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The largest diversity and inclusivity study of its kind for years has found that
almost half of HR departments believe that equality will not be advanced
within their organisation because of the economic downturn.

“HR leaders told us that the focus on the bottom line has made people more
cost-conscious,” said Angela O’Connor, founder and CEO of the HR Lounge,
which produced the study in partnership with astar-fanshawe. “They are
concerned that managers who have prejudices will not be challenged on
their decision making. Board members, and senior managers have to ensure
that equality and diversity is seen as one of the basics, rather than just
paying lip service to it.”

The survey of over 200 executives, directors, senior management and
management revealed that only 12% of respondents strongly agreed that D&I
is a top priority in their company, with just 19% strongly agreeing that it was
embedded in the company culture.

“From the work we do,” says Simon Fanshawe, OBE, co-founder of astar-fanshawe, “it’s clear that in many organisations, diversity is simply a tick-box exercise. Without strategic leadership, diversity is seen as a separate workstream, rather than being a driver of the business’s strategic goals.”

The survey highlighted how D&I is part of the recruitment policy in over 95%
of companies, yet only 30% of companies used D&I as part of their key
performance indicators. Over 80% of respondents believed that equality was
unfinished business within their organisation.

“All too often, D&I is about endless initiatives, without any focus on why
organisations are doing it,” Angela continues. “D&I should not be sacrificed
for the sake of balancing budgets: if it’s done well, D&I will make your
business more profitable by getting the right talent and developing people.”

“The survey adds to the available evidence that HR departments need to
change their approach,” Simon adds, “not only in the way they recruit staff,
Boards and executives, but also in the strategic role they play within
organisations. HR Directors need to be clear about the value of D&I and they
have to link it to the organisation’s business strategy. Otherwise, it will
continue to be sidelined.”

As respondent noted, “The current economic crisis means that those in
authority are more interested in ‘bringing in and bringing on’ individuals
who are like them”.

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