Employer Branding

What Mistakes Do Companies Make with Diversity and Inclusion?

Having a robust diversity and inclusion policy in place might seem like the obvious way to go in order to ensure you have a diverse workplace. But believe it or not there are right ways of doing it as well as lots of wrong ways.

We’ve sought advice from our panel of diversity and inclusion experts who share their thoughts on the do’s and dont’s of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Natasha Broomfield-Reid

Two of the biggest mistakes that organisations make are:

Being afraid to take action for fear of getting it wrong – It’s surprising how many organisations don’t address D&I in case they get something wrong which results in a bad PR or a discrimination claim. The irony is that this makes these scenarios more likely.

Not recognising the issue or need to address diversity and inclusion – Organisations can be reluctant to admit that there is an issue and will often quote phrases like “We hire the best person for the job, end of” without seeing the bigger picture or recognising the value that a diverse team brings.

Natasha Broomfield-Reid, Head of Development at Equal Approach.

Caroline Stokes

For large legacy companies, diversity and inclusion needs to be formalized as the culture needs to adapt. The mistakes I’ve seen is that often external partner companies aren’t informed of this, which has created some employer brand PR catastrophes.


Caroline Stokes, Executive Headhunter & Coach. Founder of FORWARD.

Nicola Crawford

One size fits all group diversity training with participants with various degrees of cultural sensitivity may be counterproductive and may aggravate people and situations in the workplace – the purpose is to bring people together not divide them further.

A mixture of team building and training can foster better working relationships and an understanding of the subject.

Nicola Crawford, CFIRM, Chair of the Institute of Risk Management.

Joanna Abeyie

This is a difficult question to answer because it always depends on what the business and industry you’re referring to.

Making it a bigger deal than it is? I’m so often asked ‘where is all the diverse talent?’ or ‘we still want the best talent’ as if diversifying your talent pool would compromise that. Starting from that position of thought is detrimental to your hiring practices. Stop making it harder than it needs to be. Individuals from all walks of life are under your nose, you just have to be open to meeting them and seeing their talent, irrespective of whether they look like or sound like you.

Joanna Abeyie, Managing Director, Hyden, SThree.

 Suki Sandhu

Many businesses believe by introducing a diversity and inclusion policy all of their diversity issues will disappear. This isn’t the case. Putting a policy in place is a fantastic first step, but you can’t just talk the talk; you have to walk the walk too. It shouldn’t just be an HR initiative, it needs to be a company-wide focus. Focusing on diversity in isolation will not work. Why spend thousands hiring diverse talent if they don’t feel like they belong once they arrive? Diversity is not mutually exclusive from inclusion. The two must be carried out at the same time.

People often say they can’t find diverse talent, but continue to recruit from the same places. As Einstein famously said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Changing where you recruit from or look for talent is vital. It’s also important to identify the groups or communities that you’re not attracting and the reasons you’re not attracting them so you can address barriers head on.

Suki Sandhu, CEO and founder of Audeliss.

Charlotte Sweeney

There are two big mistakes that many companies make which have a significant impact on the direction of their diversity and inclusion work. The first is that they think that ‘diversity and inclusion’ is one or the same thing. In fact they are not, they are both very different and both critical. Diversity is about the difference that people bring and inclusion is about making sure a culture is created that harnesses that difference and brings the best out of each and every individual.

The second mistake is that companies assume that D&I is a process, a tick box exercise, and an end in itself. It isn’t, diversity and inclusion are enablers to deliver the business strategy and objectives.

Charlotte Sweeney, Managing Director of Charlotte Sweeney Associates Ltd.

Sarah Nahm

Focusing on diversity before inclusion. If underrepresented minorities, women, and others of diverse backgrounds and experiences aren’t successful within your company, it’s futile to keep addressing the pipeline. No matter how much you focus on recruitment, the candidates you hire probably won’t stay for long. Instead, consider the root causes. Why is this happening and how can you address it within your culture to retain and develop your talent? Once inclusive foundations are in place, then you’re ready to focus on the pipeline.

Sarah Nahm, CEO, Lever.

By Ushma Mistry

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