Diversity, equity and inclusion have become hot topics in business over the last decade or so, with more companies than ever recognising the importance of having an inclusive culture that enables people to thrive and reach their full potential. But in times of crisis – much like the intense economic uncertainty we face today – these topics often fall by the wayside.

We conversed with diversity, equity and inclusion expert, Joanna Aunon, to find out why it’s actually in a CEO’s best interests to act now in their pursuit of DE&I, even during tough times. Joanna is a director at WiHTL, one of the most prominent diversity, equity and inclusion advocacy organisations in the UK, with a particular focus on the hospitality, travel, leisure and retails sectors.

WiHTL conducts primary research into how organisations across the UK are progressing their diversity, equity and inclusion agenda to raise awareness of the subject. Their evidence-based and advice-driven content supports organisations to move forward and progress on a subject that many perceive to be somewhat daunting, inspiring business leaders to become more confident and enhance their workplace cultures.

Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are key to Survival and Success

“You can read through countless McKinsey reports”, Joanna claimed, “…that demonstrate that the more diverse a team is, the more innovative, creative, and productive it will be.” Organisations that embrace diverse cultures are in turn more agile, adaptable and profitable than their competitors, which enhances their resilience in facing adverse conditions.

Joanna headshot

Joanna Aunon’s CV highlights //

2018 – Present // Director – WiHTL

2018 – 2020 // Head of Talent Acquisition – ISG plc

2010 – 2018 // Various – TJX Europe

2006 – 2010 // Resourcing & Talent Manager – Paramount Restaurants

2004 – 2006 // Resourcing Manager UK, EU & Africa – Hilton Int.

The key to building a diverse team lies in inclusion, which is ensuring that every person in your team feels their opinions are valued equally. Being able to demonstrate a high level of inclusion helps to attract a superior pool of talent. “CEOs always need and want the very best people around them, even more so during testing times” Joanna concluded.

How are Diversity and Inclusion Statistics in UK Businesses Progressing?

WiHTL’s most recent report shows that UK businesses across the hospitality, travel, leisure, and retail sectors are heeding this advice, with 90% now executing a comprehensive D&I strategy. The surprising progress seen through the pandemic continued into 2022, and leadership teams in HTL and retail are gradually becoming more diverse as their workplace environments become more inclusive.  

However, those teams are still far from reflecting the communities they serve. “At the current rate of progress in HTL,” the report states, “…it would take more than eleven years to reach gender parity across the top three leadership levels, and there are still too many companies with zero ethnic minority representation.”

With all this in mind, how can businesses improve their D&I statistics starting today?

Joanna’s Three Things

number 1

Collect and Analyse Data.

Business leaders need to analyse their various data points to understand how inclusive their cultures really are and where they can improve. “When you’re hiring for a particular role, for instance,” she said, “…take notice of how many people from each demographic apply.” If your findings are skewed heavily, ask yourself why. It could be that your job descriptions only appeal to people from a particular demographic, in which case your business may benefit from specialist training in good recruitment practices.

number 2

Talk to your people.

“Ask your people how they feel”, Joanna instructed. “That can be done easily with an anonymous survey via Google Forms or Surveymonkey, but make sure the questions you ask are through the lens of inclusion.” This will directly indicate how you can improve your practices to ensure everyone within your team feels valued. In time, this will attract a wider, better-quality pool of talent while simultaneously boosting retainment, enhancing productivity, and ultimately supporting your business’ success.

number 3

Create a strategy to improve your inclusion which will then breed diversity.

After analysing your data and discovering how your staff feel, it should be clear if and how you need to adjust your processes and policies to improve your diversity and inclusion. The next step you should take is to make a plan to action those adjustments, but critically, you must also understand that your plan will need to be updated regularly.

“You have to remember that the process of improving your diversity and inclusion is a journey, not a destination”, said Joanna, “…a marathon rather than a sprint.” A good way of settling into that mindset is to take the pressure off yourself to be perfect in this area. No one is expecting you to have all the answers right away, but as long as you’re making an conscious effort – and continue to do so – you will reap the rewards that diversity and inclusion bring.

“Focus on making your organisation a place where your people can come every day and feel safe, valued, and respected”, Joanna recommended. “That is a really good place to start.”

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We’d like to thank Joanna for shedding some much-needed light on the topic of diversity and inclusion. Given how prominent it is becoming, and how many doors it opens for businesses, we believe our members will find great value in Joanna’s insights.

Is your business struggling to attract diverse talent and build an inclusive culture? Apply to All Together’s pro bono advisory platform today for up to 5 hours of one-to-one advice from one of the UK’s elite entrepreneurs.