With COVID-19 highlighting many inequalities in society, organisations have a responsibility to advance their diversity and inclusion strategies. Heidi Dennis, Public Sector Practice Leader for the South at Aon, explains why the time is right to focus on equity rather than equality.
Employers have a responsibility to treat employees equally, with legislation, peer pressure and recognition of the benefits of equality helping to establish equal rights, pay and opportunities. But, while the progress in this area is positive, it’s now time to shift the discussion to equity rather than equality.
Although the two words look and sound similar, there are some significant differences. Equality is all about achieving fairness by treating everyone the same and, while this sounds logical, it overlooks the fact that people don’t all start from the same point. Differences, such as age, gender, race, access to education and financial standing, mean a one-size-fits all approach isn’t appropriate.
Equity embraces these differences, achieving fairness by treating everyone depending on need. It’s about allowing employees to bring their true selves to the workplace and giving them what they need to be successful.
Taking this approach has some significant benefits. By discussing and agreeing what each person needs to allow them to give their best, both employer and employee are winning: the employee is happier, more engaged, more likely to stay and more confident, while the employer has a more productive and effective workforce.
It touches each part of an organisation – from talent acquisition and pay through to talent development and succession planning. Ideas, solutions and innovation flow, creating initiatives and a culture that attracts talent and shows an understanding of the communities the organisation serves.
Just as there are benefits to embracing equity, the consequences of overlooking it can be very damaging for an organisation. They could include a demotivated workforce, higher staff turnover, lack of innovation and ideas and difficulties recruiting talent. It can also lead to claims for discrimination, bullying and abuse.
Shifting to a culture that embraces equity can be challenging. Not everyone’s needs are outwardly evident and employees can feel that asking for equity will be seen as special treatment or special needs, both with negative connotations around appearing weak or needy that could affect their prospects or how other employees view and treat them.
At Aon, we recommend the following actions to support the shift to equity:
- Look at how potential is defined within your organisation: recognising potential early may result in greater diversity across leadership roles.
- Broaden your talent and candidate pool by rethinking your attraction and recruitment strategy, ensuring internal hiring policies are inclusive.
- Offer flexibility. Organisations offering greater flexibility, for instance flexible working and job sharing, demonstrate a keenness to integrate better work life balance by allowing employees to participate fully, regardless of role or seniority.
- Analyse pay data. Reviewing the distribution of men and women across your organisation by function and level can highlight any gender imbalance in more detail. This can identify areas where there may be talent blockages or room for improvement.
- Look at ethnicity pay gaps. Efforts to foster more diverse and inclusive workforces continue to grow, meaning organisations should look at pay inequities more broadly.
Aon has considerable experience in helping organisations develop their strategies on diversity, equity and inclusion. By using the latest research, client insights and data collected across our Human Capital Solutions group, we can advise organisations on the steps they should take to deliver change.
For instance, through our Future Skills Framework, organisations can identify the skills which drive their success and future readiness. Data can be benchmarked against other organisations and used to provide insight into the speed of change and skills trends within the organisation. This can highlight how talent could be reskilled and redeployed and the next steps they should take.
As COVID-19 recovery begins and organisations consider the future shape of work, it is an ideal time to look at equity within the workplace. Building a working environment that embraces individuals’ differences and provides them with the tools they need to succeed will create benefits for the organisation and its employees but also the broader society.
To find out how Aon can support your organisation’s strategy around diversity, equity and inclusion, contact Heidi Dennis at firstname.lastname@example.org