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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Diversity and Inclusion has never been so important

Attitudes to work have changed

If ever we needed a reminder about work life balance and what our work means 2020 provided plenty of time for a reappraisal.

For some of us the world appeared to stop, but for the food and ingredients industry everything seemed to run at double speed. It seems such a long time since we saw the empty shelves in our supermarkets. However, the incident of the container ship that run aground in the Suez Canal in March 2021 may well have some impact in the short term.

I think we understood the value of the people who step up to the plate every day and provide us with services we barely thought about in normal circumstances. We have truly begun to appreciate the strain and extremely tough conditions some people undertake in their place of work. This has prompted many thoughts about the nature of what we all do in our employment and if we are truly happy in our work.

What do people want from work?

Photo: Alexis Brown

In a study involving almost 400 food manufacturing employees, results revealed that 35% of workers felt they were not well represented enough in their place of work. This is concerning because we know how important work is to our mental health, our feelings of well-being, our sense of self and also ambition. I think within this reappraisal, many people have asked, what do I want from work and is my current company providing it?

Simply picking up a salary is often not enough to keep people in a job.

When professionals, especially, reach a certain level of remuneration it’s not just money that attracts them to a promotion, for example. They are looking for a challenge and other compensations other than a pay rise.

Some companies have still not truly understood what they need to provide when competing for talent.

With ESG being so important, moving forwards, then reaching out to a diverse workforce that also feels comfortable working for a company is very important. Working conditions are not just about clean air, sufficient breaks or a good office chair. Everyone should feel they belong and are listened to, alongside being supported to thrive.

Photo: Brittani Burns

Companies are under significant pressure to maintain both their standards and industry standards.

Therefore, they need the most appropriate and agile workforce who should be rewarded for keeping up to date with current knowledge. That means companies have a responsibility to ensure that diversity within a talented workforce is valued and career opportunities for advancement are. According to D&I’s new report regarding diversity and inclusion states that ‘the case for diversity and inclusion has never been clearer.’ Jon Terry, People and Organisation Consulting Partner at PwC, UK that researched the report alongside D&I said that even though margins were definitely tightening and competition was intensifying, diversity and inclusion helps to strengthen relationships with customers. It allows businesses to understand and tap into under-served markets.’

CEOs are beginning to understand that companies should offer career opportunities

They should also offer a host of benefits to retain current all-stars while also being attractive to future talent. This means that it’s important to interrogate a company’s culture and really understand how operations affect how people work and thrive. With a comprehensive examination food Industry executives and managers can identify issues that need to be resolved now.

Ensuring that employees feel included in discussion would be a very positive start for many.

This is where leadership is key to the future of diversity in the workplace. Having voices that emanate from a position of responsibility will allow changes to be made. For example, the police force experiences significant distrust from certain sectors of the population and therefore recruitment of black officers is lower than it should be. This means that the likelihood of having diversity in the upper echelons of management is still slim. They are under considerable pressure now to create a culture that will appeal to those who currently resist the police force as a career option. Photo: Everyday Basics

With the hunt for talent been quite tough right now the last thing a company needs is to be perceived as lacking a diverse workforce. Millennials are particularly vocal in their criticism of legacy working practices and beliefs.

So, what can be done to promote diversity and inclusion?

One of the most important developments is to train managers in non-discriminatory recruitment and also regarding job retention. Diverse teams are a source of innovation performance and wealth. Drawing on peoples’ unique qualities can make a massive difference to how a company operates. People can bring so many different things that it makes sense to take account of specific attributes people bring alongside their qualifications and experience in the workplace.

Companies such as Firmenich, Tate & Lyle and Ingredion have all been working very hard to highlight, develop and improve their policies around diversity and inclusion. Ingredion has joined CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion. These big players are on board and it is important for smaller organisations to also involve themselves in this profound shift of attitude and approach. At Meyrick our commitment to D&I when it comes to shortlisting for clients is part of our DNA. For example. I always ensure that 30% of shortlist is female, to enable us to do this, it does mean on occasions that we have to broaden our search criteria and be flexible in our thinking, but it pays off. One recent successful, female candidate’s response to our approach was as follows:

I must say you have been fantastically supportive through the entire recruitment process which has allowed me to make the decision to move on to be an Ops Director from my current role.”

There are many opportunities to make a difference

This includes socially integrating unemployed people to help them find access to sustainable employment. How easy is it for those with specific physical or mental needs to actively work in a company? How many women are in top management positions? How many ethnically diverse people are present on your board?

I believe it needs a bottom-up and top-down approach to reappraising how a company structure will be effective now and in the future. A company needs its workforce and the workforce needs a company that looks after them and of which they are proud to be associated with. After all, what better advocacy can there be than someone saying, ‘you should come and work at my place; it’s the best and they really look after me.’

If you are looking to make changes in your business executive as a starting point, to achieving optimal results then do sign up for my brand new ebook outlining what you can do to make a profound difference. See my email below.


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