Equality and diversity mean different things to different people, so it’s important that you define what they mean for your organisation.
Identifying why equality and diversity are important, to your organisation and to your strategic objectives, also ensures that they will be at the heart of your business rather than just ‘optional extras’.
Put this in writing and publicise it to all your audience and industry partners, as well as to your employees. This will also set a standard, to judge how well your company is doing.
There are a variety of reasons why successful media businesses are choosing to embed equality and diversity strategies into their organisational approach.
For example, strategies can help businesses:
- attract and retain a wide pool of talent;
- improve content diversity;
- better reflect the society they serve, improving audience relationships and public perception; and
- attract higher ratings as audiences like to see themselves represented.
Below we’ll look at some of these in greater detail.
Recruiting the right team for your business
Research is increasingly showing that having a more diverse workforce is commercially beneficial to all businesses, whether large or small.
For a broadcaster, these benefits may include helping you to attract the best talent. The organisation with the most diversity-friendly policies will be able to choose the best talent from the largest pool.
Having an equality and diversity-friendly policy can also stimulate creativity and commitment – which in turn can lead to more successful teams and deliverables.
Diversity strategies can also enhance a company’s reputation and improve employees’ attitude and team spirit overall. An organisation which manages diversity well maximises the potential of each colleague.
Diversity among decision-makers is recognised to lead to more efficient, improved and effective results.
A balanced group draws together a broad range of perspectives which can lead to more informed, creative, innovative and intelligent decisions, as well as quicker problem solving.
Reflecting your target audience can also help you to gain market value and build a long-term successful business.
Risk (and brand) management
Managing risk and protecting brand reputation is key for any organisation. Reputational damage can quickly spread and has the potential to seriously harm a company's credibility, as well as employee, customer and client relationships. Increasingly, the accountability of an organisation extends to the companies it works with and does business with.
Research shows that companies which take diversity seriously enjoy a better overall financial performance. The broader your talent base, the greater the potential for innovation and creativity. Having a policy in place can make it easier to focus your company’s thinking around improving equal job opportunities and ensuring fairness for employees, while reducing the likelihood of discrimination. If an organisation can attract diverse staff, it can also attract diverse customers. With the one, the wants and needs of the other can be better understood.
You should tailor your equality and diversity strategies to the needs of your organisation. Consider the current key issues facing your company, and how equality and diversity might help to address them.
The scale of your strategy willvary depending on the size of your business. While the same equality and diversity principles apply, whatever the size of a company, a small firm’s policy is likely to be simpler and shorter and match what it can realistically achieve.
Nevertheless, the following general principles are likely to apply to all organisations.
Set objectives and promote equality of opportunity for all
A written strategy should set out your organisation’s equal opportunity objectives, and the policies and actions that you will develop to meet them.
Get everyone involved in developing the strategy
In order to create a sense of shared ownership and responsibility, it is important that everyone in your organisation feels part of the process.
Involving employees at all levels in building a shared vision helps to ensure that everyone understands the equality and diversity challenges facing your organisation, and helps to create a culture that encourages and values everyone’s differences.
Creating a vision, communicating what your organisation will be like once it has achieved its equality and diversity objectives, and the benefits it will experience, are all important parts of this process.
Integrate the strategy into organisational processes and decision-making
To achieve real progress, it’s important that everyone understands what’s expected of them, both as individuals and as part of the company.
For example, senior managers might involve considering the equality and diversity implications and/or opportunities of their key business and policy decisions.
Programme or genre teams might consider how to ensure that suppliers match the organisation’s own commitments to equality; for example, that there is equality of opportunity for minority actors or contributors ahead of production.
Also, consider the impact of the images and language used in your external and internal publications, and how these reflect your organisation’s commitment to diversity.
Remember, it is important to ensure that
- everyone understands their role; and
- they have the knowledge and support they need to succeed in it.
Many organisations now include equality and diversity in their colleague performance and assessment processes.
What to include in the document?
- Your commitment to providing equality for all staff and job applicants. This pledge should stem from the head of your organisation or department - the chief executive or the lead commissioner.
- Your aim to encourage, value and manage diversity in the workforce.
- Your goal to attain a diverse workforce, representing the areas it is drawn from and the customers or audience it serves.
- Your company’s plan to monitor and report on progress effectively. Don’t just claim that it’s important; set indicators that allow you to demonstrate it and assess its contribution to your business.
- Your commitment to a workplace in which all employees can give their best, where discrimination, bullying, harassment and victimisation are not tolerated, and where decisions are based on merit (apart from limited exceptions allowed under the Equality Act – for Northern Ireland broadcasters see here).
- That breaches of the policy will be regarded as misconduct, and dealt with through your organisation’s disciplinary procedure.
The Creative Diversity Network and PACT have jointly published a template for an equality and diversity policy; this may work for your organisation.
It's intended to help companies develop their own policy and, although aimed at small or medium sized production companies, it could be used by any company in the industry.
Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has developed a broader sample equality policy.
Many large companies, as well as lots of smaller ones, will already have a strategy in place. If there’s a broadcaster or production company you admire, you might check if they have a strategy in place, and whether you could adapt some of their methods and goals.
If your strategy is to be successfully integrated into every part of business, it’s vital that the process is driven from the top.
There needs to be senior-level buy-in; many organisations will ask a senior executive to champion equality and diversity within the business.
This is a great way of making sure that issues are aired at senior level and the strategy is integrated across all activities and parts of the business. It also shows that a company is genuinely committed to, and concerned about, creating a culture based on equality and diversity.
Many organisations do not have a dedicated resource for equality and diversity, and so look to their HR department. But equality and diversity policies should cover all operations of an organisation, and can be developed by a broad range of employees from strategy departments to research and development departments.
Make sure you keep your strategy document up to date. Review it on a regular basis to ensure it is still achieving what it was designed for, amend it when necessary and consider releasing an annual update on your progress.
There are a number of external organisations which can help you get started or help you implement best practice on equality and diversity.
- the benefits of promoting equality and diversity;
- maximising the potential of diversity; and
- the benefits of having a diverse workforce.
There are several helpful guides:
- A guide on understanding the basics
- How to prevent discrimination
- What to do when discrimination happens
Acas also offers free equality and diversity e-learning, which can be used by employers and employees.