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Business

How investing in diversity and inclusion pays off

How investing in diversity and inclusion pays off 3

How investing in diversity and inclusion pays off 4By Rachael Kinsella, Editor, Writer, Strategic Communications Professional at iResearch Services

Investing in diversity and inclusion (DEI) is not only the right thing to do – it is paying off for banking and finance companies in 2022 as well as bringing major business benefits.

Rachael Kinsella, Editor in Chief of leading thought leadership specialist, iResearch Services, says businesses that promote inclusion and greater accessibility can reap the benefits.

“Through investing in diversity and inclusion, companies can future-proof their business by:

  • Maximising talent opportunities at a time when talent is competitive and hard to come by.
  • Being more sustainable – how can you be a sustainable company if you exclude a significant portion of the workforce and population?
  • Building a better customer experience and making the workplace, products and services more accessible for customers.
  • Offering opportunities to widen the client base and gain repeat business and advocacy from a loyal and engaged customer base, which feels valued and welcome.”

The conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in our workplaces has been particularly active during the pandemic and throughout 2022 as the need for inclusion and greater equality has come to the forefront.

“Work makes up a huge part of people’s lives and the boundaries have blurred in a sea of lockdowns and remote/hybrid working over the past few years. As the world of work continues to evolve in line with external events and employer demand, having the right DEI approaches and processes in place will be vital.”

“It’s also a key part of building on positive change for wider sustainability – the “S” and people-focused elements of environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives.

Measuring progress

Business leaders switched on to the commercial and cultural benefits of greater inclusion are also interested in tracking and measuring progress, while developing standards for DEI metrics, greater consistency and collaboration.

With the increased focus on DEI, businesses have made progress, but a new professional services pulse survey carried out by iResearch Services suggests there is more work to be done. It finds that 73% are working on a DEI policy and 15% say they would like one. 8% are focusing on other priorities. Of those that have a policy, 68% have measurements in place.

Disability inclusion and accessibility – more than just lip service

More than three-quarters of respondents are positive about the progress their companies are making in disability inclusion and awareness, for example.

Over three quarters (77.5%) of the 200 Human Resources professionals and DEI specialists across a range of sectors say their company is actively working on fostering a supportive culture that encourages disclosure, while 14% say that although this is not immediately happening, they would like to build a supportive company culture and 8.5% are working on other priorities.

Seven out of 10 respondents (71.5%) say their company includes disability awareness in its DEI training. Just under 30% don’t include disability issues in their DEI training – suggesting that disability isn’t on the radar in the same way as other areas of inclusion. Most say it is something their company is working on. It is not a priority for 7.5% and 3.5% do not know.

When it comes to disability initiatives, just over half (54%) of respondents say there are programmes to support disabled employees where they work with around one in four (26.5%) working towards it.  However, one in five HR professionals is not thinking about how their business can offer disability support, with 12.5% having other priorities and 7% unaware of the situation.

Implementing DEI policies, processes and strategies

Regarding wider DEI initiatives, half of the companies surveyed (49.5%) are actively working on an agreement and 34% are in the process of creating a strategy. Another 11% have no policy at the moment but want to create one. Encouragingly, just 5.5% say DEI is not a priority for their organisation.

There is also progress to be made on female leadership roles in business to help break the bias. In an earlier similar snap survey of 200 senior leadership figures in the UK and the United States conducted by iResearch Services, just 11.5% of those companies surveyed have 1-5 women in leadership roles, 19% have 6-9, 22.5% have 10-19, 16% have 20-29, 16.5% have 30-39, 5.5% have 40-49 and 9% have 50-plus.

Looking at board membership, 3% having no female board members, 6.5% with one female board member, 28.5% with two, 25% who have three, 14.5% with four and 22.5% with five or more.

Strategies for smashing the glass ceiling

It is encouraging to note that six in 10 companies are actively working on appointing more women to senior roles and another 32% are creating a strategy to do so. Just 5% say they have no plans, but would like to, while 3.5% state that appointing more women to senior positions is not a priority for them.

Rachael concludes: “It’s positive news that building an inclusive company culture is an active priority for the majority of professionals we spoke to across business disciplines, with apparent progress made to date. The next step is to build a picture of employees’ perceptions and experiences of this in practice and look at opportunities for greater investment, awareness and inclusion throughout all areas of the business.

“But there is a gap that needs to be addressed between positive attitudes towards building awareness and supportive corporate culture and seeing practical changes to workplaces in the form of concrete strategies, support and assistance. Our data shows that honest conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion in our workplaces need to continue and move from words to action.”

iResearch Services provides thought leadership services and industry insights about the future of the workplace and the most pressing environmental, social and governance challenges for organisations today, providing first-hand knowledge and insight into often-overlooked issues such as how disabled people are treated at work. The agency’s clients include some of the top names in technology, professional and financial services, healthcare and other B2B sectors.

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