Bias Beyond The Board: Confidence in Decisions on the Frontline - DAC Beachcroft

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Bias Beyond The Board: Confidence in Decisions on the Frontline

Published On: 1 December 2014

Nearly half of housing sector employees do not believe their Boards consider diversity and inclusion when succession planning for executive and non-executive roles or other senior appointments, according to exclusive new research published this week by international law firm DAC Beachcroft and the Employers' Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei).

More significantly, the survey also showed that 45% of respondents do not believe housing association decision-makers are fully trained to make objective assessments free from bias, which means that nearly half do not have confidence in decisions made by line managers in their organisations.

Although respondents have confidence in the leadership of their organisations at Board level, many are less confident in their line manager’s ability to make decisions that include diversity and inclusion. Indeed, only 72% agree or strongly agree that frontline managers consider diversity and inclusion in operational staffing decisions such as recruitment, staff appraisals or promotions.

However, there is a good deal of confidence in the way the housing sector supports its diverse customers - 97% of survey respondents agree their organisation has a range of effective measures in place and 89% are happy that frontline managers consider diversity in customer-facing decisions like the provision of housing and care or tenant complaints.

The outcomes and analysis of the survey were unveiled at a conference hosted by DAC Beachcroft on Tuesday (25 November).  The report comes amid growing concern over the lack of appropriate representation of women and minorities in the private sector, particularly at Board level. 

Earlier this month, Business Secretary, Vince Cable, launched a plan to address the distinct absence of ethnic minorities on the UK's Boards, with a view to ensuring 20% of Board members come from a non-white background.

Both DAC Beachcroft and enei work with a number of housing associations and are familiar with their challenges. With increasing budgetary pressures on the provision of social housing, and supportive health and social care in the community, the challenges for social landlords to meet their commercial objectives and the needs of the communities they serve are ever increasing.

Commenting on the results, Rachel Dineley, Partner and Head of DAC Beachcroft's National Diversity & Equality Unit, said: "This timely report is the product of several months' of research, drawing on the views of a wide range of people within the sector, from Board members and function heads to procurement and diversity and equality specialists. The survey results have provided a very useful platform from which to consider the bigger picture and the practical challenges facing housing providers in the current climate, where making the right decisions at the outset may be a lot harder than first appears. What is abundantly clear is that that there is much more to be done to improve decision-making to secure better outcomes."

"At our conference this week, the universal feedback was that delegates recognise that the complexities of procurement and regulation of health and social care present new challenges for many housing providers. Getting the right people in place to collaborate in taking the right decisions first time around is not easy but the opportunities can be very rewarding."

She added: "There is still more to be done to seek to ensure that strategic and commercial objectives are not tainted with unconscious bias, when key decisions are being made, at all levels. The associated legal, financial and reputational risks will increase over time, for those organisations that fail to recognise and tackle the issue."

You can view a copy of the report here.