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Four out of ten companies in Europe do not have an active, neutral recruitment policy

Companies in Europe are heading towards better diversity policies, but things could be even better

21 May is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, but where are we with paying attention to diversity in the workplace? Today, six out of ten companies in Europe are committed to an active, neutral recruitment policy. A representative study by SD Worx, European market leader in HR and payroll services, across 4,371 companies of all sizes and active in a range of sectors shows that they are committed to equality, diversity and inclusion when hiring new staff. Yet there is still a long way to go when it comes to following up and reporting on diversity goals, even though this is considered particularly important by employees under the age of 30 entering the labour market.

    European commitment to equality

    61% of all companies surveyed indicated that they are committed to a neutral recruitment policy, with Ireland (74%), the United Kingdom (68%) and Belgium (69%) being the top three in Europe. In terms of equal pay and working conditions, regardless of gender, age or religion, Irish (73%), Belgian (72%), British (67%) and Spanish (65%) companies claimed to show strong engagement. In turn, on average 60% of companies indicated that they invest in equal access to training and development opportunities within the company. Ireland leads the way in this with 72%, followed by Belgium (71%) and Poland (69%). 

    Companies were also asked how visible they make their goals and actions. Just over half said that they often organise events and send out communications on diversity, equality and inclusion. 60% of European companies reported that they pay a lot of attention to promoting an equal and inclusive working environment with a focus on increasing diversity. This is primarily communicated via job ads (53%) and the company's own website (51%). Just over half of the companies also stated that they include this in their mission statement and corporate values (51%).

      Reporting and training

      To extend this even further, companies also actively involve their managers in their diversity, equality and inclusion policies. Just over half of the companies surveyed indicated that they provide internal training on this issue. Poland (62%), Ireland (61%) and the United Kingdom (60%), in particular, outperform the European average of 53%. Belgium's focus in this regard is remarkably low, at only 36%.

      Despite the best efforts of managers, a few clearly defined actions – such as a clear reporting system – are still missing in the area of systematic follow-up. This applies, for example, to the evaluation of managers' efforts in achieving the defined diversity goals. Only half of European companies have established such an evaluation. Belgium, in particular, lags behind at only 29%. This figure is higher in other European countries: Italy comes in at 60%, Poland at 57% and the United Kingdom at 58%. This despite the fact that diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives are only effective when efforts are made to roll them out correctly and companies also actively invest in a reporting system to help them keep their finger on the pulse. 

      In total, less than half of the companies claimed to actively maintain a plan in which diversity goals are defined and tracked. This is particularly noticeable in large (and international) companies with more than 250 employees. New European legislation is currently being developed that will require companies with more than 250 employees to actively maintain such diversity goals from 2024.

      Jurgen De Jonghe, Portfolio Manager at SD Worx Insights: "It's important for companies to invest in an active reporting system for the actions they're taking around diversity, equality and inclusion. On the one hand, such data provides a strong basis for optimising the diversity policy with specific and consciously driven actions. On the other, such a system offers ready-made proof that companies are taking effective action and not making empty promises to (future) employees."

        Positive impact on attracting and retaining employees

        It's worth noting that companies consciously engaged in diversity, equality and inclusion find it significantly easier to attract, motivate and retain employees. The study shows that such companies also often report higher productivity and profitability.
        "We see an increasing trend, primarily among the younger generation of employees, of taking diversity, equality and inclusion into account in the workplace. Generation Z and younger have grown up in a society shaped by inclusion and gender neutrality, issues that were previously given less attention. And that will have an impact in the future and on how companies recruit new staff", says Cathy Geerts, Chief HR Officer at SD Worx. "Employees not only consider a good salary and a healthy work-life balance to be essential, but also how companies position themselves and act in this day and age."

          About the survey

          iVox conducted a survey on behalf of SD Worx on how European employers approach diversity, equality and inclusion in the context of the war for talent. The survey focused on attractive employership in the war for talent, researching what employees look for in an employer and what employers do to be or become attractive as an employer. The survey covers seven areas employers can look to improve: well-being and people-driven HR, flexible work organisation, a motivating reward policy, an inspiring and stimulating culture, the digital workplace, talent management for sustainable careers, and recruitment.

          The study took place in February and March 2022 in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden Switzerland and the United Kingdom. A total of 4,371 companies were surveyed. The sample is representative of the specific local labour markets, with the same composition regarding the size of companies in the countries concerned.