Why D&I must link to purpose and growth to thrive




Huw Morgan

A diverse and inclusive workplace culture, where everyone, regardless of who they are or what they do for the business, feels equally involved and supported is more important now than ever. 

Research from Great Place to Work found that employees who trust they will be treated fairly regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or age, are more than 6 x more likely to take pride in their work and 5 x more likely to want to stay a long time at their company. It also found that diverse and inclusive workplaces enjoy higher revenue growth and greater readiness to innovate.

As well as the clear business and retention benefits, a proactive approach to championing D&I can strengthen reputation and give companies a corporate edge over their peers. However, authenticity really matters; employees need to believe the business is doing the right thing for the right reasons.

After the killing of George Floyd in the US, a number of brands stepped forward with statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights groups. Some were rightly applauded for their actions, while others have been questioned about whether they are genuinely involved in the anti-racism cause, or whether they are just trying to avoid criticism and / or raise their brand profile.

Ambition with substance

I think organisations need to show there is purpose and substance behind their ambition when announcing 5-year D&I goals; something a number of big brands such as Sky, Unilever, Nike, Amazon and Google have been doing this year.

The internal challenge for each business is, firstly, to show how their D&I work aligns with their purpose and growth strategy. Then they need to provide evidence there is a real plan of action to achieve goals. People expect to see real, tangible D&I work in action.

Because, while the business and engagement benefits are clear, employees will quickly become suspicious if they get a sense their employer is embarking on a D&I box-ticking or PR exercise. 

Fortunately, there are a number of helpful resources at hand for those businesses looking for some D&I best practice guidance.

The Workplace Intelligence Report, Going Beyond the Benchmark features insight from HR and diversity leaders at organisations like M&S, Marriott International, CoOp, DHL and GM; who discuss some of the pioneering strategies they are implementing to embed D&I in their organisations.

Another useful resource is the CIPD’s Diversity & Inclusion knowledge hub which provides reports, guides, factsheets and podcasts that help employers navigate around how to successfully promote equal opportunities and manage inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

D&I at Channel 4

Before and during the pandemic, I was fortunate to work with Channel 4 on a series of employee engagement initiatives and was struck by the way the organisation embraced D&I both in its programming and content and also in the employee experience.

In an interview that featured in Harvard Business Review, Channel 4’s CEO Alex Mahon shared why D&I is so important to the continued success and strategic growth of the organisation:

“Channel 4 is unique because we have the principle of diversity written into our remit by Parliament. We don’t only pursue diversity and inclusion because of the remit, or because it’s the right thing to do, we also do it because we know it makes us a better business.

“We find — delightfully — that it brings us genuine competitive advantage: We attract and retain people of creative and commercial brilliance through our creative freedoms and audiences seek out our independent voice and noisy content.”

Channel 4 is a business that has been embracing D&I since its creation nearly 40 years ago, but we work with a number of brands who are at very different stages of that journey. Some are extremely progressive while some are just finding their feet.

The consistent advice we give them at the outset is to imbue the D&I narrative with a sense of purpose and strategic intent, then maintain a relentless consistency in giving people real examples and stories of D&I work in action.

Of course long-term goals matter, but it is just as important that people see consistent examples of how diverse talent is encouraged, enabled and empowered to contribute, innovate and make a difference.

I believe the more progressive businesses stand apart because they openly respect the unique needs, perspectives and potential of all employees. And they stand to gain by earning deeper trust and more commitment from not just their people, but other critical audiences like investors and customers as well.

Want to discuss how we can help with your internal communications & employee engagement? Get in touch or read more about our services here.

Huw Morgan
Huw Morgan

Director, Internal Communications

Huw's passion is for targeted campaigns that bring brand strategy and purpose to life from the inside out. Huw has a wealth of client-side experience leading colleague engagement for major brands, including Telefonica Digital, Virgin Media and O2.

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Huw Morgan

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