The thinking that takes us down the wrong diversity path…
In business it is something of a truism that the first step to solving a problem is to frame it, give it a form and substance so that you can better understand the scale of it and what resources you need to deploy to solve it. You can also then measure results and (hopefully) drive progress.
In DE&I we have seen many examples of this: the 30% Club or 10,000 Black Interns, focusing on more women on boards and bringing young, black people into roles they may not have previously thought were available to them, being just a few examples.
All very commendable and worthwhile. But here’s a comment that came at me at our Talent Intelligence Workshop last week: “DE&I spend can potentially get diverted to what’s easy to measure, not where it’s most needed”. It particularly hit home as earlier on our workshop Tony Wilson, Director at the Institute of Employment Studies, had highlighted the most pressing issue facing the UK labour market right now: The rise in the number of people with work-limiting conditions.
As with all complex problems, there are no simple answers but perhaps the first is to recognise the issue
Given that the UK is the only major economy with employment still below pre-pandemic levels this is an urgent and important issue and, whilst the government has a key role to play, it will not be able to solve this problem without help from employers.
Further, there are real challenges in identifying people within this group: They may not be people with registered disabilities, they are likely to have been out of employment for some time and also, this phenomenon is recent, so we still haven’t figured out how best to respond to help these people back into the labour force. Consequently, for now, they are a very hard group to measure, so ‘they’re not getting done’. As with all complex problems, there are no simple answers but perhaps the first is to recognise the issue, and to realise that whilst no one can fix it on their own, everyone involved in helping employers find and keep the people they need has a part to play.
So, should the focus on current DE&I initiatives be dialled back or re-focused on different groups? Perhaps. It seems a reasonable assumption that the majority of people in the cohort of having ‘work limiting conditions’ will also be on the wrong side of the poverty line, so it also seems a reasonable assumption that a lot of current DE&I efforts are targeted at many of these people already. However, it does seem to suggest some caution in always focusing on what can be most easily measured.
The IES presentation can be found here.