Everybody wins when employers embrace diversity


How UK employers ensure people of all races, beliefs and sexual orientation are happy, supported and encouraged to excel in the workplace

The ethical and business cases for diversity are well-known. But genuine diversity and inclusion across British organisations still has some way to go. With the status of UK employees facing uncertainty in light of the Brexit vote, news of a code of practice setting down principles for diversity and inclusion couldn’t be more timely.

A major drive to place diversity and inclusion at the heart of every company will be launched in May in a new British Standard, which recognises people are a company’s most valuable assets and are the driving force behind innovation.

Drawn up by academics from Manchester University’s Alliance Business School, the code will help companies embed good practices – not only across their organisations, but throughout their supply chains – to customers and the communities they serve.

“Given the rise in hate crime in the UK, it’s timely to remind employers of their obligation to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their employees. And we don’t just want them to look at protected characteristics; what we want them to do is look at the whole organisation systemically and see where it is that they can intervene to make the place a good place to work,” says Wilson Wong, head of insight and futures at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Some companies already have diversity policies in place. Supermarket giant Asda, for example, has introduced a special quiet hour on Saturday mornings in one Manchester branch, turning off escalators, music and display TVs, in a bid to make shopping more amenable to customers who have autism. The chain also sponsors the Sparkle weekend in Manchester, the world’s biggest transgender festival, and Pride events across the UK – as well as running women-in-leadership and ethnicity-in-leadership programmes.

Hayley Parker, Asda’s diversity and inclusion manager, says the focus on LGBT issues has been a success: “Surveys show that 1% of colleagues self-identify as transgender, so we have set up support groups that meet four times a year. We keep our ears to the ground too, to make sure any name changes and uniform changes happen quickly.”


Tahira Widlof, 44, joined Asda 25 years ago as a part-timer during her A-levels, before joining full-time and working her way through the ranks. Today she is a general store manager in Burnley – and winner of the chairman’s award at the Asian annual Women of Achievement awards 2016. “Every step of the way I have had people who believed in me,” she says.

PepsiCo has also taken steps to increase the number of women in top jobs through its five-year programme, Strategies for Success, says Alison Atkins, HR director for the company’s UK supply chain. Women in middle management are offered personal coaching, mentoring and workshops on confidence building and networking. In 2009, there were no women in supply chain senior management at the company – now half of its manufacturing sites are led by women. The UK executive leadership team is now 50% female.

Source – Written by Linda Jackson, featured in The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/careers/2017/feb/10/everybody-wins-when-employers-embrace-diversity


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