Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion: The Army’s internal war on inequality

Fred Gulliford

Coverage of the British Army’s latest recruitment campaign emphasises the need for organisations to improve both diversity and inclusion.

The military is an organisation defined by standards and tradition. One which prefers to be viewed as a singular entity and is not known for its focus on individuality within in its ranks.

However, the newest recruitment campaign from the British Army has placed emphasis on the range of individuals that make up the military. The £1.6 million advertising campaign highlights the plight of groups which have previously been marginalised on the grounds of gender, religion, sexuality and mental health.

The campaign includes short animated advertisements, the titles of which include:

“Can I be gay in the Army?”

“Can I practise my faith in the Army?”

“Will I be listened to in the Army?”

“Yes” is the answer according to the “This is Belonging” media campaign. The Great British stiff upper lip is now supple, loose and more willing to voice its concerns.

An image of an Army soldier

This is a bold move for an organisation steeped in a culture of tradition, and it signals the military’s acknowledgement that diversity & inclusion are crucial to any employer. This is just one example of a global movement towards greater diversity and inclusion. Research by PWC shows that 76% of employers surveyed have incorporated diversity and inclusion into their brands.

The Army’s media campaign has been met with a backlash from some who believe the “softened” stance on diversity & inclusion is a compromise to military prestige. This is not the case. There is no plan to change the recruitment process, the military will still demand that its employees work to the highest standards. It is simply a recognition that organisations that prioritise D&I perform better. From an economic perspective, businesses that are diverse and inclusive are 35% more likely to achieve higher financial returns. It is this productivity that the Army hopes to benefit from.

The sentiment behind this new approach is admirable, but the cracks have started to appear with regards to inclusion. In particular, one of the short animated adverts named “What if i get emotional in the Army?” touches on mental health issues affecting soldiers. Critics have suggested that the claim “there’s always someone there to talk to” is misleading given the number of soldiers who suffer from mental health issues.

While the prioritisation of diversity is important, it is meaningless unless supplemented by a strategy to make employees feel included. It has been said that:

“Diversity is being invited to the party, but inclusion is being asked to dance.”

In other words, diversity is easily measured and resolved, but inclusion is more abstract and is therefore overlooked. A survey by the Harvard Business Review revealed that: “98% of professionals surveyed said their companies had stated a commitment to inclusion, but only 72% said their company lived up to it.” Remedies for this problem are typically viewed as being arbitrary and rely on management leading the conversation. However, analytics can offer tangible data with which a company can measure their inclusion and hold departments to account.

The distinction between diversity and inclusion was recently highlighted by the BBC’s Carrie Gracie, who resigned from her post after discovering she was paid less than her male colleagues.

On the face of it, the BBC have achieved a reasonable level of diversity: of all its staff 42.8% are female, 10.2% have a disability and 14.5% are from a BAME background. However, scratch the surface and it appears that BBC female employees are forced to contend with a glass ceiling when it comes to pay. This is another example of an organisation’s efforts towards cultivating diversity being undermined by their failure to nurture inclusion.

This is a universal problem. To fully understand D&I shortcomings within an organisation, a sophisticated approach is required.

By using Artificial Intelligence, companies like Qlearsite can shine a light on D&I challenges in the workplace and allow companies to develop strategies that combat these barriers and ultimately create a more productive organisation.

It’s time to start the conversation

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