Irish workplaces would profit from greater ethnic diversity

Just 12pc of professionals believe their organisation’s workforce demographic is a fair reflection of today’s society.

The research, published as part of the Hays Ireland Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Report 2021, suggests that Irish-based professionals believe their workplace would benefit from hiring from more diverse backgrounds, including most notably, different ethnic backgrounds (43pc) and disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. 

The demographics cited by respondents include individuals with disabilities (35pc), women (33pc) and those who identify as part of the LGBT+ community (27pc). 

“It is now well recognised that failing to attract, cultivate and sustain a diverse workforce has a detrimental impact”

The benefits of greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace are well documented. However, while 70pc of professionals say their employer actively talks about the importance of ED&I in the workplace, only 57pc believe that their employer combines discussion with meaningful action.

According to the research, private sector employers are more committed to greater workplace diversity, versus their peers in the public sector. 

60pc of professionals in the private sector believe their employer is taking meaningful action to create a more diverse workplace, compared to just 50pc of professionals in the public sector. 

By extension, large organisations (250+ employees) are perceived as being more committed to taking meaningful action in this space (63pc), versus smaller SMES (53pc).

Challenges facing employers

“Equality, diversity and inclusion is a key issue for employers and employees alike as evidenced by the widespread support for ED&I campaigns and the increasing frequency of conversations about ED&I related issues,” explained Maureen Lynch, director at Hays Ireland.

“However, while all this discussion is absolutely vital, we wanted to understand if this talk is being translated into meaningful action that will genuinely improve equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“It is now well recognised that failing to attract, cultivate and sustain a diverse workforce has a detrimental impact. Yet despite a greater appreciation of the benefits ED&I can bring, for many it still isn’t receiving the attention it warrants.”

Despite the overall positive sentiment toward incorporating greater ED&I in the workplace, employers still anticipate potential challenges within their organisation. The most notable challenge cited by employers is insufficient employee engagement (46pc) with these new workplace practises and processes. 

Other prominent factors include ED&I not being considered a business priority within the organisation (43pc), and a potential resistance to change (39pc).

What positive action looks like

Amongst organisations committed to converted positive intentions into meaningful action, some of the most common approaches undertaken include: providing flexible working arrangements (49pc), offering remote working roles to access diverse talent in other geographic locations (37pc) and attending networking events and conferences targeted at organisations that advocate for underrepresented groups and communities (31pc).

More than a quarter (27pc) say they analyse job application data to understand which advertising channels produce a diverse mix of applicants.

“Our research suggests that less than half of employees believe their employer is taking action to improve ED&I,” said Lynch. “Given that many employers are faced with skills shortages and over half of professionals say they will only consider applying to an organisation with a public commitment to ED&I, it is clear that awareness alone isn’t enough and more needs to be done.

“Some of these actions will require access to greater data and access to resources, others can be put in place more easily. For example, the introduction of training to provide an understanding of unconscious bias, and then building on this training by implementing meaningful conscious inclusion policies, combined represent a positive next step in breaking down barriers that may come into play in the workplace and in the recruitment process.

“Communication is also key, as employees may not always be aware of the support and resources available to them and how to get involved.  In short, employers must be prepared to move from talking about diversity to introducing tangible policies capable of delivering diversity.  Without action, discussion of equity, diversity and inclusion becomes largely hollow, and may even highlight an organisation’s shortcomings in this space,” said Lynch.

Hays Ireland Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Report 2021

Hays Ireland Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Report 2021

Main image at top: Maureen Lynch, director, Hays Ireland

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.



Inclusion and diversity at work - a guide

Over the last two decades or so, a new business strategy has emerged which offers companies a clear solution to many of their key challenges. This approach is often misunderstood, undervalued and poorly implemented.