16 Mar 2022

For all organisations, the need to understand the diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) agenda within their workplace – and crucially to take action to constantly improve – is rapidly becoming a core focus of leadership teams. But for those companies in the healthcare sector, this agenda has added meaning and responsibility: not only is there a need for responsive and dynamic plans for their workforce, but there is also increasingly an ambition to make sure their impact within society contributes to addressing the gross inequity of care that we see.

More effective strategies

Hanover, as with so many organisations, has a core ambition to be an inclusive company. One that is more reflective of society. One that values diversity not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because there is a strong belief that it leads to greater impact in the work that we do. The most effective DE&I strategies are always built on having a solid understanding of data about, and insights into, both your organisation and your sector. To bring this to life, the UK’s PRCA Census in 2021 showed that across the communications industry, only 13% of employees are from Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic backgrounds.

Combining this insight with the data on what is happening in your company allows you to understand where your focus may need to be – is it about recruitment into this profession as a sector? Is it about internal progression? If you don’t have that baseline understanding it doesn’t mean that you are held back from taking action, but it is likely to mean that your tactics to drive change could be less strategic. Companies that understand the big picture in their organisation and, crucially, are willing to invest in addressing data and insight gaps are driving meaningful change at a more rapid pace.

Greater equity of access

Achieving greater DE&I within the workplace, for healthcare organisations, also enables companies to be closer to the needs of patients, to deliver interventions and information in a way that is more likely to drive greater equity of access. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the stark inequalities in our health system.

Recently we have seen more stories in the news about data from the NHS Race and Health Observatory, telling a devastating story of the overwhelming health inequalities experienced by minority ethnic groups in every aspect of healthcare, harming the health of millions of patients. Companies have to be part of the solution to this, and they certainly have to ensure that their activity isn’t inadvertently driving further inequity. To do this well requires building in diversity to their own workforce.

Making small positive changes can make a
significant difference to how engaged and
motivated workplaces can be.

Diverse representation within clinical trials

To take just one example, we know that there is a problem with diverse representation within clinical trials. There are no silver bullet solutions to addressing this. It will require multiple incremental changes within multiple organisations – regulators, funders, NHS Trusts, clinicians, etc – but there has to be a willingness to do something differently. To try to make a difference. To shift the dial.

During the pandemic, we saw huge innovation in this space. It became possible to do things that previously seemed unthinkable in an effort to open up studies to as many people and as quickly as possible. We saw an acceleration in the number of clinical trials that were able to operate remotely, often with patients not even needing to leave their own homes – and while this clearly won’t be the future for all trials, it does represent a healthy challenge to the more prevailing model before the pandemic.

Small positive changes

There is already much to celebrate when considering progress on this agenda and many companies are doing just that – sharing their best practice and showcasing what is possible with the right level of ambition and commitment. Their learnings demonstrate that making small positive changes can make a significant difference to how engaged and motivated workplaces can be, but also how that can translate into positive impact for the business and ultimately patients in society.

As we start to come back together, in offices and in our social interactions, it is so vital that companies embrace this agenda and the opportunities that it provides. It is incredibly motivating for employees to see companies prioritise this, and even more so for them to be involved in a movement that is seeking to address this within healthcare.