CBI calls for renewed focus on inclusive workforces

The CBI is urging businesses to step up activities to prioritise effective leadership, engagement and more diverse workforces as economic uncertainty around Brexit deepens.

Silhouette of mixed business team overlooking London
Launching the business representative body’s new report, Time for Action: the business case for inclusive workplaces, CBI president Paul Drechsler said: “Great business is all about hiring, developing and leading great people. With UK productivity second from bottom of the G7, employee engagement is now more than ever crucial to driving productivity.”The UK currently ranks ninth out of the world’s 12 largest economies for engagement. The CBI’s report highlights a number of domestic firms that have inclusive practices at the heart of their business and established good practice, which has led to a more engaged and productive workforce.

Diversity at work

Inclusive workplaces give firms the chance to get ahead of their competitors by making better decisions, through diverse teams which draw on a wider range of ideas and experiences,” said Mr Drechsler.“An inclusive workplace isn’t about a specific group. It’s a workplace where everyone can be themselves, be treated fairly for their contribution and perform to the best of their ability.

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Skills and diversity

“Companies that place inclusion at their heart are better able to secure the skills that their competitors miss out on and better able to keep the people their competitors lose," continued Mr Drechsler, reiterating the business case for greater diversity and inclusion at work.“Inclusion isn’t a minority issue. It’s a majority issue that can benefit all people and all firms. Ultimately, every employee can benefit from more flexible working and better decision-making. This is the real business case for inclusion and making progress means asking fundamental questions about how we work.”

Recommendations for a diverse workplace

The report also makes a series of recommendations to help companies take action:
  • businesses should offer flexible working from job advert onwards where possible
  • businesses should consider using name-blind recruitment and extending competency-based assessment to challenge unconscious bias
  • managers’ performance appraisals should be weighted to include their role in developing staff as well as short-term commercial performance
  • businesses should set tailored, voluntary targets to improve diversity and hold leaders responsible for plans to achieve them.

Gender pay audits and the Hampton-Alexander review

The CBI's calls come at a time of greater focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.The Hampton-Alexander review – led by Sir Philip Hampton, chair of global pharmaceutical firm GSK, with Dame Helen Alexander, chair of global events company UBM review – is extending the scope of the Davies review, which ended last year having achieved its goal of 25 per cent female represenation on FTSE100 boards. This latest business-led taskforce is aiming for 33 per cent female representation on FTSE350 boards by 2020.From April 2017, companies employing over 250 people will also need to conduct mandatory gender pay gap audits to ascertain the mean and median gender pay gap, publishing the data from April 2018.The CBI’s study and renewed commitment to the diversity and inclusion also coincides with data showing some of the gains made by the focus of the Davies review in danger of being lost.

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