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6th Sense

Diverse Voices: why diversity should be at the centre of your employee engagement strategy…

June 2015 | Diversity, Employee Engagement

In many, if not most organisations, Employee Engagement and Diversity & Inclusion are two separate streams of work – and that’s if they exist at all. But perhaps it’s time for them to join forces. After all, great engagement depends on understanding our employees and helping them to be the best they can be at work. Do that, and all the evidence suggests that your organisation will outperform others…

So are we successfully engaging our diverse groups of employees effectively? According to this report from IPA and Astar-Fanshawe, the answer is YES and NO.

  • Women, it seems, are more engaged at work than men, although they feel less able to express their voice.
  • The youngest employees tended to be the most engaged; and then there’s a dip until 65 when engagement rises dramatically.
  • Worryingly, disabled employees are far less engaged than their non-disabled colleagues.
  • There are no significant differences in terms of sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion.

Now a word of warning here. This report used existing data (such as Workplace Employment Relations Survey 2011), six case studies and an online employer survey with only 80 responses. So the research can only really give us some potential challenges.

That said, it is a powerful report in starting to open up the debate and encourage employers to think about employee engagement and workplace diversity as two sides of the same coin.

What was powerful at the event was some of the responses from the panel, their experiences and their tips for success.

Data is key – To build the business case, FirstGroup did some analysis in one area of the business and found that there could be a £20m uplift through better engagement. Money makes it important!

Think about what gets rewarded – Simon Fanshawe shared a story about Boiler Engineers at British Gas. This is a task measured by how many ‘jobs’ you complete in a day; yet women are inadvertently penalised because they tend to spend more time with the customer to make sure the service is good. A good reminder of changing the job KPI to suit a better outcome for everyone.

The language of business – Don’t focus on the language of diversity; leaders listen to outcomes and business benefits.

Don’t accept bad behaviour – If there’s unacceptable behaviour by people around diversity, should they be in your business at all? Of course, easier said than done.

Do it because it is the right thing to do – Yes, there’s visible proof that employee engagement and diversity deliver results; but you should also do it because it is morally the right approach.

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