaNet, 2021). Most recently, the UK government had enforced the Equality Act 2010 which harmonised all previous discrimination Acts. Accordingly, the Act protects individuals against all forms of discrimination, harassment and victimisation not only in the workplace but also, in the wider society in general (Equality Act 2010: guidance, 2021). Besides, the Human Rights Act 1998 also outlines the rights and freedom that everyone in the UK is entitled to (DeltaNet, 2021).
3.2 Personal responsibilities and liabilities
Under the Equality Act, employers and employees are bound to certain responsibilities and liabilities. To start with, employers and employees are required to refrain from all acts of direct discrimination against protected characteristics (Equality Act, 2010). Examples of direct discrimination include the rejection of a job applicant based on sexual orientation or denying job promotion to a woman who just announced her pregnancy (Asset Transfer Unit, 2010). Furthermore, employers and recruiting agents are not allowed to discriminate in the terms of employment including working hours, wages, salaries, and bonuses (Contractor Umbrella, 2021). They are also required to provide equal access to opportunities including training, promotion, and other services (Contractor Umbrella, 2021).
The Act also protects against indirect forms of discrimination such as mandating a specific uniform that affects women from certain religions. Besides discrimination, the Act also shields from all types of harassment, including sexual harassment, victimisation and bullying (Equality Act, 2010). Accordingly, all personnel are prohibited from violating human dignity or creating an intimidating, offensive or humiliating environment. Examples of such acts include making derogatory jokes or calling people nicknames due to their ethnicity or country of origin (Asset Transfer Unit, 2010). The Act also protects against disability discrimination obliging all responsible personnel to take the necessary measures to alleviate the disadvantages of a disability (Equality Act, 2010). Examples of this include installing ramps to facilitate access to the workplace using wheelchairs (Asset Transfer Unit, 2010). Based on the aforementioned, all top-management personnel are under a legal duty to promote and reinforce positive actions against any forms of oppression and inequality.
4.1 Compliance to UK’s equality and diversity legislation
4.1.1 Equality and diversity policies
Xyz places great emphasis on compliance with the UK’s diversity and equality legislation. Therefore, the policy protects against all forms of oppression and inequalities including direct and indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment (Monitor, 2015). Thus, it shields all forms of protected characteristics including sex, gender reassignment, civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, age, race, disability and religion (Monitor, 2015).
The company’s policies also provide two main resolution discourses namely, formal and informal resolutions (Monitor, 2015). The informal discourses allow employees to seek solutions through discussions with colleagues having relevant positions of seniority. For this reason, the company has also enacted a discipline policy (Monitor, 2015) where candidates of breach of the aforementioned diversity and equality policy are subjected to disciplinary actions. Whereas, the formal routes include rigorous investigation procedures where employees in breach are held personally liable in a formal suitcase.
Also, the ICT sector in the UK is well-known for its underrepresentation of diverse workforce in the top management and in senior roles (Kirton, Robertson and Avdelidou-Fischer, 2016). Therefore, the organisation’s policies place great emphasis on managerial diversity; thereby, providing all employees with equal opportunities for promotion, advancement, and career progression. Most specifically, the UK’s ICT sector is lagging behind other industries in terms of gender diversity, particularly in managerial roles where women are still underrepresented (Moore, Griffiths, Richardson and Adam, 2008). Therefore, the company has policies that ensure an overall fair ratio of men to women.
Thus, when it comes to recruitment, the company’s policies ensure that candidate selection is solely based on the talent and experience criteria (Monitor, 2015) with equal opportunities of training, personal development, promotion, appraisal and reward schemes. Moreover, it is evident that the ICT sector is a multi-dimensional sector that involves several alliances and partnerships; thus, incorporating several stakeholders (Kirton, Robertson and Avdelidou-Fischer, 2016). Based on this, the company’s policies promote more proactive collaborations to enhance diversity and equality and mandates the implementation of a corporate diversity agenda by all business partners.
4.1.2 Communication of equality and diversity policies
It has been acknowledged that the mere compliance to action policies and valuing of the significance of equality and diversity is insufficient for the effective management of a diverse workforce (Sadri and Tran, 2002). Therefore, the effectiveness of communication is crucial for maintaining diversity through the promotion of integration and collaboration (Sadri and Tran, 2002). On that basis, the company has published diversity and equality guidelines that outlines manageable ways to enhance diversity and equality. In this context, these guidelines shed light on the business case for diversity and tackle issues such as facilitating the understanding on how to improve diversity and inclusion, the strategies to attain a major shift in the organisation’s culture, fair and transparent recruitment practices, etc (PRCA, 2018).
Informal communication also plays a significant role in demonstrating the company’s commitment to diversity and equality. This is particularly true in relation to the ICT sector. As stated by Isotalus and Kakkuri-Knuuttila, (2018), “The democratic communication practices allow the IT workers to develop mutual understanding, thus leaving less room for the harmful influence of stereotypical categorizations of the “other.” (p.451). Thus, through open dialogues, firms could pay attention to different voices and perspectives which in turn reduces conflicts.
Furthermore, having a dialogical culture that involves all employees in the decision-making process and shows concern for equality, task variety, tolerance and respect is more important than having specific diversity measures (Isotalus and Kakkuri-Knuuttila, 2018). Besides, Hall, (2019) have emphasised that transparency, relevance and authenticity of the organisation’s formal and informal speeches are crucial for having effective communication of the significance of diversity and equality.
4.2 Support and commitment to equality and diversity policies
The failure in multiple diversity and equality initiatives is a common phenomenon that is often witnessed across organisations (Hall, 2019). Accordingly, the top management’s support to such initiatives is vital to ensure a successful implementation of diversity and inclusion policies (Sadri and Tran, 2002). Leaders, therefore, should lead inclusively, demonstrate good communication practices such as active listening, provide feedback and constructive criticism, and have self-reflections (Hall, 2019).
Furthermore, besides policies, diversity and equality initiatives should be comprehensive and inclusive of everyone. Thus, all behaviours, formal and informal communication, events and recreational activities developed by the organisation should be targeting each and every individual working within the organisation to create a truly inclusive work environment (Hill, 2009). Also, firms should develop and establish a certain set of parameters that details the desired and undesired workplace behaviours in relation to the diversity and equality policies along with a communication strategy for reporting and solving issues that goes against these pre-established parameters (Bouten-Pinto, 2016).
4.3 UK’s workforce diversity profile
Recent statistics show a significant improvement in the UK’s workforce diversity and equality of opportunity. To illustrate, a recent survey shows that over half of the leadership and top management roles are currently held by women in the UK (The Publishers Association, 2020). However, the representation of minority groups from different ethnic backgrounds including Black, Asian and Mixed groups remained at 13% collectively since 2017 (The Publishers Association, 2020). On the other hand, the LGBT+ community has more than doubled from 5% in 2017 to 11% in 2020 (The Publishers Association, 2020). The aforementioned figures represent changes in the UK’s general workforce profile. Although multiple sectors, including the NHS, have their own workforce statistics, the ICT industry lacks such statistics which is an area to be reviewed in the future.
5.1 The need for integrity, fairness and consistency in dealings with individuals
The importance of having fair and consistent treatment of all individuals within a workplace has been well established. Beauregard, (2014) argues that such treatments are vital to organisations as they aid in eliminating counterproductive work behaviours. This is since counterproductive work behaviours are manifested as forms of “negative emotional reaction to unfairness and as a tool used by employees to restore equity in the exchange relationship with their employer” (p. 772). Similarly, Merriman, Maslyn And Farmer, (2011) found that the implementation of fair allocation rules and equity allocation rules aid in the enhancement of trust among team members; thereby, enhancing collaboration and coordination. This is further supported by the findings of Engelbrecht, Heine and Mahembe, (2017) that indicate that ethical leadership styles are more effective in establishing trust, strengthening relationships and fostering employees’ work engagement. Whereas, Schroeder et al., (2019) found that the four values namely, Fairness, Respect, Care and Honesty act as the main motivating factors for employees to discharge their duties and obligations. These in turn have positive effects on corporate performance while promoting positive organisational culture and behaviour (Schroeder et al., 2019). Also, Duggar, (2014) found that integrity aids organisations in building consensus over shared values, which is vital to support diversity and equality initiatives. According to the aforementioned, the company places a huge emphasis on maintaining integrity, fairness and consistency in its dealings with all employees and relevant stakeholders.
5.2 Understanding individuals’ needs, feelings, motivations and concerns
Besides fair and consistent dealings, the understanding of the different needs and drivers of employees is a crucial aspect that indicates the company’s support for diversity and equality. It has been evident that humans are complex and interdependent objects; thus, leading to varying perceptions and interpretations with regards to the received treatment. To illustrate, Simons, Friedman, Liu and McLean Parks, (2007) found that people of different races have different perceptions of their managers’ behavioural integrity. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to such differences through the understanding of the needs, feelings and motivations of different individuals.
Moreover, Moore, Griffiths, Richardson and Adam, (2008) further acknowledge that gender relations and organisational norms play a significant role in how individuals perceive their futures in terms of career and career trajectories. Therefore, the understanding of individuals’ needs, motivations and concerns are crucial to effectively shape such relations and to inform the most desired norms; thereby, eliminating turnover rates and ensuring the sustainability of skills, experiences and expertise within an organisation.
In enhancing such understanding, Bouten-Pinto, (2016), emphasises on “reflexivity” in managing diversity; as stated by the author, “Reflexivity in managing diversity adds value because it provides a process through which critical reflection can occur on organizational interpersonal relationship, hegemonic processes and practices in order to surface and critically examine underpinning assumptions and values and institute change.” (p.137).
6.1 The impacts of recognising diversity, inclusion and equality
It has been evident that having effective diversity, inclusion and equality practices reflect positively on the general performance of an organisation aiding it in achieving its main aims and objectives (Hill, 2009). From an extensive review of the literature, Rohwerder, (2017) found that enhancements in the general performance of firms and businesses could be realised through cost reductions, enhanced productivity, and greater flexibility that is attained through having a diverse workforce. These results are further supported by the findings of Kirton, Robertson and Avdelidou-Fischer, (2016) that indicate that firms and organisations could easily leverage on their diverse workforce to foster innovation and creativity and to boost employees’ potential; thereby, enhancing the organisational performance, productivity and profitability. Cox and Blake, (1991) further acknowledged the significance of having diverse teams stating that they facilitate decision making, enhance the problem-solving capabilities of an organisation, and foster innovation. Other benefits of maintaining diversity and equality in the workplace include improved resourcing of talented personnel, enhanced trust and employees’ commitment to the organisation, and enhanced corporate image (Schroeder et al., 2019).
6.2 Tackling equality and diversity resistance
It has been evident that the support and promotion of diversity and equality involve organisational and individual changes (Sadri and Tran, 2002) which are often met with resistance. The case is quite similar when it comes to inclusion initiatives, specifically against the LGBTQ community. Furthermore, the normal perception of similarities and dissimilarities between employees have a direct impact on employees’ behaviours and attitudes; thereby, affecting the general performance of a business (Sadri and Tran, 2002).
Therefore, Hill, (2009) ascertains that having a dialogue series discussing different diversity and inclusion topics aids in eliminating the encountered resistance. As stated by Isotalus and Kakkuri-Knuuttila, (2018), “creating shared meanings in dialogical communication is a “must” for diversity management if it wants to fulfil the double promise of promoting both business and ethical goals.” (p.450). Besides communication, Wiggins-Romesburg and Githens, (2018) emphasised training and skill-building exercise to increase awareness and acceptance by building sustainable norms that reduce future resistance to changes in relation to diversity and inclusion. Furthermore, a continuous learning and development approach should be sought and maintained by organisations to ensure maximum support to diversity and equality while reducing the encountered resistance. Also, Sharma, Singh and Pathak, (2018) found that the active engagement of all employees in the decision-making process is crucial to promote an ethical work culture that eliminates the anticipated resistance to diversity and equality initiatives.
It has been acknowledged many organisations are incorporating diversity and equality policies merely to comply with legislation (Bouten-Pinto, 2016). However, in today’s rapidly evolving environment, firms and businesses are under increasing pressure to go beyond mere compliance with legislation to effectively realise the associated benefits of having a diverse workforce. Therefore, having proper follow up procedures, a deep understanding of the different needs and motivations of employees, and effective management of anticipated resistance to change is crucial to foster firms’ support for diversity and inclusion.