Diversity and Inclusion: Is the current D&I function fit for purpose?

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Diversity and Inclusion has stalled. That is bad news for business and bad news for D&I professionals.

For now, businesses are continuing to invest in D&I teams. Glassdoor Economic Research found that, as of August 2019, the number of D&I jobs in the UK had seen year-on-year growth of 106 per cent.

But, with reports that employees and stakeholders are no longer engaging with the D&I agenda, how much longer can this upward trend continue?

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests there is considerable fatigue with the D&I narrative.

A survey by Hive Learning found that a whopping 80% of organisations recognised diversity fatigue, citing a perceived lack of progress as one of the main reasons. There is, for certain, a general frustration with the pace of change in key areas such as (but not exclusively) gender equality.

So what does the future hold for Diversity and Inclusion?

At Equal Talent, we know from firsthand experience the immense impact that a successful D&I programme can have on business. As the landscape changes, however, D&I teams need to evolve if they are to stay relevant and continue to make gains.

Over the last few years there has been an interesting shift in the remit of Diversity and Inclusion. Initially a role that focused on everything related to discrimination, it now increasingly has a seat at the board table, leading the way in significant culture change programmes.

With the depth and reach of the role expanding and broadening, coupled with this reported decrease in engagement, is it time for the D&I profession to innovate and transform? Has the time come for Diversity and Inclusion to split up and become independent specialisms? Perhaps it’s time for Inclusion to find a new partner – Belonging.


Diversity, the better known of the pair, has matured enormously in its expertise.

It’s no longer a ‘generic’ subject. Individual specialisms are being developed and mastered – gender (so much more than women), which now includes identity and considers the needs of men; LGBTQ; ethnicity (conversations are being had about the BAME pay gap); intersectionality (a specialism in itself); neurodiversity (an incredibly complex subject); second-chance hires; generational; white privilege; social disadvantage…

This is far from an exhaustive list. It’s one that continues to grow as we understand further the very individual needs of our employee populations.

Diversity and Inclusion require different skill sets, with the quest for diversity increasingly becoming the domain of the recruitment function. Focus so far has been on bringing diversity into the business. This in itself has led to the need to upskill teams in being able to innovatively find new ways to attract talent that wouldn’t ordinarily apply for roles and to ensure that their recruitment practice is both inclusive and non-biased.

The opportunity in splitting the D&I role means that energy behind inclusivity may be the answer to some of the frustrations stated above.

There is, for some organisations, the recognition that the benefits of diversity cannot be realised unless the right environmental factors are in place to start with, namely the right organisational culture, with a specific focus on a culture of belonging.


The person who leads an organisation’s Inclusion efforts has a more cultural and behavioural challenge to tackle, changing the hearts, minds and working practices of leaders and current employees in order to create an authentic and lasting culture of Inclusion.

Inclusivity is a skill and the competency that creates the culture of belonging. As 70% of workplace culture is determined by the leaders of the organisation, a pure lens on Inclusion will lead to a very determined focus on defining both the culture and the leadership to deliver the cultural change.

Cultural change is an exceptional challenge for any organisation. It encompasses behaviour, systems, technology, structure and processes. It demands a particular competency and leadership to deliver the programme. Do our current D&I teams have this expertise? Do they have the correct profile within the business? The right level of credibility and respect? Do they have the remit to connect the Inclusion agenda to the wider vision of the organisation? To lead the “why”?

Another opportunity that a focus on Inclusion brings is that of truly and deeply listening to the employee. This is far beyond the employee engagement/experience survey, which is very one dimensional. This is a skill in behaviour change methodologies and mining for behavioural data that brings true insight into the key attributes of culture and determines whether the needs of all employees are being met.


A few words about Belonging. Belonging is the ultimate goal of Inclusion. When employees belong, the organisation has successfully enabled everyone to thrive. The value and gains of all the Diversity initiatives can then be fully and permanently realised. Individuals within the organisation are not only included but they also include instinctively. The employee community define and defend all the attributes of the culture that is important to them.

Equal Talent are committed to helping organisations create better, fairer and more inclusive workplaces for everyone.If you’d like to explore how your organisation can reinvigorate their D&I programme this year, please do get in touch. 

We’d love to help.

Comment (1)
SEO Service / January 30, 2020

Awesome post! Keep up the great work! 🙂

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