Many UK companies have barely begun to embed real change on areas such as sexual orientation, race and disability, according to the McKenzie-Delis Review.

The annual review – conducted in partnership with IPSOS and supported through strategic partner KPMG – is the largest of its kind in the UK with 89 companies participating this year.

It measures 10 facets of workplace diversity and inclusion (D&I) beyond gender and ethnicity, helping companies assess sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, nationality, socioeconomic status, mental health and wellbeing, and parenthood.

The report found that although one in three firms were actively looking to promote or hire staff with disabilities, many were still struggling to increase the representation of those living with disabilities.

It also found that businesses had a “lack of understanding and appreciation of the unique skillset and experiences people with disabilities bring to the organisation”.

Workplace diversity needs to be tackled

First launched in 2020, this year’s review sheds light on the complex challenges facing employers post-pandemic. Encouragingly, the business case for D&I is recognised as being stronger than ever, with companies starting to actively track their progress to demonstrate if, and how, they are embedding change.  

Leila McKenzie-Delis, CEO of D&I accelerator DIAL Global and Founder of the McKenzie-Delis Foundation, a charity committed to driving research and insight into workplace equality, said: “This year’s review showed some very encouraging aspects, and that UK plc is making progress, which we welcome. But when you break down each of the ten facets, it’s clear that there is still a long way to go.

“Firms are beginning to see that tracking and measuring D&I seriously, as they do every other aspect of their business, is imperative to ensuring strong business performance. Additionally, it means they will see their reputation among current and prospective employees, customers and shareholders improve.

“Some companies are already doing good things and are committed to measuring their progress. But there are others that haven’t done enough or even scratched the surface – particularly those businesses that still do not measure all the facets of D&I. 

“Let us be in no doubt - the UK’s biggest companies have a responsibility to lead by example and we need to see more organisations blazing a trail to move the dial and lead the way. It’s an ongoing challenge, but one we are determined to tackle.”

A total of 89 businesses participated in this year’s McKenzie-Delis Review, making it the largest yet. Unilever, Diageo, Royal Mail, Boots, Co-op, Page Group, Marks & Spencer, Jaguar Land Rover, Network Rail, Britvic, O2 Virgin, Superdrug, Tate & Lyle and The FA, were among those that took part.

Bina Mehta, Co-chair of the McKenzie-Delis Review, and Chair of KPMG in the UK said: "Organisations that place inclusion, diversity and equity at the heart of their business strategy have a competitive advantage. They benefit from fresh thinking and different perspectives, which ultimately translates into better business outcomes – it’s good for business and it’s good for society.

“The McKenzie-Delis Review takes a much-needed holistic approach to inclusion, diversity and equity, placing a spotlight on the many facets of diversity – not just gender or ethnicity. The collection of quality workforce data may reveal uncomfortable truths but it’s the critical first step towards turning the dial on diversity. It's only by embracing the uniqueness which comes from experience and background that open and inclusive cultures can truly become a reality.”

The report has made various recommendations to businesses under each of the ten facets - on best practices and how to strengthen diversity in the workforce. Among them were reviewing talent pipelines, helping businesses end racism in the workplace, providing year-round support for the LGBTQ+ community, and creating a disability employee resource group championed by a senior executive.