In our modern workforce today, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) shouldn’t just be buzzwords for companies. Beyond being a moral imperative, promoting DEI brings about many tangible benefits, including improved financial performance and a greater culture of innovation.

In the manufacturing sector, this is often a greater challenge than usual, as manufacturing is historically not seen as the most inclusive or diverse industry. However, achieving DEI in manufacturing requires more than mere lip service or tokenistic efforts. Manufacturing organisations need to approach diversity with the same problem-solving and systematic mindset that they use to approach manufacturing.


The Importance of DEI in Manufacturing

The imperative for promoting DEI in manufacturing cannot be overstated. Research has consistently demonstrated, regardless of industry, that diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones. A study by McKinsey shows that gender diversity is positively correlated with both profitability and value creation, especially when on executive teams.

In manufacturing, where complex problem-solving and innovation are key skills needed to succeed, having diversity of thought, perspective, and experience is invaluable. With this, embracing DEI encourages creativity and adaptability in the workplace, which are all essential traits in a manufacturing industry that is seeing a rapid change in needed skill sets. 

Moreover, DEI is simply a financial imperative; companies that prioritise diversity tend to experience better financial performance. The same McKinsey report found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 33% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.


How to Promote DEI in Manufacturing

The current challenge with diversity in manufacturing is that many manufacturing companies often rely on traditional and isolated one-off programs, such as mentoring programs or executive councils. While these individual programs show an effort made by companies, it is not nearly effective enough to advance diversity and promote actual change.

With these challenges, promoting DEI in manufacturing needs to involve a multifaceted and strategic approach that extends far beyond surface-level initiatives.


  1. Systematic Approach

As mentioned earlier, individual programs and efforts may not initiate the change needed to advance diversity in the workplace; DEI efforts must be integrated into the very fabric of the organisation.

DEI should be embedded in the DNA of the organisation; not just in the company’s mission, values, and operational practices, but also in the attitudes and experiences of leadership. Leaders themselves need to champion DEI initiatives and ensure they are woven into every aspect of the business.


  1. Cultivate a Culture of Inclusivity

Building a culture of inclusivity is key; this starts at the top with good leadership, but should also be enforced throughout the organisation. This involves creating an environment where all employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and ideas.

Leaders need to play a key role here and look at teams to see who is included in conversations and who is not. Looking at these data points can reveal gaps in representation. They should prioritise open communication, actively take in the input of diverse voices, and address any instances of bias or discrimination promptly.


  1. Focus on Retention and Progression

One common misconception when it comes to diversity and inclusion is that it can be solved by recruiting more diversely. While this is not untrue and recruitment is often the first step in promoting DEI, it’s equally important to focus on retention and progression.

Many manufacturing organisations often struggle with the “leaky pipeline” phenomenon, where women and other underrepresented groups are disproportionately seen less at higher levels of seniority. It’s not just about hiring diverse talent, it’s about ensuring that they have equal opportunities to grow and progress their careers in the company.


  1. Utilise Data

Like with any manufacturing process, data is a powerful tool. When used correctly, it can help understand diversity within an organisation and measure progress over time. Collecting, analysing, and leveraging data is a key strength of manufacturers and there is no reason this skill cannot be transferred to looking at DEI.

By looking closely at demographic data, performance reviews, or employee surveys, manufacturing companies can get a better understanding of employee satisfaction, engagement, and sense of belonging. This helps upper management identify areas for improvement, track the effectiveness of DEI initiatives, and hold themselves accountable for creating a more inclusive workplace.

At the end of the day, DEI should not just be a business decision, it is also a moral imperative for companies. However, achieving DEI in manufacturing, a traditionally male-dominated industry, may not be easy. By approaching diversity with a systematic approach, manufacturing companies can create a more equitable workplace for all employees.


Here at Sigma Recruitment, we provide specialist recruitment and talent attraction services in the manufacturing industry sectors nationwide.

For more information on our consultative hiring approach with our clients and how we help to create a diverse workplace, reach out here!

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