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5 tips for creating a more diverse workforce

Di Keller is diversity and inclusion lead at Northumbria Police, Alyson Malach is director of Equality and Diversity UK and Lisa Charles-Jones is HR director at Parkdean Resorts. Partnering with the Ward Hadaway employment team, they share their insights and tips for creating a more diverse workforce and explore the business benefits it can bring.

1. Lead by example

“There needs to be a special effort to transform the everyday workplace culture around race and removing the silence and censorship around it. Primarily, organisations should ensure that their staff in leadership roles have a level of cultural awareness and have as little bias as possible,” says Alyson.

Di continues; “Organisations have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Diversity has to be addressed across all levels of the organisation but very much lead from the top. The phrase ‘deeds not words’ is very relevant. It is not about senior leaders approving a policy – they have to truly commit, with resource and expertise, to lead the strategy. Then they must act as role models, challenging their thinking and learning and growing the understanding of the key issues that are relevant in their organisation to both their employees and their customers.”

2. Find ways to make diverse voices seen and heard

Alyson says; “Organisations should make efforts to hear the voices, needs and concerns of all the staff equally on a day-to-day, routine basis. Not only just listening to black voices when it comes to black issues, but also when it comes to raising ideas and concepts that are work-related.

“All races and backgrounds should be encouraged to celebrate their differences and share their stories and cultural distinctions regularly and freely. This could be done in many forms, for example, a ‘Flag Day’ in which all staff are encouraged to share and celebrate their background and origin.”

Lisa continues; “It’s important to ‘diagnose the patient’ – if you’re not attracting a diverse group, it’s about understanding why. Could it be the advertising you’re using? The photographs on advertising? If you can find out what puts people off, then you can work out what you need to address. If you’re not getting a diverse group of applicants, you need to think about how you improve diversity at recruitment stage.”

3. Ask your workforce for feedback

Di advises; “The best people to ask and learn from are your workforce as a starting point. How valued do they feel? How included do they feel? How much can they come to work and be their true selves?

“Once you see the gaps, you can then seek the organisations that are addressing similar issues and learn from them. Some great membership organisations can support you to develop your strategic thinking around inclusion if you don’t already have the expertise – and even when you do. The diversity and inclusion space is full of people willing to support each other and share. And what we’re good at is sharing what hasn’t worked so other organisations don’t have to go through that pain.”

4. Normalise cultural differences in the workplace

Says Alyson; “Organisations should endeavour to normalise describing people by their race and using the term black, as it not a bad word to use. Businesses should also encourage staff to openly and freely acknowledge a person’s race rather than avoid it, as this removes the association that race is automatically a negative subject.”

5. Embed diversity and inclusion in your culture, not just as a tick box exercise

Di advises; “It starts with educating and getting the support of your existing workforce. There are lots of ways that you can work to bring in diversity to your environment, but if the rest of the organisation don’t understand why you’re doing it and the part they play in it, then they will feel threatened and under-valued.

“If this work isn’t undertaken with your current workforce, the diverse employees you recruit will not be accepted and feel very much that they are there to tick boxes. We have to move towards conscious inclusion which takes everyone on the journey together, otherwise, your efforts will be met with tokenism and conformity.”

Lisa continues, “We’re lucky because our CEO, Steve Richards, is passionate about diversity. We’ve got a great gender mix at senior roles (one of the best in our sector), but we are under-represented amongst the BAME community, which means that our staff teams don’t always reflect our customer base. This is something we’re giving proper thought to right now, but it’s not a quick fix – you need to make changes now to see the benefits in the future. So we’re looking at how we attract people to the industry; and then, once we’ve hired a more diverse workforce, how do we help those careers progress at the same pace as everybody else, so when we’re looking to promote from within we’ve got a big, and diverse pool.”

To find out more about diversity and inclusion training and to access a range of policies and advice on the subject, contact Roisin Patton at Ward Hadaway. or call +44 (0) 330 137 3187.

On 22nd October, Roisin was joined by Di, Lisa and Laila Iftikhar-Ali from Adecco Group to discuss “creating an inclusive workforce”. Please see below for a recording of their discussion.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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