Ambition magazine writes about our D&I ambitions

Business Comms

We started a brand new year at Reach with a new Head of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), a newly created role established to produce a “truly diverse and inclusive workforce across the UK and Ireland” that reflects our company's and our customers’ values. That person is Dr Julie Humphreys and Ambition magazine’s Emma Dieghan spoke to Dr Humphreys about our D&I plans.

Dr Humphreys’ timeline boasts a number of high level D&I and HR roles at some of the world’s biggest businesses including Compass Group and AIG. And the subject of diversity and inclusion is a passion for the business professional.

“It's important to me that my work reflects my values, I need to believe in the core beliefs of the organisations I work for and I need to believe that inclusion is a priority. I was struck by Reach's authenticity in its ambition and how it placed D&I as a business priority, hence I am directly reporting into the CEO, Jim Mullen,” she begins.

In Northern Ireland you’ll associate Reach with the Daily Mirror and Belfast Live media brands. After joining the company in January, Dr Humphreys praises the firm’s existing D&I work and looks forward to broadening its reach: “There is some amazing activity already taking place - there are ethnicity, gender and LGBTQ+ workstreams, diverse hiring projects and a network of diversity champions - my immediate aim is to bring all this together into a cohesive framework so we all going in the same direction.”

D&I is, rightfully, taking increasing priority at businesses today. In fact global searches for ‘diversity and inclusion manager’ roles spiked with interest last year, growing by 122% since 2010 according to search trend data sourced by Instant Offices. 

Its report also stated that jobs in Diversity and Inclusion in the UK have increased by around 20% in the last 12 months and in the UK, there was a massive 106% rise for online job postings for diversity and inclusion roles.

Backing these statistics is one of Glassdoor’s top hiring trends for 2020, which showed a greater focus on diversity  jobs. And the job site company predicted that there will be a wave of hiring for leaders and managers that are able to drive more diversity and inclusion in the workplace, adding that between August 2018 and 2019, online job postings for diversity and inclusion rose by 106% in the UK alone. 

Dr Humphreys says indeed, in its various guises, D&I has had something of a presence in the workplace for many years, but today it is being felt more than ever. She continues: “The work has been around for years. 20 years ago I was working on equal opportunities, fast forward and it's called diversity, inclusion, belonging. There's lots of names for what is essentially; aiming to have an engaged, representative employee base and leadership teams all working in a respectful environment.”

Her immediate priorities in her new role will include “completely rethinking diversity” and going back to basics she says.

“Reach is redefining what D&I is. We are working closely with our employees and directly involving them in the creation of the new strategy and direction. 2020 saw tumultuous changes across the world and our strategy needs to reflect those changes and their impact on our employees and ultimately, our readers.”

Further research has shown that the number of consumers making their purchasing decision based on personal beliefs and values is also rising, another reason why D&I is important for business. 

In 2019 over half of consumers (64%) were belief-driven buyers across eight highly influential global markets and an Edelman report on brands and trust has revealed that 69% of consumers want to support brands that express their values, and are more likely to trust brands that are more committed to being involved in societal issues. 

More recent research on brands and belief showed that 53% of buyers agree that every brand has a responsibility to get involved in at least one social issue.

Dr Humphreys says another one of her imminent priorities will be to assess the impact COVID has had. “We want to look at how COVID has impacted the D&I agenda, in many cases we have seen D&I expand to include wellbeing, whereas previously this usually was an add-on to other HR areas but it has become increasingly linked to D&I since COVID. But interestingly this pandemic is not currently being linked to disability – i.e. with the Equality Act connection. I do wonder what challenges long covid will bring to HR, there are so many implications, including for D&I,” she says. 

“There is lots of passion around the topic in Reach - my role is to guide that passion and with the senior executive’s support, create a real focus on inclusion that we can all be proud to be part of. When we, eventually, come out of this crisis, we want to ensure we move to a workplace that is more genuinely inclusive. We need to learn the lessons of the pandemic and continue to invest in our employees’ wellbeing. We also need to take a holistic approach and stop seeing inclusion as a 'programme of activity' and instead embed it into the core of the organisation.”

It’s a culture Dr Humphreys says should be a priority in every business, and one which can help attract and retain talent, but, she says, more needs to be done on a wider basis. “We have made some great strides, but there is more to do. A great inclusion strategy understands and reflects national and local nuances and I will be working with local leaders. And there can be synergies with the other areas of the business (HR, L&D etc.) when it comes to creating a fairer world of work post pandemic. And where should we focus our energies? On getting measurement back on the agenda – i.e. the gender pay gap reporting along with ethnicity gap reporting. I would also like to see social mobility included in legislation,” she adds.

Read the full February edition of Ambition, a magazine by NI Chamber of Commerce, here.  

Keep in touch with Julie on LinkedIn and Twitter.