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What Does Diversity Actually Mean?

Diverse Workforce

The importance of diversity is at the heart of organisational culture, but how many companies really understand what it means to be truly diverse? Read below to find out more.

Increasingly, diversity has become a key priority for businesses, big and small across the globe, but amongst this collective endeavour to ‘be more diverse’, has the meaning of diversity been lost? How many companies really understand what it means to be truly diverse and what it takes to promote diversity in a meaningful and sustainable way?

According to a worldwide study of 16,500 people, conducted by BCG:  97% of companies have a diversity programme but only 25% of the individuals that they were intended for felt that they had personally benefited from it. This suggests that there is a troubling disconnect between the objectives and outcomes of these initiatives.

What are some of the current problems with how companies understand and promote diversity?

In the UK, the Equality Act of 2010 identified nine key protected characteristics to promote diversity and protect against discrimination in the workplace:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

While fundamental in protecting underrepresented groups in the workplace, the concept of protected characteristics can arguably be limiting as it groups people into narrow categories such as gender, race or disability rather than acknowledging intersectionality. On the topic of specific quotas, this can be problematic because they seek to define a single metric or ambition instead of promoting holistic, company-wide inclusion. The real power of diversity is far more nuanced than meeting a target on gender diversity, ethnic diversity or different ability diversity.

What is the alternative?

To promote diversity in a meaningful way that recognises everyone’s uniqueness and individual difference, companies must:

  1. Adopt a transparent recruitment process for all opportunities.
  2. Showcase real role models and provide insight into the day-to-day reality of different job roles.
  3. Implement meaningful and impact-led recruitment.
  4. Create and enable a culture that celebrates difference so that it is an integral element of strategic workforce planning.

FDM’s Unique Approach

FDM Group has three core programmes: Graduates, Ex-Forces and Returners which promote diversity of thought and experience from all walks of life. We believe in the power of collective diversity that comes from combining individuals from different backgrounds.

At FDM, we recruit based on attitude and potential, not on work experience or qualifications. We adopt a number of different initiatives throughout the recruitment process to ensure equal opportunities and minimise the impact of unconscious bias, which include:

Strength based interviews

This type of interview seeks to determine the passion, potential and enthusiasm of the candidate, instead of focusing on previous achievements or pre-prepared questions.

Diverse panel of interviewers

Our interview panel is representative of the diverse talent we wish to attract. Diverse interview panels also demonstrate to candidates first-hand our commitment to diversity and helps to address unconscious bias.

CV-blind at assessment days

Our Assessment Day interviewers do not see candidates’ CVs prior to the Assessment Day to ensure they are appraising candidates on their performance throughout the day, without any pre-existing knowledge of the candidates. 

Training and support for all recruiters and interviewers

We provide ongoing training to all recruiters and interviewers on unconscious bias and different ability awareness.

How can companies recruit diverse talent?

Seek talent in new places

The result of always looking for talent in the same places is inevitable and preconceived ideas of what success looks like which can hamper diversity. We pride ourselves on partnering with universities across the UK to seek talent. One of the easiest ways for companies to diversify their talent pool is to switch up where they recruit from. FDM’s UK Consultant intake 2020 ,of those who chose to disclose:

  • 12% identify as Black
  • 29% identify as Asian
  • 2% identify as Arab
  • 3% identify as Mixed race
  • 54% identify as White
  • 5% identify with having a disability
  • 90% attended a State school
  • 44% were the first in their family to attend University
  • 6% identify as LGBTQIA+

Adapt job descriptions

It’s important that companies evaluate the skills and traits they ask for within their job descriptions to ensure they are not exclusory or prescriptive. Focus on the skills that are core to the job and relate specifically to expectations associated with in-role performance. Avoid using language that may inadvertently deter a candidate from applying; be inclusive in the way that this role is advertised and be bold and explicit on your equal opportunity statement on all job descriptions.

Make inclusive practices part of your core training suite

For sustainable, meaningful and engrained inclusion, it is vital that inclusive practices are embedded into company-wide training programmes. Empathetic leadership, creating a sense of belonging and encouraging employees to share their experiences should be factored into an ongoing, ever-evolving diversity strategy.

Organisational culture should be constantly evolving: set forth and experienced by its people

When it comes to diversity, companies should be continually striving to improve across all aspects of their business, whether that’s closing their gender pay gap and improving representation at C-level or devising new ways to promote neurodiversity within the workplace.

Focus on inclusion and belonging as an imperative

Inclusion and diversity must be a business priority and the responsibility of all, not just the People function. Senior leaders must understand the part that they play in fostering an inclusive workplace and seek support when they need guidance. Only then will you be able to improve diversity across your business and create sustainable inclusive change.

How can companies retain diverse talent?

It is not enough to diversify the workforce; companies must create an inclusive culture that enables employees to thrive. To nurture and retain talent, consider adopting the following initiatives:

Create Employee Networks

Employee networks are employee-led groups made up of staff with shared values or characteristics, e.g. gender identity, caring or parenting responsibilities or ethnicity, as well as their allies. The key objective of employee networks is to provide members with a community to share experiences and a support network whilst also working with the business to educate, raise awareness of important issues and celebrate diversity.

Introduce Reverse Mentoring

Reverse mentoring is where more junior employees are paired with senior members of staff to exchange ideas and knowledge on various topics. This can be anything from technology innovations and introducing new tools, to sharing their perspective on cultural and diversity issues. Reverse mentoring is an important and highly effective process for employee voice providing a platform for inter-generational knowledge exchange.

Set up Listening Circles

Listening circles are key for promoting open communication across the business. As the name suggests, it is an opportunity for employees to share their thoughts, concerns or feelings about what is happening that day while the rest of the group listen on. This practice can be a powerful tool for promoting employee voice and creating a culture of empathy.

Ensure there is leadership and direction on Inclusion at C-Level

It’s essential that C-Level lead by example when it comes to creating an inclusive company culture. The company leadership should actively champion and promote the values of diversity and inclusion that the organisation purports to uphold. Companies should consider introducing a ‘Diversity Champion’, especially in the absence of a dedicated team, who takes on the role of organising discussions around diversity and inclusion with the wider workforce, reviewing policies and initiatives and identifying key areas of change within the business.

Arguably, it’s sustainable and engrained inclusion which in turn will facilitate and encourage diversity. The future of companies is an inclusive culture where people can thrive. At the heart of every organisation is its people: collective diversity means innovation, sustainable growth, being representative of customers and communities and doing business in the right way.


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