Inclusive workplaces key to improving UK productivity, say CBI

If you focus on inclusive workplaces you will engage more with employees and increase productivity, a new report urges UK’s industry leaders.

Of the world’s 12 largest economies, the UK ranks ninth on employee engagement, say the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Leaders must focus on making workplaces more inclusive by adopting good practices such as offering flexible working from job advert stage onwards and “blinding” names on job applications to remove recruitment bias.

inclusive workplacesIncreasing female employment and productivity to the level of men could raise UK’s GDP by around 35 percent, says CBI report. Image: pixabay

The CBI’s new report highlights a number of firms in the UK whose workforces are more engaged and productive as a result of such practices.

In a keynote speech to business and HR leaders in London on Monday, CBI President Paul Drechsler made the business case for inclusive workplaces. He told the conference:

“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.”

Drechsler says employee engagement is a complex project that takes time and hard work. By creating diverse teams that draw on a wider range of experiences, companies secure skills that help them get ahead of their competitors.

‘Name-blind applications’

Inclusive recruitment “needs to run through every part of a business from board level to entry level,” in order for companies to acquire the skills they need, says Drechsler.

Employers must start doing this right from the start of an employee’s first encounter with the firm – with the job application, he urges.

To reduce the risk of unconscious bias, companies should “name-blind applications” and “remove criteria that could unintentionally bias managers and give under-represented groups confidence that their application will be fairly considered.”

Increasing female employment and productivity adds 35 percent to GDP

In making the case for inclusive workplaces, the report gives the example of increasing female employment and productivity to the level of men. Research shows the impact in the UK of doing this is worth around 35 percent of GDP.

Such an achievement would also improve business performance. Firms that boast the greatest ethnic and gender diversity are more likely to outperform their competitors by 35 percent and 15 percent respectively.

Teams and individuals in workplaces that are inclusive and diverse perform better because individuals are better able to innovate and engage, notes the report.

Diversity of thought and experience produces higher collective performance and better decision-making, as information is processed more carefully than it is in groups low in diversity.

Balance work with family, wellbeing, and outside interests

Another important enabler is flexible working. Drechsler says it is time to stop seeing flexible working as a staff bonus and treat it as a clear benefit for both employers and employees. He adds:

“It helps everyone balance their working lives not just with their responsibilities as parents or carers but also with their wellbeing and interests outside of work.”

The report also recommends that firms give weight to the role that managers must play in staff development and not focus exclusively on reaching short-term commercial targets. This should be reflected in their performance appraisals.

Also, businesses should set tailored, voluntary targets for improving workforce diversity and make leaders responsible for achieving them.

Drechsler concludes:

“As more firms sign up to the business case, the way they view inclusion is changing, from a box to tick to a competitive edge. From something companies know they should do to something they want to do, not only because it’s right, but because of the business benefits.”