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24 Mar 2022

Half of East Midlands businesses have an equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, new research finds

Better workplaces, improved decision-making and increased innovation are among the benefits cited by East Midlands businesses that have an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy, according to a new report.

Research by East Midlands Chamber, in partnership with housing association emh group, found that almost half (48%) of businesses in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire have a dedicated policy in place.

More than two-thirds (68%) consider EDI can contribute, at least to some degree, in the success of their business plans over the coming 12 months – while it was attributed as an important part of leadership strategy by 55% of firms.

When asked to give a score between one and 10 to how important consideration of EDI would be to the success of their organisation, the average score was 5.6 – suggesting that while it may not be integral to firms overall, it’s also not an insignificant consideration within business activity in the East Midlands.

The March issue of Business Network magazine has a special EDI focus – read it here

The research will be presented at the Chamber’s Celebration of Culture and Communities event, which will be held tonight (24 March) at Leicester Tigers’ Mattioli Woods Welford Road stadium – showcasing the region’s diverse mix of cultural backgrounds via music, dance and food.

East Midlands Chamber director of resources at Lucy Robinson, who is the business representation organisation’s diversity and inclusion champion, said: “It’s clear from these findings that equality, diversion and inclusion is increasingly becoming less of a ‘nice-to-have’ for organisations and more business-critical.

“The majority of East Midlands businesses recognise an important role for EDI within their planning and activity, and there’s clearly a need for further support in helping those that identify its value but are yet to have policies in place.

“A core of roughly one in 10 feel it doesn’t play any role in their success. When examining this figure further, these businesses are more likely to be micro in size, with a very small bias towards the manufacturing industry.

“Given that those actively engaged in the EDI agenda have illustrated some very real commercial benefits – ranging from a better workplace culture, recruitment and retention, through to supporting innovation and a diversity of thought in decision-making – we should now be looking at how to better showcase good examples of business success in this agenda.

“We will also explore further work that may quantify how progressive approaches to EDI can result in productivity gains – which is high on the business priority list as they seek to grow once more following the pandemic.

Key findings in equality, diversity and inclusion research

The Chamber and emh group surveyed 341 East Midlands companies in November for the study – the first of its kind in the region – which found:

  • 48% of businesses have a specific EDI-related policy, but four in 10 (40%) haven’t and 12% were unsure whether they did
  • 68% felt having specific approaches to EDI would play a role in supporting the achievement of business plans for the next 12 months, with 26% believing this role would be significant and 11% saying it would play no part
  • 55% of respondents felt EDI formed an important part of their leadership discussions and strategy, with 14% saying this was to a great extent and 12% believing there was no EDI focus at all
  • When asked about the benefits of having an engaged approach to EDI, 61% said it can help create an inclusive working environment, 54% believed a “diversity of thought” could lead to better decision-making, 45% felt it supported innovation and creativity, 42% claimed it supported staff retention and recruitment, and 41% identified how it helped to better represent customers and clients – with just 17% seeing no real benefits

The research also highlighted some particular sectoral gaps across the East Midlands economy when it comes to embracing the EDI agenda.

While 48% of all businesses have a specific policy in place, the proportion fell to 43% for manufacturers – although those unsure increased to 20%, suggesting slightly less understanding or communication of EDI activity within these businesses.

Chan Kataria OBE, chief executive at emh group, said: “This research builds on our joint commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within communities and organisations across the region.

“The findings provide a solid platform for exploring opportunities to enhance performance on EDI.

“We see this as a starting point for showcasing engagement on EDI issues and exploring some of the barriers within specific sectors and small businesses. We look forward to further discussions with Chamber members to consider and share good practice.”

How businesses can increase engagement with the EDI agenda

A set of recommendations were made as part of a discussion paper published by the Chamber and emh group, titled Understanding attitudes and approaches to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the East Midlands:

  • Further support on developing EDI-specific polices can be offered to those businesses that view these as having a value but are yet to have policies in place
  • Businesses that are active in this space should be encouraged to demonstrate their approaches and showcase best practice
  • There is an opportunity for further work to quantify how progressive approaches to EDI can support a business’ success and productivity gains