In a month where there has been the Google Walkout and the EU Equal pay day, we’ve been asked as part of Equality Group’s consulting practice, what practically great businesses can do to get the benefit of diversity without unintentionally sabotaging it and while graduate recruitment initiatives, reverse mentoring and unconscious bias training can help the first thing to do is often the most simple: update your policies.

On the search side we pride ourselves in bringing at least 50% non-white-male candidates to every short-list, but even before intentionally bringing in a search firm who is able to do this, making sure you’ve prepared the ground-work is essential.

The sense of injustice that led to the Google walkout was allowed by a couple of common, but short-sighted business practices that can seem incredibly unfair: namely that even in the case of very poor behaviour a compensation package cannot be reduced without the risk of a serious legal challenge. This is totally correct with hindsight, but it requires proactive foresight to set in place the practices which are alert to the risks that certain behaviour can bring and works to keep internal best-practice up-to-date to minimise the risk that out-dated policies create injustice rather than excellence.

The other reason that policies matter can be seen in EU equal pay day showing that female workers in the European Union are earning on average 16% less than their male counterparts, effectively losing two months’ pay per year. This is rarely created by a proactive approach to discriminate and is usually the function of policies created by middle-class men for middle-class men. These policies accidentally bake-in friction to the process of being an intelligent rising woman or minority in the workforce.

Luckily, both issues can be at least partially addressed with some fairly straightforward best practice policies. This then allows the excellent work to hire great people from diverse backgrounds to lead to retaining great people from diverse backgrounds, and therefore realise some of the benefits that the many research papers into diversity have shown.

A positive step forward for fair and transparent policies came about earlier this year when MP Jo Swinson called for the online publication of Parental Leave, alongside Pay Policies, for all firms employing over 250 people. Ten of the largest UK firms, including the Big Four, responded to the call to action and there should be more firms following suit over the next few months. This level of openness and transparency around a key policy for working parents is an encouraging step forward. It means that anyone interviewing for a role at the business doesn’t need to ask about these policies during interview. It also means that businesses are able to see what their competitors are offering in terms of employee benefits, which should drive progress, as firms compete for candidates.

At Equality Group, we help our clients attract, retain and promote high-performing and diverse talent. Ensuring that policies are up to date, fair, transparent and competitive is one of the most practical and effective steps you can take. If you want to discuss further with the Equality team then get in touch on [email protected].