Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce in the future of work

August 29, 2019

The benefits of having a workforce that accurately reflects the rich breadth and depth of our society have always been clear. Quite apart from customers interacting with people who look and sound like them when they deal with your organisation and enabling organisations to better gain the resources they need to succeed - diversity and inclusion bring a myriad of benefits to the bottom line.

McKinsey’s recent research on diversity found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. While McKinsey admits that correlation doesn’t equal causation, it does indicate that companies are more successful when they have diverse leaders. This is because they can win top talent and improve their customer service, employee satisfaction and decision making as a result.

Of course, there’s more to diversity than gender and ethnicity. Age, sexual orientation, disability, experience and thinking styles, can also make organisations that attract and retain such talent more competitive. 

Diversity and inclusion will be an even bigger enabler of value in a future workplace where humans and Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotic Process Automation work hand-in-hand. To be successful in this hybrid environment, organisations will need to find the necessary skills and abilities in all sections of society. They’ll no longer have the luxury of excluding certain groups of people simply because they’ve always done so – it just won’t be sustainable.

Our Human to Hybrid research revealed almost a quarter (22%) of the 2,000 employees we spoke to are worried that the transition to a hybrid workforce will mean less diversity and inclusion while – in contrast – more than a quarter (28%) of the 500 business leaders who took part think it will actually mean a more diverse and inclusive workforce, with a third (33%) thinking it will lead to fresh insights and more innovation - two of diversity and inclusion’s biggest benefits.

83% of business leaders recognise the need to ensure their organisations are diverse and inclusive if they’re to be successful in the hybrid world of work. 

Work environments that are perceived as gender-specific probably have the furthest to go to become more diverse and inclusive. The transport sector is one such environment; working on the railways, for example, has traditionally been seen as a man’s job but, now that technology is playing a bigger role and the industry is looking for different skills, changing that perception and attracting a more diverse workforce is critical.

In fact, in our Human to Hybrid research, HR and recruitment leaders in transport face a much bigger challenge around concerns about bias / lack of candidate diversity than recruitment leaders generally – 36% compared to 26%. The only sector for which it’s a bigger challenge is energy and utilities (38%), which is also traditionally male-dominated.

HR and recruitment leaders in transport are the keenest to use technology to help their organisations achieve a more diverse workforce – half (49%) wanted to ensure more diversity and equal opportunities by removing bias with digitised recruitment processes, compared to 37% of HR and recruitment leaders generally – and they were also very keen to reach more candidates (53% compared to 45% generally). And they’re very optimistic about the opportunities that data and insight offer for increasing diversity: 32% believe that data-driven recruitment can deliver better business outcomes by ensuring a diverse workforce, compared to 29% of HR and recruitment leaders across the board.  

But they are the most concerned about algorithmic bias – 42% see it as a barrier to digitising their recruitment processes, compared to just 30% of HR and recruitment leaders across the board.

Network Rail have revealed that the number of people travelling by train is set to double over the next 25 years. As a result, the need for more resource and skills are only going to increase more rapidly to ensure they can improve their service and ensure our railways are equipped to cope with this demand.  Having a diverse workforce that is innovative and creative, and having a culture that encourages everyone to do their best work will help it to meet the challenge.

We are already supporting Network Rail in its aim to achieve greater gender diversity, close their gender pay gap (11.2% in 2018 – almost 7% lower than the UK average) and bust the myth that engineering is ‘just for boys’ along the way. 

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