EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY: POLICY AND PRACTICE ABSTRACT The purpose of this paper is to analyse and evaluate equality and diversity policies between two companies and determine whether there are gaps between policies and practices in relation to recruitment and selection. The report entails case studies of two organisations namely Working Links (WL) and The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC). This report shows that there is a gap between policy and practice in both organisations, the gap being bigger in WL.
RBKC being a public organisation have based their policy from a moral perspective where as WL policy is business driven. The report concluded that WL is a compliant organisation while RBKC is a comprehensive organisation (see appendix 3 for full explanation). Being a compliant organisation in need of a lot of changes, this report has provided WL with considerable recommendations. 1. INTRODUCTION 1. 1Aims and Objectives
The aim of this report is to explore variations in the approach adopted by both organisations to equality and diversity policy and what outcome this has on their recruitment and selection process. The objective of the report is to identify and explain approaches to equality and diversity policies. Explain and compare the recruitment and selection process in both organisations. Critically evaluate these processes. Establish what sort of equal opportunity organisation both RBKC and WL are and give necessary recommendations to working Links. 1. 2 Methodology
The bulk of information in this report is based on secondary data. There is a bit of primary data which involves informal interviews with various members of staff. Respondents involved local managers, HR staffs, those responsible for equal and diversity policy, staffs involved in recruitment, selection and promotion and employee representatives. Interviews were conducted with both male and female employees and ethnic minority staff. Secondary data involves reports from consultant forums as well as the analysis of documentary and statistical materials.
Materials such as formal equal opportunity policies, recruitment, promotions and grievance procedures and literature reviews were also consulted. This approach was chosen due to the difficulty involved in collecting primary data and the fact that it is subject to a lot of external variables that may affect information collected thus making it very unreliable hence not valid. Moreover primary data is also time consuming as opposed to secondary data. Although a bit of primary data has been used the findings are backed up by reports from meetings. 1. 3Equality and Diversity
An Equal opportunity policy (EOP) can be defined as a commitment to engage in employment practices and procedures which do not discriminate, and which provide equality between individuals of different groups or sex to achieve full, productive and freely chosen employment (Blakemore and Drake, 1996) whereas, the concept of managing diversity is generally seen as ‘proactively capitalizing on the different skills, qualities and viewpoints that a diverse workforce has to offer’ (EOR, 1999). Although equality and diversity policies can be viewed as opposing strategies they are complimentary and mutually reinforcing.
UK employers seem to understand diversity as an equality strategy, complimenting and supplementing, rather than substituting traditional EOPs. This is supported by the view expressed by the Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD), in its Position Paper, in which the IPD states its belief that ‘the management of diversity compliments established approaches to equal opportunities’. According to Liff (1999), organisations can adopt this twin approach and develop a strategy to enable differences between and among groups of employees to be recognised and, at the same time as treating them equitably.
One of the main criticisms of equal opportunity has been that it is negative, failure to comply with the law carries penalties and any individual found contravening the policy is likely to be disciplined. There is little emphasis on how an organisation and its members might gain from equality, and more on how it could suffer if discrimination were discovered. For instance, employment tribunal cases can result in large compensation awards, not to mention the possibility of negative media coverage that could tarnish the reputation of the business.
While this might seem reason enough to take some action to avoid complaints of discrimination, it does not compel organisations to actually promote equality in a positive manner. In contrast, diversity policy stresses the benefits of valuing difference, rather than seeing it as a problem. Equal opportunities policy involves a commitment to eliminate discrimination, unfair treatment and disadvantage for its own sake i. e. a moral commitment to equality. On the other hand, diversity makes a business case for valuing difference as well as arguing the moral and legal case.
Both approaches are important for organisations wishing to be proactive and employers of choice. Dickens (1999), points out that the public sector has been widely regarded as leading the way in the development of equality policy, whereas the picture of degrees of commitment to promoting equality within the private sector has been more mixed. However, this is not to say that a uniform approach exists in the public sector either. It is not the case that all public sector employers proactively pursue equality strategies and all private sector employers take a minimalist approach.
It is more the case that public sector employers are more inclined to underpin their equality and diversity policy with a moral rationale as is the case with RBKC. 1. 4Demographic Change According to Kandola and Fullerton (1998), the UK workforce in the last two decades has changed quite considerably and that further changes are to be expected. There are more ethnic minorities, women, older people and people with caring responsibilities than ever before. It is likely that people from such groups will want satisfying job and a feeling that their employer will take an interest in their development just like everyone else.
The basic premises of managing diversity is that if organisations are to manage this heterogeneous workforce effectively they have to find flexible ways of operating to accommodate the needs, desires and motivations of different people to the benefit of all. 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 2. 1 Approaches to Policy Formulation Moral Case From the moral perspective, labour market inequalities are unjust and unfair and employers have a social duty to develop policy and practice to address disadvantage. This is not to say that economic benefits will not be derived from initiatives designed to promote equality.
However the equality project is primarily an ethical and moral one and in this sense it is an end in itself. This approach is traditionally most strongly associated with the public sector. The sector overall, aim to act as a good employer in order to promote good practice more widely amongst employing organisations. This is quite evident in RBKC. Setting a diversity objective because it is the right thing to do should not be seen as a negative cost but as a positive benefit, especially when positioning the organisation as an employer of first choice.
However the moral approach has found little purchase in the profit-oriented private sector. Therefore the business case arguments are increasingly used to justify policy developments. Business Case Instead of asking what can be done to relieve the employment disadvantages disproportionately experienced by some social groups, the business case centres on how an equality and diversity agenda can contribute to organisational aims and objectives. The cornerstone of the business case for equality is that inequality is inefficient an uneconomic. There are three principal arguments In support of this claim.
First it is argued that certain social groups constitute an under utilize human resource. This is especially relevant to demographic change and the shortage of young entrants to the labour market. Discriminatory policy and practice prevent organisations from making best use of the wide pool of labour available to them in the internal and external markets and thus contribute to lack of competitiveness. This argument is often used to promote special training courses aimed at under-represented groups or to target recruitment campaigns at particular groups.
British telecom and the post office are examples of organisations which have developed training to increase the numbers of women in senior positions (EOR 1996, 1999) and the police force has aimed recruitment campaigns at minority ethnic groups. Second, there is increasing recognition of diversity of customer groups and the perceived need for workforce to reflect such diversity. Organisations such as the BBC, Grand Metropolitan, Littlewoods and British Petroleum have all invested in promoting equality and diversity in order to improve service delivery (Healy 1993).
Third, it has also become increasingly recognised that everyday employee relation’s problems can be the direct or indirect consequence of discriminatory policy and practice e. g. high labour turnover, absenteeism, poor performance, low productivity etc. Eradicating discrimination and tackling inequality thus becomes imperative, an approach reflected in the nationwide business campaigns for race equality ‘Race for opportunity’, and in that for gender equality opportunity 2000.
Managing diversity can be conceptualised as an equality strategy, most readily identifiable with the business case. 2. 2 Recruitment and Selection In equality terms, good practice in recruitment and selection is generally taken to mean the development of formalised, bureaucratic procedure, which is both transparent and justifiable to guide the processes involved. For example the drawing up of a full job description and person specification based on it, the use of an application form in preference to CVs. It would e expected that both compliant (WL) and proactive (RBKC) organisations would give consideration to their recruitment and selection procedures and practices as a basis from which to ensure legal compliance and the elimination of discrimination, as would organisations embracing both social moral and business case arguments, for discrimination is both unethical and uneconomic. The idea behind formalisation of recruitment procedures is that it will enable the objective requirements of the job to be more easily identified and therewith a selection decision based on a person’s suitability, rather than acceptability to be made.
The objective of an equality and diversity strategy on recruitment and selection is to ensure that an employer has the widest pool of talent from which to select and recruit the best employees. To implement an effective strategy, the organisation must have information on how the recruitment and selection process works, along with outcomes to identify gaps and target improvements. 2. 3 Case Study 1: RBKC The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is a government department whose ultimate aim is to meet the needs of residents, workers and visitors and to provide high quality service.
RBKC has a diverse workforce in order to respond effectively to the broad range of people living in the borough. RBKC has not adopted the term ‘managing diversity’, however its equal opportunities approach, with its focus on demonstrated business benefits and emphasis on valuing and recognising individual skills and contributions, is very similar to that of other organisations for which the language of diversity has supplanted opportunities. The RBKC has an equal opportunities committee. The role of the committee is to set EO policy and strategy across the department.
It also gives advice to senior managers as well as to individual managers and staff. The committee also has a monitoring role to make sure that policy is adhered to and review the progress being made across the whole council. One of the key business arguments put forward by the EO committee for addressing equality issues is the need to ensure that people’s skills are not being wasted. Although RBKC has a higher proportion of female workers to men and a diverse workforce, women and ethnic minority groups are still under-represented at senior levels.
There is a good structure of flexible benefits to support female workers e. g. job share schemes, flexi-hours, maternity leave etc. Other business arguments for EO included the potential costs of compensation awards in discrimination cases. The costs are not just the legal costs, but also the impact of a case on the morale and efficiency of those employees directly and indirectly affected. A third argument is that of meeting standards in customer service. RBKC has been working to improve its services to the public.
Creating a workforce which is representative at all levels of the diversity of the customer base is seen as an important element in demonstrating a commitment to serving customers. RBKC takes considerable steps to ensure that recruitment and selection processes are objective and as free from bias and subjectivity as possible. Recruitment and selection procedures are highly formalised and governed by a set of rules, which applies across the organisation. Managers and supervisors involved in the recruitment are trained. Job profiles and person specifications are re-examined each time a vacancy arises.
For each job, the same recruitment processes apply to each candidate. The elements in the recruitment and selection process are application forms, structured interviews and references which Taylor (2002) referred to as ‘the classic trio’. HR plays a prominent role in most significant steps in the recruitment process. For instance the department approves job and person specifications, advertisements, and the general tenor of questions to be put at interviews. Although line managers are in charge of the recruitment process, they are required to consult and liaise with HR and comply with all aspects of the council policy and procedure.
They are also required to maintain and periodically return monitoring data. These data distinguish between various stages in the recruitment process including applications, short-listing, interview and appointment. As a result HR is in a position to identify in a fairly precise way the specific problems and difficulties encountered by ethnic minority candidates. This in turn informs the positive action programmes of specific departments. For instance establishing a competence based recruitment which places more emphasis on individual skills and less on formal qualifications
The aim here is to provide a fairer method of recruitment and to offer people from certain groups the same opportunities as other candidates to demonstrate their ability to do the job. These groups include women returners and disabled people who may have had less opportunity to acquire formal qualifications. To back up top level commitment to EO, RBKC has encouraged managers to include equal opportunities objective in their individual performance agreements. It is evident from the above that RBKC is a comprehensive proactive organisation out of the four types of equal opportunity organisations identified in appendix 3.
RBKC has a body accountable for equality issues. There is a good system in place for monitoring outcomes of policy and practice. Positive action programmes are available and equality is also part of management performance target. In essence, RBKC has a strong sense of social justice but also appreciates the business sense in pursuing equality and diversity policy. 2. 4 Case Study 2: Working Links Working Links is a nation wide recruitment company. It is a private organisation owned by Manpower plc, Jobcentre Plus and Cap Gemini Ernest and Young. Working Links is very business driven.
Unlike RBKC, WL has no EO committee. HR deals with all equality and diversity issues. When asked to provide me with certain details regarding equality and diversity, HR was very unhelpful. There seem to be no one accountable for equality issues. According to Blakemore and Drake, the harder it is to discover basic information regarding the policy in ones organisation the more likely that a strategic approach has not been considered or applied. This was the case with WL. The formal equal opportunities policy requires WL to ensure that recruitment and selection process are carried out fairly.
This requirement involves: checking that job and person specifications are relevant, reviewing sources of candidates, care with respect to word of mouth advertising, short-listing against suitability criteria, training of interviewers and assessors, care and consistency in questioning at interview, maintenance of records with respect to recruitment and selection, and ensuring that selection decisions could be justified at each stage. Similar to RBKC, the recruitment and selection elements are application forms, structured interviews and references. This has just been recently changed from CVs and cover letters.
Similarly, specific commitments were made with respect to career development and appraisal. These included a commitment by management to ensure that jobs would not be the prerogative of one sex or ethnic group and that appraisal would be carried out in a non-discriminatory manner. Overall the emphasis of the policy was on selection on the basis of merit and open opportunities for all with respect to advancement. The staffing of WL is representative of the community. The diversity of the staff enables the operation to celebrate the differences of the team and use these to good effect in working with clients.
However, WL Equal Opportunity policy is not inherent in their training and development programmes. A compliant and passive rather than a promotional approach has been adopted by WL. This has resulted in a lack of clarity by some staff of equal opportunities and diversity. It was also unclear as how equal opportunities and diversity were promoted and monitored. A lack of equal opportunities data prevents the progression of under represented groups and those at senior levels to be recorded and restricts the operations ability to effectively monitor parity of access and opportunity.
There is devolution of managerial responsibilities. Local line managers and deputies are expected to take on increasing responsibility for recruitment while the HR department takes an advisory role. Increasingly therefore, the effectiveness of equality and diversity policy is likely to depend upon the awareness of line managers of the issues, their level of expertise in HR matters and more generally, their attitudes towards candidates from disadvantaged groups. The report deduces that level of awareness and understanding of equality and diversity among local managers are mixed.
There is evidence, both direct and second hand, which suggested that at least some members of the WL managerial staff held stereotyped attitudes about, or were unfamiliar with culture differences. There is also evidence to suggest that line managers with increasing influence on such matters as promotion and internal transfer had little training in HR matters generally and equal opportunities in particular. In a Working Links consultant forum it has been suggested that certain roles in certain areas are directly and unfairly been offered to members of staff.
There is also a dangerous consensus that people are not receiving promotion or increase in pay on merit rather than popularity within the organisation. Along side this, talk of people being groomed for a specific role has been experienced by many. People should be promoted, transferred and acknowledge due to personal merit and not in place of performing individuals who have expressed a wish to be transferred to a new role. It has been made apparent that favouritism does exist in WL for a long time now however; this has never really been tackled.
Due to the passive nature WL has adopted in dealing with equality and diversity issues as discussed above, WL can be identified as being a compliant organisation out of the four types of equality organisations described in appendix 3. Working Links has adopted the language of managing diversity to downplay equality issues and to suggest neutrality towards diverse groups, thereby signalling that inequality is not an issue within the organisation when it is. This finding further backs up researches such as Gibbon (1990), Cully et al (1999) that there is little correlation etween policy and practice. These findings must also be placed in the context of trends towards developed budgets. It is possible to envisage this representing an obstacle to the development of best practice in local units where equality and diversity practice is perceived as representing a cost in terms of formalised procedures, staff training or specialist consultations. 2. 5 Equal opportunity Organisations: Policy and Practice There mere existence of an EOP does not eradicate discrimination.
This was the key learning from the Stephen Lawrence Enquiry, which highlighted that ‘long standing ways of doing things build in hidden barriers which result in unfair treatment’, Johnstone (2002). Institutional racism was the phrase used to describe this collective failure of an organisation. In order to bring about change in institutional discrimination there has to be institutional change. More important than the wording are the steps taken to enact the policy. Equality and diversity policies typically enshrine commitment and prescriptions but they often lack clear guidelines about outcomes or processes.
An additional problem is that even where effort is expanded in translating the policy into practice it may get caught in an over formalised and bureaucratic approach. For instance, many organisations pay considerable attention to detailed HR procedures such as recruitment, selection and monitoring- all of which are important ingredients of good equality practice, but not in themselves a sufficient means to effect change. Unless these practices are linked to specified outcomes, they will become ritualistic and equality no more than a formality.
A research from the Centre for Applied HR Research at Oxford Brookes University, presented at a London conference entitled Diversity: A Stronger Economy, a Better Britain (People Management, 24/03/05), identified three main reasons why diversity initiatives fail in organisations. It found that the biggest problem was poor leadership, particularly in terms of the homogeneity of the senior management team. The second reason emerged as the capability of diversity practitioners, who were often unable to translate the language of diversity into that of business.
The third obstacle was middle managers who did not have the skills necessary to manage diversity on a day to day basis. These obstacles are very evident in WL and less so in RBKC. According to kandola (1998), in order to combat such obstacles identified above, equality and diversity statements have to be backed by well formulated strategies for action, commitment from the top of the organisation and appropriate structures to involve both staff and management in the process of change. Policies have to be clearly understood, visible and integrated into the mission of the organisation. . 6 Evaluation What can be seen from the above of equality policy form and content, is that some elements of equality policy involve taking steps to ensure that all employees are treated the same, irrespective of gender, race, disability, age or sexual orientation, while other elements involve treating different groups of employees differently, in recognition of the disadvantage and discrimination they encounter in employment. This creates a muddle surrounding the objectives of the various measures.
That is, is the aim to ensure that everyone is treated equally, or is the aim to achieve equality of outcome? Ensuring that everyone is treated equally is a worthwhile aim in itself and as such constitutes good employment practice; however, it does not guarantee fair and equal outcomes (Liff, 1995). On the other hand, if members of certain social groups are targeted for ‘preferential’ treatment this practice may be perceived as unfair by those who do not qualify for such treatment and is equally at odds with a managing diversity orientation.
This is quite evident in Working Links where my white counterpart has complained about experiencing discrimination in search for promotion. Some organisations may seek to avoid the risk of conflict by adopting the language of ‘managing diversity’ and by emphasizing the needs of the individual and the organisational benefits to be derived from valuing diversity, also evident in WL. However in the UK context, positive action tends to have focused on equipping disadvantaged groups to compete on equal terms, rather than giving them preferential treatment by ‘rigging’ the competition.
The notion that the formalisation of recruitment and selection procedures will eradicate discrimination rests on the assumption that there will be a ‘best person’ for the job and that rational, unbiased procedures can reliably detect who that person is (Gibbon, 1990). It is more likely that any particular job could be performed equally well by countless applicants. In this case, there will be no single best person, yet a selection decision must still be made. The question is, using what criteria?
Further the claim that objective criteria can be constructed by gendered, racialized and subjective human beings, without being viewed through a subjective lens, is also likely to prove naive. It can be argued that awareness training is much needed in order to break down the widespread ignorance of issues such as disability, racism, sexism, ageism, sexual orientation etc. , on the basis that such ignorance contributes to the perpetuation of myths and stereotypes which, in turn, result in inequalities. This can be used as a lever of change.
Training often focuses on selection procedures, in particular interviewing, and encourages a reflective approach to challenging one’s own bias and prejudices, as well as encouraging strict adherence to formalised measures designed to eradicate discrimination. However, the main concerns about ‘awareness training’ concerns employee’s attendance. Should attendance be compulsory for all employees in a specific area of activity, such as recruitment, or should it be voluntary? The former approach risks resistance and hostility, while if the latter is adopted, those most in need of the training may not attend.
This is a dilemma, which is not easily resolved. The process by which individuals are selected for training and promotion also provides opportunity for bias and prejudice to guide decision making, highly formalized procedures notwithstanding. According to Kirton and Greene (2000), there is evidence that managers continue to make decisions on the basis of stereotypes, that they have predilection for people in their own image and that they hold strong sex-type views of job requirements.
The central problem is that there exists a great homogeneity among those conducting appraisals than among those being appraised. According to Blakemore and Drake (1996), the behaviour and actions of line managers contribute to explaining why EOPs have so frequently failed to establish equal treatment, let alone to significantly recast outcomes. 3. Conclusion Good equality and diversity policy is about good management practice, about recruiting, and developing and retaining the skills and creative ideas in organisations.
It is about the way we manage our most precious resources- the women and men in the workforce. It is about the way we interview and assess, train, promote, recognise performance and about the sort of conditions we offer. It is also about the sort of culture and ethos we nurture. It is quite evident from the literature review that the translation of equal opportunity policies into workable and meaningful practice is a difficult process but commitment to progress can bring some results. Much depends on the will and determination to pursue change.
It is clear that RBKC is more proactive in pursuing equality although there are gaps in their practices. On the other hand, WL is more of a compliant organisation, adopting the language of managing diversity to cover up equality issues. However, both organisations have done well in employing a diverse workforce which is dominated by women. In order to consider the development of equality and diversity policies and practice in organisations it is necessary to consider the wider context of demographic change, of legal requirements and of the structures of inequality in society.
The law seems to be a double-edge sword in the fight for equality. On the one hand it provides opportunities for contesting discrimination through the courts; on the other it produces a defensive posture in many organisations, their main concern being to tidy up procedures so as to avoid the charge of discrimination. For instance, much effort may be spent in covering up loopholes in recruitment practices so as to avoid litigation, without any real change to the pattern of recruitment. However, many would agree that the law is an essential if limited tool, in the development of equal opportunities.
It is also evident that line managers are structurally and strategically placed to either reinforce or challenge overt and covert forms of discrimination. Managers are faced with multiple constraints and pressures which may lead to them failing to comply with or commit to equality and diversity objectives. Further, line managers’ actions and behaviours in reinforcing and reproducing inequalities simply reflect the deeply embedded nature of prejudice, discrimination and disadvantage. 4. Recommendation (WL) Human talent is wasted in a system built upon discrimination.
Equality and diversity policies may be seen as the first step in combating discrimination within organisations, but much depends upon whether they are merely window dressing or whether they are designed to bring about real change. The development of equality in organisations challenges traditions, threatens powerful interests and confronts deep-seated prejudices. Working Links requires change. It is clear that the process of change will be a long one in which it is wise to set objectives within realistic timescales.
Transformation of the organisation in terms of equality may be considered as part of a long agenda, the short agenda focusing on cleaning up HR practices of which WL is in need of. Like RBKC it would be good for WL to have an EO committee, a body accountable for equal opportunity issues. WL needs to develop policy statements which are endorsed at senior management level. Involve senior management in developing a strategy for managing diversity to prompt ownership and add credibility.
Communicate the organisation’s commitment to valuing and managing diversity by providing written support for statements which is non-exclusive but includes examples of the kinds of activities which are unacceptable. Equality principles need to be mainstreamed. WL can do this by writing the diversity goals into the overall objectives of the organisation and departments. Make the pursuit of diversity objective an aim for all line management, not simply human resources or equality specialists. Make explicit links between diversity goals and business objectives.
Working Links need to develop forms of assessment for recruitment and development purposes which allow the identification of individual skills, even if they are not supported by formal qualifications. Ensure that recruitment and development decisions are based on criteria directly related to the actual demands of the job as they contribute to the goals of the organisation. WL also needs to be involved in external networks to identify those equality initiatives taking place elsewhere which may provide a model for in-house-use. Establish channels for the effective internal communication and discussion of such equality initiatives.
Working Links need to learn to encourage an understanding of why valuing people is important to the organisation. This can be done by assessing the level of understanding of diversity issues across the organisation. Identify training priorities and ensure that training in diversity approach is provided to line managers who have a key role in their implementation. There is a potential negative consequence of transferring responsibility for the implementation of equality or diversity policy to line managers without finding some way of rewarding them for their commitment.
It seems unlikely that line management will consent, let alone commit to equality aims unless their own performance objectives are explicitly linked to equality objectives. One answer to this is to inject equality aims into manager’s performance targets or appraisals as was done in RBKC. However, a system has to be developed for measuring performance against equality objectives. For many employers the cost in confronting the status quo might seem too dear. This might seem the case but can actually be cheaper in the long run if status quo is challenged.
Turnover rates are a huge drain on an organisation’s resource. Effective equality and diversity management can help retain employees for a lot longer and thus reduce the high cost of staff turnover. A high turnover rate exists in WL. This stems partly from bad promotion practices and favouritism. Retaining staff by recognising diversity may also result in the reduction in an organisations training budget. Working Links has to regularly audit, review and evaluate progress. Use equality auditing tools which have national recognition such as the commission for racial equality standard.
When drawing up a new initiative, WL should ensure that the tools for measuring the outcomes of that initiative are also developed. Ensure that the indicators support business objectives. Working Links also needs to celebrate success via mainstream methods of communication such as the staff newsletter or the intranet. Provide forums for those taking a leading role in the managing diversity process to exchange ideas and experience. In essence in order to be proactive and move forward WL requires continuous effort, top-level commitment and the engagement of the workforce itself.
Activities need to be informed by a coherent shared vision, inextricably linked to the business strategy and deliberately embedded into operational activities and people management practices that are regularly reviewed and evaluated. Kandola and Fullerton (1998) said it best when they suggested that ‘equality and diversity statements have to be backed by well formulated strategies for action, commitment from the top of the organisation and appropriate structures to involve both staff and management in the process of change.
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