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Diversity and Inclusion 2020

How 2020 changed the focus of diversity and inclusion


Matthew Percival

Director of People & Skills, CBI

The events of this year have made businesses more determined than ever to improve mental health support and ethnic diversity.

The pandemic has not set back work on business diversity and inclusion. Matthew Percival, Director of People and Skills at CBI, says: “No – but it changed the priorities.”

Impacting our mental health

Furlough, working from home and changed working practices have led to greater levels of stress, anxiety and isolation – and employers have recognised this.

“The recent virtual CBI diversity and inclusion conference1 attracted 1,300 people – an attendance second only to our annual conference,” Percival says. “There was huge appetite for talking about how to support staff mental health, for sharing ways to accelerate the adoption of new practices, and training line managers to support staff working remotely.”

Improving ethnic diversity

Outrage at the death of George Floyd has meant that many organisations have looked again at racial diversity. The CBI launched its Change the Race Ratio campaign in October, to increase participation of racial and ethnic minorities – something that CBI President Lord Karan Bilimoria is passionate about.

Dropping the expectation, unspoken or explicit, that our lives have no impact on our work fosters a more inclusive workplace.

Employers are rushing to sign up and so far 55 companies have committed to:

  • Increase representation at board level of racial and ethnic minorities.
  • Set targets for racial and ethnic diversity in senior leadership teams.
  • Disclose their ethnicity pay gap and publish a clear action plan to address it.
  • Create a culture where everyone can thrive.

“We have published a guide to ethnicity pay gap reporting and transparency is essential. Publishing the figures builds confidence in the employer’s commitment to this,” Percival says.

Looking to the future

Some of the changes in working practices this year will be permanent, predicts Percival, including rethinking the office.

CBI research shows that pre-lockdown, four fifths of employees worked from a specified workplace almost all of the time. After the first lockdown employers said that they only expected a quarter of employees to do so.

“Employers expect half their staff to work a hybrid system, with offices used mainly for aspects of work such as learning and development, collaboration and innovation,” he says.

Work has been humanised. Remember a child interrupting her dad’s video call making national news? It’s now widely accepted. “Dropping the expectation, unspoken or explicit, that our lives have no impact on our work fosters a more inclusive workplace.”

Meanwhile progress on other issues such as gender diversity has not stopped. “I am optimistic about the progress of diversity and inclusion,” says Percival. “This year has seen many learnings that will help us to build back better.”

1 https://www.cbi.org.uk/events/conference-series-diversity-inclusion-2020/

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