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Building an inclusive workplace

A Diversity, Inclusion & Equality Strategy with teeth (and heart) is a cornerstone to an effective and engaging employer brand

Have you seen your Diversity, Inclusion & Equality Strategy? As a Marketing or Brand Professional, have you input into it? If no, why not?

In the UK, 4th April 2019 was our second gender pay gap reporting day since the introduction of legislation requiring all 250 people+ businesses to report on these gaps annually.

74% of UK businesses have a pay gap which favours men

In the days since, preliminary estimates show that 74% of businesses report a pay gap which favours men, 14% have a pay gap favouring women and 12% report no pay gap.

The Government Equalities Office said in a statement "Closing the gender pay gap is not a quick fix, and employers may take time to see their gap close as they implement long term action plans"

As organisations implement these plans, gender is just one piece and more broad Diversity, Inclusion & Equality Strategies are being developed and discussed at the highest echelons of business.

An organisations approach to Diversity, Inclusion & Equality is an employer brand cornerstone and has an impact internally and externally

This is because not only does pay gap reporting and inclusion strategy play a role in a potential employees' decision to join the business, but increasingly companies are being asked about their approach in pitch meetings, tendering processes and annual reviews.

As such, strategic marketers should be all over it.

A strategy that fits

The personality of your organisation and the people who make it needs to be reflected in your Diversity, Inclusion & Equality Strategy and getting as many employees as possible to contribute to setting the agenda will stand you in good stead.

It goes without saying that their is no off-the-shelf approach to strategy and that a document without action and change, is meaningless

Get inspired

To help you get started, below are some example aims, initiatives, outcomes and ways to gain buy in. I've also included examples of which organisations are leading the way and how diversity pays dividends.

Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform

- McKinsey

1) Be clear on the benefits

Diversity in the workplace promotes inclusion and respect regardless of differences in race, age, gender, native language, political beliefs, education, religion, sexual orientation, or communication styles among employees.

The benefits of actively creating a diverse workplace include increased productivity and innovation, enhanced bottom line, better decision making and reduced employee turnover.

Which benefits matter the most to your organisation? What resistance exists and why?

2) Consider your aims

Once you have the benefits clear in your mind, examine how a more inclusive culture will help you achieve your brand aims.

Example aim: We want to widen our appeal

To win the war for talent in your industry and attract the cream of the crop, you’ll need to ensure you appeal to the widest possible pool of ambitious, effective individuals and clients

For global companies diversity is a matter of using the workforce to give it a competitive advantage in the marketplace

- Forbes

Example aim: We are determined to gain the edge

Has your industry lagged behind others on diversity? If so, this could be an area you can bravely carve a name for yourself.

Example aim: Put simply, we want to do the right thing

Time and again research shows that different perspectives produce better results.

According to research by McKinsey, for every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity on UK exec boards, EBIT increases by 3.5%. So, proactively diversifying your workforce is the right thing to do as good people, and as good business people too.

3) Engage at every level...

It sounds obvious, but good Diversity, Inclusion & Equality Strategies aren't created by an individual person, alone in a meeting room with a flip chart and some fancy pens, in fact quite the opposite.

Ensure you have a diverse, core team of engaged individuals - ask for nominations - throw the net out wide.

4) ...But don't forget the top

Once you have your core team in place, kick-off any organisation wide engagement by first getting the buy-in of senior decision makers.

Run a workshop with your Executive Committee, Learning and Development and Employee Teams by sharing inspiring examples of competitors or other industries and discuss how ambitious, or indeed radical, the organisation is prepared to be.

TIP: Numbers matter. What data can you gather to outline the benefits specific to your business? How can you quantify how you compare to competitors?

5) State the change you want to see

What is the current situation? Speak to HR, review staff surveys and consider a specific employee engagement survey around diversity and inclusion sentiment to set the baseline.

Then backed and informed by the engagement described in section 3 and 4, set your strategic goals and be super specific about what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it.


  • Launch Diversity & Inclusion programme by year end

  • Parity of pay across all upcoming graduate intake

  • Undertake to report on racial and socioeconomic diversity as well as gender

  • This year our outreach efforts will be targeted to increase underrepresented applicants by 25%

  • Increase number of female equity partners to represent 50% by 2020

  • Open all job positions to non-graduates

  • Demand diversity from your recruitment partners in a tangible way

6) Decide on your tactics

Change doesn't (always) happen by itself...

In 1970, the top 6 orchestras in the US had less than 5% women. By 1997, women made up 30%+. The reason is that blind auditions were introduced to combat unconscious biases

There are many, many ways to achieve a more fair, diverse and inclusive workplace - part of the fun is deciding will work in your business.

To get you started - here are some ideas:

Recruiting right

  • Audit hiring process

  • Require 50:50 recruitment slates

  • Ask for 'blind CVs'

  • Adopt apprentice or 'Returnership' schemes

Promoting diversity

  • Media training for diversity champions

  • Diversity volunteering days/ school outreach

  • Enter Stonewall's top 100, best places for women to work etc.

  • Consider whether targets or quotas are appropriate

  • Make sure no promotional videos and literature goes out without a diverse representation of staff and clients

Eliminating biases

  • Unconscious bias training for Directors

  • Review policy and make recommendations

  • Modify promotional materials so that they are culturally sensitive

  • Review all policies

Being inclusive

  • Mentoring schemes

  • Offer to host networking events for external organisations working to create more inclusive societies

  • Client entertaining: time to swap those golf days for something more inclusive?


  • Remember to consider mental and physical health

  • Explore fitness subsidies and flexible working

So there you have it, not a one size fits all but a rainbow of opportunity to make our workplaces more inclusive for everyone and more representative of our wider world.

I'd love to hear examples of marketers getting involved in developing these strategies as well as any ideas you have to share.


Bonus content: The Built Environment

The Built Environment has a long way to go in terms of the gender pay gap, most notably the construction industry.

Many of my Real Estate, Engineering and Construction clients are striving for more balance to combat skills shortages and to create a more inclusive built environment:


With an ageing workforce and ever-growing competition for skilled labour to build and design our cities, the need to attract more talent from diverse backgrounds is greater than ever.

Place and spaces

The built environment can contribute to a more equal, inclusive and cohesive society if the places where we live, the facilities we use and our neighbourhoods and meeting places are designed to be inclusive.

Perspectives and resources

Managing Diversity and Inclusion in the Real Estate Sector, Co-authored by real estate veterans, Amanda Clack, Head of Strategic Advisory at CBRE and Judith Gabler, Acting Managing Director, Europe for RICS

Diversity and inclusion in construction: 4 key areas for improving LGBT+ inclusion, Jo Hennessey, CMktr, Senior Global Marketing Manager at WSP + Building Equality National Chair

Spotlight on Roma Agrawal MBE, who builds some of the tallest buildings in the world, and is now working on tearing down gender bias in engineering!

RICS LionHeart organisation supports surveyors from training through to retirement with a range of health, wellbeing and counselling services

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