Beyond Barriers: Top DEI Challenges in 2024 and How to Solve Them

Posted in : Webinar Recordings on 21 May 2024
Legal Island
Legal Island
Issues covered: Emerging Trends; Barrier Breakdown; Actionable Solutions; Case Studies:

In this insightful free webinar, delivered by the new CEO of Included, Michelle Sequira, we’ll be examining the pressing DEI challenges of 2024 and sharing the latest advice and guidance on actionable strategies to overcome them.

"Beyond Barriers: Top DEI Challenges in 2024 and How to Solve Them," is designed for business leaders, HR professionals, and DEI advocates who are committed to creating more inclusive environments.

Michelle will be tackling these core issues :

Emerging Trends: What new DEI challenges are on the horizon as workplaces become increasingly more diverse and digital?
Barrier Breakdown: Identifying systemic barriers that persist in organisations and innovative approaches to dismantle them.
Actionable Solutions: Practical steps and best practices to enhance inclusivity and equity at every level of your organisation.
Case Studies: Insights from leading companies that have successfully navigated complex DEI challenges.




Webinar Slides are available HERESlides 21.5.24.pdf


Barry: Well, good morning to everyone. You're very welcome to this webinar entitled "Beyond Barriers: Top DEI Challenges in 2024 and How to Solve Them". My name is Barry Phillips from Legal-Island, and I'm delighted to have with us today for this webinar Michelle Sequeira. Michelle is the new CEO at Included now that Stephen has moved to chairman of the company, Stephen Frost.

Included is a global impact-led diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting firm, which is active throughout the UK, Ireland, and beyond. Michelle works with clients globally to embed DE&I into a business and employment practices. Michelle has been awarded the CIO Views Most Influential Woman in D&I for 2023, and European Diversity Awards Diversity Champion of the Year for 2022.

Michelle's presentation today will last around 30 minutes. There will be a Q&A session at the end. If you have any questions, then you may like to file those into the questions box, which should be on your screen there. I'll get to those at the end, and hopefully we can tidy up any queries or questions that you may have for Michelle.

Before passing over to Michelle, can I just say thank you to MCS for sponsoring today's webinar. And I hope you enjoy today's webinar, which is on a very important topic.

Ready to pass over to Michelle, so hopefully, Michelle, you're there. And lo and behold, Michelle's image pops up. Michelle, good morning. Lovely to see you. Hope you're well.

Michelle: Good morning.

Barry: The floor is yours. Over to you. Can't wait to hear what you've got to say.

Michelle: Thank you very much for having me. Delighted to be here. I heard that there are around 400-plus that have registered, so super excited. Wherever you are, warm            welcome. I'm hoping to cover four key areas today. The first is what are the challenges that are emerging in the workforce overall and the lens to DEI? The second, let's                    hone in on organisational challenges. I then want to move on to actions and solutions, because there's no point just talking about challenges without thinking about how                      we get past it. So I'll talk through some of the practical steps that we can be taking and, indeed, some case studies as examples along the way. Let's get straight into it.

So Barry's already kindly talked about Included. Thank you very much. A little bit about us. We were founded in 2012 as a legacy of the London Olympic and                                    Paralympic Games. Ultimately, we exist to build inclusive organisations, right? A truly meritocratic workplace and, frankly, a better world. You see here some thought leadership. We are quite well recognised as an authority in the DEI space. We've got academic credibility across Harvard, Singapore, Paris, Oxford, Cambridge, you name it. And then at the bottom there, you see our impact articles, whereby we share a little bit about the work that has been done and the impact it drives in the communities, in the workplace, etc.

You see our team on the right, and of course, you can hear a little bit more through the website QR code on the right as well.

I want to start by just talking through a maturity model. We partner with hundreds of clients across five areas that both our research and also our experience tells us we just really need to get right for inclusion to actually work and stick. And those are strategy, data, governance, leadership, and systems. Across those, then, we marry onto it a maturity model that maps four key approaches to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

So, looking at 101, this is the compliance-heavy approach to DEI. This is all about attaining the minimum, not necessarily the maximum. You're really focussed on legal requirements, and that might be the likes of gender pay reporting. That could be including gender/ethnicity quotas. So that's 101.

Moving to 2.0, this is where you're thinking about the reputational or market-leading approach, where organisations begin to take a stand in invisible ways. Sometimes that may also not necessarily align to having tangible impact.

The third one, organisations at this stage go further and work towards really embedding inclusion in leadership behaviours. Not just in the one function, which typically starts with HR, but actually across all of the organisation. For example, thinking about performance assessments, supplier selection, product design. So this is what we call Inclusion 3.0.

And then taking inclusion to the very next level calls for a complete systems change. And this is where organisations radically change the way they work, placing inclusion at the very centre of the organisation, embracing digital innovation, thinking about partnering outside their own organisation, maybe across the sector, beyond the sector within their work, to really start to solve some of the systemic challenges.

So now, before I go on to what are the challenges that organisations are starting to face, I want to start the webinar by actually getting some of your own interactions. So you will see a pop-up come up with a poll on your screen. Ultimately, I'd like to understand from you, the audience, how mature do you feel your organisation is?

  • Do you feel you are at Diversity 101, focussing on the compliance and the legislation, just getting that aspect right?
  • Do you feel you're at Diversity 2.2, which is focussing on the external, the marketing, the reputation, the brand building?
  • Are you at Inclusion 3.0, where you're starting to embed inclusion in your existing structures, or are you at Inclusion 4.0, where you're starting to change the system?

I understand we are going to see some results. Here we go. Fantastic. Thank you for sharing. Fifty-two per cent are currently at Diversity 101. Next highest is Inclusion 3.0, which 27% are starting to embed inclusion in. And the next majority is Diversity 2.0, focussing on the marketing and externals. We have 2% at the systems change Inclusion 4.0. Fantastic.

I'm super excited that you are here on your journey. It doesn't matter where you are. Even I am constantly learning in this field and constantly trying to think through, "How do we continue to challenge organisations?" So thank you for being here. Hopefully, I can share some insights to take you on to the next phase, wherever you are in your journey.

So let's talk about the top challenges then. When I was putting this slide together, I wasn't necessarily thinking about a pesto, but it ends up being slightly similar to one. So let's call it Michelle's version, if you may.

What I've seen, if I just talk through my thinking here, number one is transformation. If you look at LinkedIn, if you look at the news, organisations are constantly talking about digitalisation, AI, and how does this link to the workforce?

And many are looking at, "How do we redesign work to incorporate AI, to build in automation, and improve efficiencies?" That's got a huge link to DEI, because we have seen, very often, this impacts minority populations of the workforce.

So transformation is a big one that, as organisations, you are very likely having conversations about a need to be considering inclusively.

Sustainability, another key, may I say, buzzword right now. Organisations are looking at ESG accountability, thinking about the metrics and the reporting that they might need to be putting forward.

Let's be fair, until recently, most organisations were looking at this from the environmental side and the governance perspective, but it's super refreshing and indeed very much needed to be looking at the social aspect more. And if we get into the details of what sits in the S, a lot of it is around diversity, equity, and inclusion, to be very honest.

People. I've sort of termed this as people at the heart, because even if you think of those first two bullets, organisations are having to think really strongly but also really strategically at humans, at the workforce.

So I've just been noting down a few things. One that comes to mind is in a number of our countries, we're having to think about how we support perhaps our ageing workforce, but also ageing populations overall, depending on the countries you're in.

One of the studies, and it was by a charity, had suggested that nearly half of those that are looking to retire in the next five years say they can't afford to. So there's this additional pressure and stress for nearly half of a typical average organisation's workforce that they can't actually retire.

We need to be thinking about, firstly, how do we learn from all of the vast experience that colleagues have, but also how do we support our workforce to be able to feel like they can thrive and eventually retire when they are able to?

Alongside this is the EVP. So you might know it as the employee value proposition, the employment offering. How do we delve into the experience of our colleagues, but also how do we attract and retain that top talent that will deliver on our business strategy?

And very often, organisations have looked at this for the digitally savvy or the data experts. But frankly, it doesn't matter who the population or the cohort you're looking at. The competition is really high right now. And that, too, takes in how we look at diversity, equity, and inclusion.

And then the last couple in the people at the heart that I was considering is the focus and the increased prioritisation on benefits with aid to look at supporting our populations and our work force better. But really honing in on financial well-being, financial literacy and awareness, leave provisions, etc., and skills, ensuring that our leaders, our managers, and our people have the right capabilities and skills for the future.

 If I move on to the economics . . . See, this is why I thought, "Oh, goodness, it's turned into a pesto after all". There's so much noise out there about the need to save costs. And how do we do that? By cutting DEI roles and initiatives.

My advice to you is avoid the noise, because let's be fair, if we think about it, the return on investment is improved attraction, improved retention, high-performing teams, and you're embedding inclusion into everything that we do to get those outcomes, and I'll show you some examples of those, then it's not about cost-saving. You are improving your business outcomes by focussing on this.

And then the final one I wanted to talk about was the legal side. And there are a number of legal priorities that we need to be considering irrespective of the country that you are dialling in from.

So we've got the SRA and the FS reporting, looking at it from a sector perspective. We've got the EU directors that are honing a little bit more. If you aren't calling from Europe or the UK, you've got pay transparency and a whole other host coming out from North America. You're seeing similar transparency directives come out across the world. So there is a lot of legal push to it as well. But as I say, that is just Diversity 101, so let's also get past it.

Now, I just want to hone in on the legal side a little bit more because, very often, this is one of the first questions I get because the time is running on this, right? We've got 2025 for some of these directives to go live. So I do get a lot of questions, and I thought let's pre-empt it and give you some information right now.

So the first one I've put out here is CSRD, corporate sustainable reporting directive. The European Commission had adopted a delegated act, just to give you all of the jargon for a second, on the first set of the European Sustainability Reporting Standards, ESRS. And so this is a huge part of the CSRD.

When you go through the details of it, and I'll just summarise it in three lines, there are implications on DEI. The ones that are most relevant are around working conditions and equal treatment and opportunities for all.

The working conditions aspect has tonnes around work-life balance, health and safety, and this includes understanding or reporting on flexible working, parental leave, etc.The equal treatment and opportunities looks at pay equity. It looks at training and skill development. It's got a call-out for people with disabilities. You've got to report on your diversity stats as well, and you've got to be looking at violence and harassment.

So there is reporting along the way, and depending on the size of the business, you're looking at having to do this in just a few months.

The second is probably more well known, so I'll spend less time on this. It is the EU directive on pay and pay transparency. This is very similar to the gender pay reporting in the UK, but having increased obligations on that pay transparency aspect. So I'll move on from that because, as I said, that is more well known amongst organisations.

The other one that I wanted to touch on is the EU directive on gender balance. Now, this is around increasing the monitoring. The stats or the representation percentages that are being looked for is to have 40% among non-exec board members, or 33% among all directors of the under-representative sex, and this is by June 2026.

So for those that are thinking about, perhaps, some of the frustration around gender pay gaps in the UK not decreasing, we know that's because to change the representation takes years. So if this has to be reported by 2026, and that's literally two years and one month away from now, we've got to start looking at how we build our pipelines, how we build our culture of inclusion, the right environments for people to want to grow, stay, and thrive in our organisations.

Now, really quickly, just honing in on an organisational perspective, I wanted to use that same maturity model to just talk through the realities and the challenges that you might be facing. And we will open up in a second to hear from you just some of the challenges that you might have along the maturity model.

When it comes to compliance and legislation, frankly, often the challenge I hear is, "We lack the data. Our employees don't trust us enough to give us the data because they don't see the purpose or why we're doing this".

And then the third is often it's bitty. It's siloed work, right? So gender pay gaps without a holistic strategy to reduce that gap, for example.

Marketing and reputations, this is the next one. Thinking about how to positively externally set up with a disconnect on the internal reality. So, for example, sometimes I've heard the frustration around having a pride march, which is fantastic, but also then maybe not having policies in place that take into account a variety of different family settings.

Often, here, there's a need for authenticity to think through or even disclose, "Where might we need to do more?" Accountability amongst leadership or revisiting the systems.

In 3.0, the embedding of inclusion, here I hear a lot of challenge around linking DEI to that external impact. So there's a real need to have real-time datasets or visibility around the progress to date. There's a real need to link that to KPIs to truly embed inclusion in products and services and businesses.

And then in the systems front, changing the system. Embedding inclusion in the overall organisational strategy can be a challenge, right? So here, we're thinking about, "How do we utilise organisations across our sectors to learn from, to develop, and collaborate instead of compete?" Things like that to help around some of the challenges of truly embedding and making change across the system and systemic changes.

I am going to share with you some examples shortly across this and also those five pillars I mentioned. But for now, let's hear from you. So I think Barry is going to come on in a second. The key question I'd like you to be sharing is what DE&I challenges are you facing? So, Barry, over to you.

Barry: Thank you very much, Michelle. So for this active poll situation, what we'd like to do is just for you to open up your facility and just to share with us what DEI challenges are you currently facing.

We've got a few in already, and there's one in which says, "Shifting the anti-woke narrative and the importance of DEI leaders to work harder than ever. Good news is that many employer sectors are doing so. They have great plans for next year. Is that your experience with clients?"

"The best organisations are ignoring the noise and doubling down". So that's a really interesting point. Another that is quite frequent as well is just the issue of leading on DE&I when there is this kind of backlash. And certainly, there have been a few announcements from big organisations that they're rolling back the DEI activities, possibly even letting relevant practitioners go.

So maybe those two questions, first of all, Michelle?

Michelle:  Absolutely. So I'm really pleased that you've highlighted those. To the first one on moving away from or avoiding the noise, frankly, about everything being woke, just yesterday I had a frank conversation with an organisation in the health sector who was talking exactly about this. And the conclusion that we made, and even the conclusion I see across most of the work that we are doing, is to avoid the noise and really hone in on the data. So in the health sector, you would have seen the article in "The Guardian" last week around mortality rates for black women during childbirth is five times higher than that of white women. If you focus on key stats like that and think about reshaping our processes and practices and really honing into, "Why are there differences in that?" rather than, "It's a woke conversation", it takes away the noise. You really start to make a difference and focus on real change.

And that's just one example based on the recent research. But for you, in your organisations, I would genuinely suggest that you look at, "What is your data telling you about?" Frankly, nobody can argue about hard facts, can they? If they can see a stark difference in the way that we have performance outcomes, or the ratings we give our colleagues, or the promotions that are being seen, things like that, hard data as well would really shine a light and take away some of this noise into the realities and aspects that need to be changed.

And the same goes for . . . Sorry, I'm on a rant here, Barry. You might be regretting that you've asked me these questions. The same goes for inclusion. We can statistically tell you where an organisation has aspects that help and hinder inclusion. Inclusion isn't fluffy. It can be quantified. And if you look at the data there, you can really start to make real change.

 I think that's the same response to this aspect of getting rid of DE&I initiatives. Forget about the DEI initiatives. Think about the narrative around, "What is the return on impact?" So think about the outcomes we want to achieve. We want to ensure that all our colleagues can thrive.

Whatever it is, I'm just giving you examples here. We want to ensure that we reduce our attrition rates because they skyrocketed in this hugely versatile fluid talent market where we might be losing talent to our competitors. We want to be revisiting our value proposition. All of these can have DEI embedded in it, and all of a sudden, you're starting to make that impact. So I think maybe just change the narrative, but still have the actions underpinning all of it. Hopefully, that helps. Thank you for sharing some of your challenges. Barry, carry on.

Barry: Thank you, Michelle. Just before I hand you back, Michelle, to finish off the presentation, I'd just like to take a moment to share with everybody news about our next certificate course, which is coming up in September on Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace. It's an eight-week course, which is certified by the CPD.

This course came fresh out of the locks from last year and has received rave reviews from those attending it, scoring an average satisfaction rating of 4.9 out of 5. It is, of course, delivered by the practitioners at Included. The course is designed for DEI practitioners and those in HR who want a formal DEI qualification, as well as to gain an understanding of how to do really meaningful inclusion and equality work in an organisation. It is a unique course, combining in-depth examination of DEI initiatives with a component covering legal issues relating to equality matters delivered by a leading employment and equality lawyer. She shares top tips on how to be proactive to minimise the likelihood of workplace harassment issues and other discriminatory behaviour arising in the workplace. Places are limited on this course. A few have already been taken. So if you are interested, we suggest that you act today. And there's an early bird rate, which closes soon. So to secure a place, go to our website at or, or you can use the QR codes that you see there, which will take you to more information.

So that's about the certificate course, which we're really excited about. Back over to you, Michelle.

Michelle: Thank you. So we've spent a lot of time talking about the challenges that you might be facing. Let's talk about some of the actions. So what you see on the next slide are those five pillars that I had talked about at the very start. And these are sort of five lenses that are both mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, frankly. In our most impactful organisations, we see an element of all five, right?

So let me just talk you through it, and then I'll give you examples against each of them. Strategy is really putting DEI at the heart and centre of the goals of the organisation. It's not just having a DEI strategy on the side. It's thoroughly embedding it into the business strategy, into the people strategy. Data is calculating, projecting diversity, looking at and diagnosing inclusion, building dashboards, thinking about indices. What gets measured actually gets done. So start measuring, people. If you're not already doing it, start measuring.

Governance is creating the right frameworks, the accountabilities that are really needed to deliver on DEI. And leadership is how we change leadership behaviours little and often, whether that be through coaching, through workshops, through different forms of learning outside or in podcasts, whatever it might be. We've spent a number of years learning certain behaviours, and it will take us a long time to unlearn those and rebuild new pathways. Systems is deconstructing and rebuilding both internal and outward-facing systems that really start to support and perpetuate inclusion.

Let me talk you through each of those with an example just to bring it to life.

What you see here is Wellcome, and they are headquartered in London. They are one of the world's largest by way of nongovernmental funders of medical research, and they're only second to the Gates Foundation. They've got around 800 people. And in recent years, Wellcome had started the journey of embedding inclusion into research and into their research culture, both internally and externally. And ultimately, this started to reduce . . . or the aim was to reduce inequalities in treatments and improve global health outcomes in the longer term.

As I was saying, we need to consider both the internal and external parts as the strategy. Externally, Wellcome's COVID-19 response was to apply an international inclusive and culture-led approach to tackling the pandemic as well as a technical one.

And this reflected some significant development in the handling of epidemics, demonstrating really that inclusive thinking is central to how it worked.

And then internally, they used inclusion metrics to track what they were doing across Wellcome. So they've placed it really high on the agenda of all of their boards. They actively encourage performance reviews and look at and test DEI across that. And so we started to see the impact of that by looking holistically at inclusion both internally and externally.

Onto the next one, this is an example of deploying inclusion data to really start to create opportunities for black and minority ethnic talent at the Bank of England.

So the Bank of England is the UK's Central Bank. It dates all the way back to 1694. And frankly, with its mission to maintain monetary and financial stability for UK citizens, let's be fair, it is an institution where risk mitigation is critical to outcomes. So what they started to look at is diversity amongst leadership teams when included correctly. We all know it's been shown in the research that that's a highly effective way of tackling gaps, of managing risk, of improving performance. What they started to do is measure inclusion as a critical step of uncovering where might there be issues within the bank. It allowed them to really amplify the voices of those that hadn't been heard previously or their experiences were not necessarily recognised as trends. They were one-off risks and anecdotes.

By really starting to quantifiably measure inclusion, they were able to look at the bank's quantitative language. We've got to relate to where an organisation is, and with a bank, let's speak to the quantitative aspect and start to develop programmes to target specific human issues.

So in particular, for this one, we deployed a sponsorship to increase progression of employees from marginalised groups. The impact? The DEI work that was undertaken a few years ago has genuinely had a measurable impact on the ethnic minority employees at the bank in terms of both their representation but also inclusion, contributing, frankly, to a more inclusive organisation.

Let's move on to the example on governance. So AstraZeneca wanted to improve their psychological safety in teams throughout the businesses. Why? Frankly, they wanted to rebuild their science pipeline in order to grow the company and really start to think about the future of medicine and how we could bring it to patients. And they realised that to focus on science expertise and innovation, they really would need to see diversity of thought and create environments where people felt like they could challenge the norm and the status quo without any repercussions. So this really started to underpin the way that they looked at growth.

So AZ started to undertake inclusive leadership programmes, but also, they established a global I&D council, including AstraZeneca's CEO as a member. This is why I've placed it as a governance example, but out of creating this council came long-term ambitions, resulting in a strategy that set the DEI tone from the very top, shared best practice, and really started to make a genuine difference in the organisation.

The impact, there's actually a really detailed case study in the latest book, but in summary, AstraZeneca grew enormously as a result of their focus on DEI and really embedding it into their thinking of how they operate and into their growth strategy.

The size, the scale, the reach of patients all grew as a result. And they also explicitly linked inclusion to business success, including their COVID-19 vaccination deployment. So when we do governance right, the impact is profound.

Moving on to leadership, what I share here is an example of a private equity organisation where they realised they had little data when it came to diversity, no data when it came to inclusion. And the leaders were aware that they really started to understand, "What are the root causes before we before we act?" So they knew the business case, but they just really wanted to make evidence-based decisions.

So what they started with was a companywide keynote and workshop series to get awareness. Whilst leaders might not have needed a business case, they wanted to ensure everyone was on the same page as to why they were focussing on inclusion. They looked at a DEI toolkit and workshops and all of this good stuff. But the reason I've put this in is it's a good mix between the leadership work and also the diagnostics, because off the back of really upskilling leadership with allyships, psychological safety, and a number of inclusive leadership programmes, they were able to start to look at, "How do we use our data to make next steps?"

So they looked at psychological safety, transparency in people decisions. They started looking at microaggressions, starting to put in place interventions across the organisation off the back of that work. And then systems. So what you see here is Cloudflare, and ultimately, they wanted to look at overcoming gaps within the tech industry by building inclusive innovation into the fabric of what they do. So they wanted to look at how to use diversity and inclusion to ensure that their product design was innovative, but more importantly, was inclusive.

So the work done here was to help the EMEA . . .Well, it started with the EMEA team to help understand I&D and embed it into the work of the leadership populations. But the reason I put it in here is because we worked on embedding inclusion into their product design.

So the impact was to reform their coding language, to rephrase terminologies, to remove racial and offensive wording. So they went in a systematic approach to the underlying coding and processes and systems to really make an impact for the business overall.

So those are examples of each of those in pieces. But as you saw, whether that be the private equity organisation or AstraZeneca, there are actions and initiatives and activities across all of those five. So I will show you examples across that maturity model in a second.

But before that, you've heard me talk for a long time, so let's run a poll. Let's get some interaction. So you'll see the poll pop up. What has your organisation been prioritising? Have you been looking at revisiting your strategy or creating one? Have you been honing in on the data that you have or that you might need and want? Have you been revisiting governance, accountabilities, structures that you have in place, the leadership capabilities, or indeed revisiting and redesigning systems, whether that be performance management or talent management through to product design, etc.?

I'll give you a second whilst I have some water, and I'd love to see your results

Fantastic. Thank you, everyone, for your results. So most organisations are prioritising the strategy. Fantastic. Next highest is governance. You're looking at what processes, accountabilities, structures you might have in place. Number three in equal proportions is data and leadership, and then the final one is systems.

And frankly, that makes sense. Thank you for sharing. I often challenge my clients that if you are on strategy, I really hope that means you've already looked at your data to start prioritising, "What's really going to make a difference? Where are my evidence-based solutions that I need to then input into my strategy/"

Super excited. Thank you for sharing that. And I'm sure we can share these results with you so you can see everyone's responses too.

 I promised to show you the maturity model. So, essentially, this is everything I've talked you through over the last half an hour or so. You see those five pillars at the bottom, and then the maturity on the top. This gives you some examples of what you could or should, or maybe have already done across each of those to take you to the next level.

Rather than go through this in detail, I thought I'd give you a couple of additional client examples just to talk you through what this means in practice.

So what you see on the next slide is a luxury fashion brand that we worked with. And this is just to give you . . . Sorry, it's the first one, please. As it moves, I'll just keep talking. This is just to give you an example. It doesn't matter where you start. You can move around and focus based on what your organisation needs. You know your firm best, right?

So the luxury fashion brand came to us back in 2019 for UK-wide DEI training focussed on legal and compliance, so really honing in on that Diversity 101. But then over the next two years, that grew and evolved to really focus on leadership training. So you can see those number twos. All of a sudden, we've looked at Inclusion 3.0. What does a programme look like for those UK directors? What does inclusive leadership labs look like for people managers?

And then following from that came the data site. So you see number three there, where we introduced inclusion diagnostics to enable the client to start to make better evidence-based decisions.

So that's just one example to show you it could start wherever, really, but as long as you start to move the dial across all of these, you start to see more impact as well.

The second example, again, just to show you how things move around, is another global pharmaceutical organisation in 2020. So this started with that strategy side. So looking at the vision, looking at what global DEI leads do to support them ahead of delivery against the strategy.

And then following that, we looked at, "Well, what does the DEI journey look like with a data programme to both collect and understand diversity data?" So you'll see a lot of activity across that data pillar moving to build out DEI dashboards and start to embed DEI across the organisation.

 And then following that for this organisation, we looked at inclusive language, communications programme, devising the systems and processes based on insights from the dashboard, based on insights from that data.

 Hopefully, this gives you an idea that it does . . . I know a majority of you are on that strategy, which is fantastic. For those that are on different aspects, just think through, "How can we get to that next step? How can we embed inclusion into all of our functional strategies?" Think through nudges for our leaders, for our people, etc. So how do we just keep getting to the next step if we aren't there already?

So with that in mind, hopefully, I've given you some food for thought. I really wanted to talk about client examples. It's not just us in a room coming up with this. These are real-life examples of what has worked. Hopefully, it's food for thought.

Thank you, and I'll turn to Barry to open up for questions. Thank you very much.

Barry:  Thank you very much, Michelle, for sharing with us some really fascinating insights there.

We've got a few questions in. If anybody would like to submit some more, now is the time to do it very quickly. We've got about 5 or 10 minutes left. And so if you just like to use the question box to do that, then I might pass them on to Michelle. The first question in, Michelle, is as follows, "Being in HR in the construction industry, what is the best way to begin to embed the DE&I into a company, an industry that is male-dominated?"

Michelle: Yeah, really good question. I think if I just take a step back, I've actually worked with a number of organisations in construction and in energy. And the reason I'm broadening it is because I've seen similar work workforces. I think we've got to hone into what's happening in the organisation and the business case for change.

We all will have read the academic papers, the business papers on the return on investment. But nobody cares unless it's your own data and it's your own investment implications. So what I would recommend is understanding where you currently sit. What are the key drivers?

So, for example, in your business strategy, to meet whatever your growth targets are, can you be doing that with the current workforce and the current operations that you have? Or do we, from a business perspective, need to diversify? Very often, when I've had a construction-related clients, that's been the key driver. Actually, we've got an ageing workforce. We are struggling to attract people. So all of a sudden, that's a business need, and we can solve that by looking at different talent pools. So we don't need to brand it as a DEI issue. It's a talent and business need.

And then start to look at, "Well, if that's the ambition for the business, what do I need to do?" So having a look at the employee experience, having a look at, "How do we position ourselves in the market?"

 For example, on our website . . . and this is just the external. We need to marry it with the internal. What is the wording and the imagery that's used? What are the case studies of employee experiences that we are showcasing? That will help with attraction.

 But then from an internal perspective, what are the lived experiences that we need to change such that everyone can thrive? At one of the organisations I worked with in the construction sector, and I'm talking about maybe four years ago, in 2020, still didn't have ladies' toilets. And that's a very basic example, but just thinking through, "What are the experiences that we need to change?"

When we spend all that time attracting in people to help our business strategy, we want to ensure that there are no unintended consequences or easy things that might . . . I say easy. It's smaller things that we can change to really make a difference for our people.

So that's just some aspects. I would also encourage you to think through, "How do we really look at our leadership as allies, and how do we really start to embed and change our leadership behaviour?"

So it's the tone from the top that, "We need to be doing this". It's not DEI as a nice-to-have. It's a business imperative, and it comes out far more credibly if our CEO and our executives are talking about it.

So hopefully, that gives you a number of things. I'd be very happy to talk you through some case studies or examples to help you through as well.

Barry:  Thank you, Michelle. We've got two more questions very quickly. Two minutes each, if I may restrict you to that. First is, "Are you seeing many employers making a link between SDGs and DEI activity? It doesn't really appear to be happening here in Northern Ireland". That's from Conor Curran, who's head of DEI at Queen's University.

Michelle: And I'm really sorry, Barry. It broke off a little bit. Are we seeing a link between what and DEI?

Barry: "Are you seeing any employers making the link between SDGs and DEI activity? It doesn't really appear to be happening here in Northern Ireland", from Conor Curran at Queen's University.

Michelle:  Now, Conor, I'm really sorry. I'm not actually sure what SDG stands for. Are you talking about sustainability?

Barry:  Yes. Sorry. I should have said sustainable development goals.

Michelle: Ah, yes. Okay. So if it's not happening across Ireland and Northern Ireland, I've definitely seen a lot more conversations, especially in the last year or year and a half in the UK, specifically with sustainability linked to people goals. So I have had organisations talk about people sustainability and want to report in their annual reports.

You know those DEI and inclusion metrics that I had mentioned at the start when talking about the ESRS? I've also seen organisations that have European headquarters start to ask us, "Well, this is happening in my organisation in Finland and in Netherlands. How do we start to have a holistic conversation about it and report out a little bit more?"So I am starting to see more of that. And I think for those organisations that are based in Europe, you will, especially in the next few months, probably start to see, "You're going to have to report out depending on the size of the organisation. So you need to start to make a difference now ahead of reporting and disclosures".

Barry: Thank you, Michelle. And very quickly, right at the end, "Just wondering about data relating to disabled employees working at different levels, including somebody in management. Are organisations currently measuring this? Is there a risk that this stable of employees may remain at entry level?"

Michelle: Yeah, a really good question. There are organisations that are doing so. Some of the bigger consulting firms have even got disability pay gaps. I think it goes to two things. First is the level of employee trust, right?

We often question when we do see disability representation percentages, "How many employees have genuinely and truly shared that they have a disability?" When we then run either anonymous surveys or anonymous digital focus groups, that percentage increases significantly. So there's an aspect of, "Within our organisations, have we built the trust such that people feel like they can share their disability and their type?"

And on the second hand, if we are able to get that data and ensure that it is in a safe space governed really well, the impact that that could have to be able to test and redesign systems to ensure that the experience is equitable for everybody, that side is phenomenal.

So I can see the start to it. I do think there's a need to improve that trust level to increase disclosures, and there's definitely a need to be thinking about the impact and what we do off the back of it to really make a difference for our colleagues.

Barry: Thank you, Michelle.

Michelle: I think, Barry, I stuck to my two minutes there.

Barry: All right. Michelle, very finally, can I just ask you were you surprised by the results to Poll 1 and so many organisations still being at Level 101? Was that a surprise to you?

Michelle: Really. I've been doing DEI for a number of years now. When I first started, it was a nice-to-have. But when the gender pay legislation came out, finally organisations thought, "Oh, goodness. I need to do something because my board needs to see the figures, and it needs to go on my website", etc. So all of a sudden, they were prioritising it. But very often, not many organisations then look at, "Well, what do we need to do to systemically make a difference and make a change?" So it's remained at the, "I do my gender pay gaps. I look at my representation", which is that 101. But to reduce those gaps, to be looking at increased representation, we need to be looking at a more strategic approach to DEI and embedding it into everything. So it's not necessarily a surprise, but it's an opportunity for us to be growing and thinking about that next step on our journey.

Barry: Sure. Michelle, thank you very much for today's presentation.

Michelle: Thank you.

Barry: Before we all go, can I just finish in terms of why I think this webinar and also DEI work is so important today particularly, and still? I know we've been working on DE&I initiatives for a good while. But this morning, there was a poster that came up on a lamppost that is not even a mile from our offices, our HQ here in Northern Ireland, and it reads as follows. It says, "We have had enough of undesirables and migrants being placed in our community. The time has come for locals only. No multiculturalism", which is misspelt, "and no sex offenders". And it finishes in red, "Action will be taken". I think it's events like this that just remind us all of how important DEI initiatives are. There's still so much work to be done clearly, but we have made so much progress. And a lot of that has been, I think, because of the work that's been done in workplaces over the last few decades. And it's such an important place to be doing this DE&I work because, of course, it changes views and behaviour not only in the workplace, but outside of the workplace as well.So just to wrap up there, thank you again, Michelle. You have details of our certificate on Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace. We are having quite a few people inquire about that already. So if you would like more information on that, then please go to our website.

Michelle, thank you, and thank you to everybody who has attended. Thank you for your questions, and I look forward to welcoming you to another Legal-Island webinar sometime very soon. Thank you, and goodbye.

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This article is correct at 21/05/2024

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

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