Andrew Marsh, chair of Vistage for the North East and Northumberland, NED for numerous businesses and charities; and successful entrepreneur, spends his days helping business leaders achieve goals and find opportunity. Over the next three articles Andrew is going to look at the importance of a robust policy and approach for each of Diversity, Engagement and Inclusion as they are of true importance to get right, rather than being viewed as just a box ticking exercise.
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“In the DEI conversation each are as important as each other, and intricately bound together but for the purpose of this article we are going to start by looking at Diversity.

“What exactly is diversity, why does it matter, and how as an organisation, do you ensure that diversity garners a positive edge for competitive advantage?

“There is a potential for many companies to just tick boxes when it comes to diversity, but the importance of getting your approach to diversity right could bring in more profit, create greater perspectives of opportunity and improve communication on many levels. A recent study from McKinsey & Company shows that diversity can be profitable, for example, on average, companies that practice gender diversity in executive teams outperform peers by over 20%.

“But what is diversity when alongside engagement and inclusion? It is a deep reference and can be applied to many things including social, gender, race, religion, disability, culture, age, stature and the most recent, pronoun reference (He/Him. She/Her, They/Them). According to Alison Reynolds of Reynolds HR and OD Limited, the law is changing at such a fast pace in the diversity world, it will soon no longer be about making a choice, but about following legislation to recruit and promote in the workplace.

“As a leader it’s about ensuring you are including and engaging with a quality mix of perspectives. To get it right provides an organisation with a rich tapestry of perspectives, knowledge, culture and opportunity. To get it wrong can leave a company in an “institutional” same think state, lacking vision, with invisible barriers that show or hinder progress in today’s markets.

“This however can bring a challenge in itself for many, especially when seeking board diversity – to get true diversity you may find yourself having to find a lot of people to achieve diversity.  But that is a bit of a myth.  It is important that your approach to diversity is relevant and will achieve quality of perspective with anyone appointed being the best individual for the role.     What is fundamental in diversity is ensuring you are appealing and engaging to as many wide-ranging audiences as possible, in other words make your language on job adverts as open for diverse applications as possible.   Take time to reflect are we unconsciously bias with our words?

“If you are serious about diversity there are lots of groups that can help you get your engagement right including the Asian Federation of Small Business, City Ladies, Diversity in Entrepreneurship, Chamber of Commerce, HR Dept and of course, Vistage.

“There is the law element to take into consideration obviously, on gender pay reporting and opportunity, but internally it is more important to work out how to make it relevant by measuring and reviewing your diversity policy and employee mix regularly. As a board you should also have on your risk register any natural objections that are frequently raised, such as having token representatives, unconscious bias and of course, considering more hidden diversities.

“Vistage runs some interesting session for its members on Diversity, with key speakers, and includes focuses on unconscious bias, anti-harassment and discrimination, diversity audits and analysis, talent management and inclusive cultures.

“It is well known that of the boards in the UK only 30% have female representatives, and according to Affirmity companies are struggling to maintain and deliver effective DEI, with only 22% happy with what they are achieving. They also share that only 40% of companies have on offer DE&I-related learning and development opportunities to all employees and just 45% say that their workforce reflects the demographics of today’s marketplace. All in all, pretty poor stats that shows there is still much work to be done.

“I have recently organised for Alison Reynolds of Reynolds HR and OD Limited to present to some of my peer groups and their learnings for their companies and board settings has been invaluable. It was agreed unanimously that the only way true diversity could ever be achieved is through the total removal of personal assessments, bias and thoughts… which is pretty much impossible.

“This is a fascinating thought, so much so, that Dr Joanna Berry and myself are preparing a diversity paper together, looking at it in an event June, with details to be released soon.

“One thing we can do is to make a commitment to learn from the world’s best, including Suzanne Doyle Morris, Prof Martyna Sliwa, and Prof Jamie Callaghan, all of whom can be found online with their thoughts and guidance. And to audit our efforts and actions regularly. Speak to as many diverse audiences and potential employees as possible, share best practice and approach diversity with an open mind.”

If you need help infiltrating diversity throughout your company or your board, then do get in touch with Andrew on

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About The Author

Andrew Marsh is chair of Vistage for the North East and Northumberland, a NED for numerous businesses and charities; and a successful entrepreneur in his own right.

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