Diversity and Inclusion in Manufacturing and Engineering: Driving Innovation

If you’re in any doubt about the benefits of diversity and inclusion, read on. According to a recent Deloitte review, a diverse and inclusive culture gives you:

  • 2x the probability of exceeding your financial targets
  • 3x the probability of high performance
  • 6x the probability of innovation and agility
  • 8x the probability of better business outcomes

What’s the current state of diversity and inclusion in manufacturing?

On a superficial level, the manufacturing industry is making passable progress, with a workforce made up of 26% women and 13% people from ethnic minority groups. But ethnic diversity varies by sector, with three manufacturing sectors having more diversity than the UK average, and the rest lagging behind. And representation across roles is uneven, with the least diversity in the most senior roles. 

Lack of diversity tends to be self-reinforcing: with the best will in the world, you don’t know what you don’t know. A workplace full of white abled men who have absolutely no intention of excluding anyone will often still do so by accident, because they’re missing the information diverse perspectives can provide. Fixing this takes intentional inclusive action.

How to boost diversity and inclusion in your workforce

Don’t assume equal opportunities exist. Trying to choose fairly from the people who show up at interview is a great start, but more is needed. Engage, enable, and empower underrepresented groups. Tokenism won’t get you the amazing benefits of diversity–you have to be intentionally inclusive. 

A flow of diverse talent and ideas requires visibly diverse role models–and visibly diverse roles. For example, attracting more women engineers is crucial, but to attract a wider range of women, it’s also important to make it clear that the manufacturing sector needs more than engineers. It needs leaders, managers, strategists, policymakers, social scientists and analysts. Go beyond hard-hat stock images and celebrate the people who don’t work with heavy machinery. 

According to a recent IWIM survey, a visibly diverse community is one of the best ways to attract more women into manufacturing, while a lack of diversity puts off minority groups.

Another important factor in attracting women is visible impact–demonstrating that the sector offers meaningful work with the potential for a positive impact on society. 

Actionable diversity and inclusion strategies

Know who’s included and how. Formally track the demographics in your workforce, who gets offered opportunities, whose ideas are considered, who is invited to events and meetings, who is consulted in decision-making and proposal development, and how their pay stacks up against industry benchmarks. When drawing insights from this data, also think about intersectionality–how people from more than one underrepresented group, such as women of colour, are represented in your workforce. Focus on retaining and progressing the diverse talent you already have. STEM A-Levels and graduate recruitment are important, but only if you can hold on to those new recruits. Again, formally track training, progression, and employee retention to avoid losing your diverse talent to the “leaky pipeline” when they should be progressing to more senior roles.   Find out what makes them tick. What inspires and motivates people from the underrepresented communities you want to recruit and promote? What discourages them? Their answers may be quite different from those of your current team. Make people from underrepresented groups feel safe to speak out. Research shows it’s difficult–challenges include lack of confidence, social backlash, and the risk of being trivialised or misrepresented. As well as building an inclusive culture, actively provide them with support and encouragement as they express their views and strengths. Encourage allyship. It shouldn’t be on underrepresented voices to do all the work of speaking out. According to research in the Harvard Business Review, male allies are instrumental in creating an inclusive culture. 

Diversity and inclusion impact every aspect of business, including innovation, productivity, and the bottom line. That makes it everyone’s responsibility–and everyone stands to benefit.

To ensure you have a diverse workforce contact us today. 

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