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What can PR companies do to avoid falling behind in D&I?

Diversity & inclusion continues to be one of the biggest challenges that the PR & comms workforce is facing. Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of fostering a culture that prioritises diversity & inclusion in a way that is authentic and meaningful as opposed to a box-ticking exercise. 

As an industry, we have a moral obligation to make PR & Communications more diverse and inclusive, ensuring everyone has the chance to thrive, irrespective of our differences.  

The 2021 PRCA Census revealed that our industry still has significant room for improvement, with stats showing that 74% of the workforce is White British, 84% is heterosexual, 74% have an undergraduate degree and only 4% disabled, among others.  

The importance of diversifying our workforce is backed up by a clear business case, with research proving that diversity in the workplace powers innovation and financial performance. 

The McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report, referenced in the 2018 PRCA Guidelines, revealed that ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their less diverse counterparts and as a result, are more likely to recruit top talent, improve decision making and employee satisfaction.  

So, what can companies to do improve D&I within their workforce? 

1. School outreach  

One of the most effective ways to target a wider pool of candidates and raise awareness of communications as a career choice is through school outreach programmes, particularly secondary schools and sixth forms as that’s when students are starting to think about what careers to pursue.  

A few ways your organisation could get involved is through presenting at career fairs, offering work experience days for 16–17-year-olds, mentoring young people or partnering with organisations such as Inspiring the Future to run career chats with students. At Grayling, for instance, we’ve started running an outreach programme in partnership with The Careers & Enterprise Company to target young people from diverse backgrounds.  

2. Ensure all staff is trained on unconscious bias 

The first step toward real change is understanding how our unconscious biases can impact our decision making. How we were brought up, our friendship groups, our exposure to diversity in society and the media are all aspects of bias that feed into our decision-making processes and ultimately help form our judgements. Unconscious biases don’t necessarily align with our conscious or declared beliefs, meaning they are even more important to pay attention to, as our brain often jumps to conclusions on people without us even realising, which can be highly detrimental in the workplace, especially when recruiting.  

Therefore, organisations should ensure all employees undergo mandatory unconscious bias training to reinforce that unconscious biases exist and create steps to help reduce the likelihood that such biases will impact decisions and interactions with others in the workplace. 

3. Assess company policies  

Employers must assess areas of the business in which discrimination can exist, as policies and the way internal issues are handled play a key role in employee satisfaction.  

This is the time for us to start to rethink our policies – companies must consider whether their practices are perpetuating discrimination in the workplace. They should be asking themselves if they have a fair and objective process for promotions and pay-rises. They should also consider flexible working and whether their policy is accommodating enough for working parents or carers, along with considerations for employees who undertake religious practices. 

4. Track & measure progress over time  

Diversity and inclusion efforts aren’t realistically achievable overnight and like with any organisational and cultural change, the practices can take time to embed, especially as businesses face new challenges post-pandemic.  

It’s imperative for organisations with ED&I agendas to be led from the top down and clear targets and goals should be set in order to track progress, enabling them to assess whether their efforts are driving change. Measurement is also a key way to hold leaders accountable in reaching their long-term goals.  

The PRCA offers a wide range of resources and training on diversity & inclusion. To view and sign up to training, visit the website here. You can also read about research the PRCA has commissioned on D&I here.