Written by Emily Gent | 10th June 2024

Given the uniqueness of each individual and our diverse backgrounds, everyone has the potential to make valuable contributions to organisational success and be recognised for their efforts.

Diversity, and the diversity of thought, of experience, and of perspectives that a truly diverse group brings, has rightly become recognised as something that adds valuable business benefits, but it doesn’t happen by chance.

There can be many barriers to certain groups or individuals entering and succeeding in the workplace, so employers need to proactively plan how to attract and retain a diverse workforce and ensure equality of opportunity to all. Here are some examples of ways you can do this:

Embrace neurodiversity

30-40% of the population are neurodivergent according to ADHD Aware, meaning many of your current employees and colleagues will have a range of neurodivergent conditions.

In the past, a lack of understanding has created a stigma around conditions such as Autism, Dyslexia and ADHD, making it difficult for neurodivergent individuals to access employment or to feel like they belong and can be themselves when they are in work.

Employers can play a crucial role in supporting neurodiversity in the workplace by creating an inclusive environment that breaks down stigma and makes individuals feel valued, supported and understood. By identifying and removing potential barriers and being open minded to adjustments that can be made to “typical” work practices and environments, businesses not only create opportunities for everyone but also benefit from retaining the unique skills, strengths and viewpoints that neurodivergent individuals bring to the workplace.

You can read more about ways to support neurodiversity in the workplace here.

Support employees affected by menopause

Menopause, once a taboo subject in the workplace, is now gaining the attention it deserves. After all, menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the UK.

More people, and employers, now recognise the detrimental impact menopause symptoms can have on someone’s wellbeing, personal life and work life and the research bears this out – the estimated global productivity losses linked to menopause top $150 billion a year, and studies show that around 20% of people have quit or considered quitting their jobs because of their own menopause symptoms.

Thankfully, employers are starting to commit to recognising the impact of menopause and to actively supporting those who are affected. Managers should receive training so they are comfortable with discussing the menopause, as well as other topics related to health and wellbeing, and can consider the impact of menopause as a possible factor in issues relating to performance or attendance. Making reasonable adjustments to support people affected by these types of issues to continue working will support the drive for diversity and inclusion.

A menopause policy can demonstrate an employer’s awareness of the symptoms and of the difficulties employees may be facing and will help everyone understand what support is available to people affected by the menopause. Considering appropriate reasonable adjustments and signposting support for menopause should be on your radar in 2024. We explore this further in our recent blog.

Create inclusive and flexible working practices

Increasingly, people want to work for organisations who recognise and respect, and then support, their individual personal needs and commitments as well as their work needs and career goals.

More employers now offer flexible and hybrid working arrangements, allowing employees to choose their hours and work location. This can remove barriers to the workplace and provide real opportunity for those who have family commitments, who have disabilities, or who are neurodivergent.

Additionally, enhanced leave and pay policies relating to maternity, paternity, adoption, carers and bereavement can help employees balance family commitments without loss of pay or suffering detriment to their careers. Some organisations are also introducing Fertility policies to support employees undergoing fertility treatments.

By offering these benefits, employers demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity, reduce employee stress and alleviate the financial burdens associated with some personal circumstances. Employees who feel cared about, valued, and who have the ability to work in the way that suits them will perform better, and be more committed, bringing benefits for the employer too.

Offer equal opportunities for learning and promotion

Prioritise equity alongside diversity by ensuring fair treatment and creating an environment where everyone is supported in the way that is right for them, so they can achieve the same success as others.

Implement ongoing training programmes to educate employees on topics like unconscious bias and privilege, fostering a shared language and understanding, removing some of the barriers to opportunities that some groups or individuals will experience.

Consider apprenticeship initiatives and specific programmes designed to elevate women, ethnic minorities and other underrepresented groups, into leadership roles. Conduct equal pay reviews to ensure that all employees, regardless of gender or other protected characteristics, receive equal pay for the same work, thereby eliminating pay disparities and promoting equality at all levels.

Learn about your team members

Take the time to understand the background, culture, needs, preferences and expectations of your team members so you can bring out the strengths of each individual. How do they like to work? How do they want to be recognised and rewarded?

It’s also important to recognise that people are likely to have different points of view regarding what behaviours are acceptable at work – and it is the manager’s job to ensure that everyone understands what is expected and will be tolerated, ensuring everyone feels comfortable and safe and able to be themselves.

Address unconscious bias

Unconscious biases are attitudes or stereotypes that influence our understanding, actions, and decisions without us even realising it. These biases can have a significant impact on workplace diversity and inclusion efforts if left unaddressed.

In recruitment or career progression, for example, unconscious bias could influence a decision to hire or promote or train someone based on their age, disability, race, belief, sexual orientation, gender, or any other demographic feature – characteristics that have nothing to do with an individual’s suitability for the role.

As well as ensuring processes are fair – reviewing job descriptions for biased language, having objective criteria for CV screening and performance management, you should also educate your line managers on how to recognise and overcome their own unconscious biases. Learn more about this in our blog here.

For all these approaches to supporting diversity, awareness training is important for all employees and managers to understand the potential difficulties some groups face, and how those difficulties can be overcome, so everyone at work can be more supportive and respectful of each other, and recognise the value each person adds to the team.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with our team at [email protected]