Since the inception of gender pay gap reporting we’ve seen an increased focus across the board on equality in a whole breadth of areas. Mirroring an entire society will not be possible in every workplace but more than ever it has become important to be open to the idea. If a company is not offering the chance to people from every background to work within their organisation, then why not?
Many companies can easily find themselves caught in a rut of hiring the carbon copy of the people they already have. In the short term it seems like the safe option, but it can be damaging and expensive in the long run. Typically, these workers are already established in their careers and can demand more money, while untapped talent is out there waiting to be newly trained.
Often this happens because companies are not allowing themselves to reach new people. When the same managers use the same recruitment methods, with the same language posted in the same places, unsurprisingly they get the same types of applicants. Unintentionally they’ll often be excluding an entire gender with the language they use, an entire cross-section of workers by where they place the ad or a cross-section of graduates by unconsciously favouring a select number of universities.
Connecting with the client
By opening themselves up to a more diverse range of talent, companies can build a workforce better equipped to represent them and connect with the client, customer base, buyers and suppliers.
The energy sector has made huge strides in opening itself up to new workers. They’ve looked closely at the numbers and acknowledged that logically a more diverse workforce mirrors their clients and represents them better. It might be a female engineer connecting better at the doorstep with a single mother or a disabled workers having a voice for customers facing difficulty over the phone. There’s a realisation that the value they can add in connecting with the customer is far greater than any investment that might be needed in training, or equipment to help them work.
We worked with one nationwide charitable organisation that also thought hard about this and realised that certain adverts - the language and tone and where they were placing them - were always attracting the same kind of people: white middle classes. Some companies have more of an opportunity to influence change than others, but once they understand where they are and what they can do they are able to talk openly about it, talk competently about a policy and then implement it.
Beyond the connection with the customer, new kinds of people can also bring in fresh ideas, think about things in a different way and add real value there too.
Don’t be Afraid
Gender Pay Gap (GPG) reporting has helped in this area because it has opened up the potential for ethnicity and diversity reporting down the line, which has led to some of the larger companies already acting, compiling the data and convincing their board, or reacting to pressure from shareholders to be more diverse. And in the smaller companies, young workers are now expecting to work somewhere with a more diverse representation.
There will be challenges. Attracting people who are disabled into certain physical types of role is always going to prove difficult, but if a company is asking the right questions it will put itself in a position to reach more people: are we open to change? Is there more we can do? Are there other things we need to look out for? How do we compare in diversity with our competitors? How do we compare with where we were 12 months ago?
My message to any company is: Don’t be Afraid. If there is a willingness and an appetite to learn, improve, act and measure, then you are in the right place. Looking at the data might not tell you what you want to hear. You might be disappointed, you may have to answer to shareholders, but at least you will know what needs to be done. It's better to be aware than to be blissfully ignorant.