Research highlights Importance of D&I in Food and Drink Sector

26th May 2020

Posted In: The Topic

A new survey released today (May 26th) from the Agri-Food Diversity and Inclusion Forum delivered by Bord Bia and Aon has revealed that 85% of business leaders in the Irish food and drink sector industry have stated that attracting and developing diverse talent within the industry impacts growth prospects.

Four out of five CEO’s surveyed said they rank gender equality, diversity and inclusion as priorities for their organisation.

The survey found that flexibility in the workplace is still the most important criteria for employees when assessing employment opportunities. 79% of employees are provided with flexibility in working hours and 7 in 10 within the industry are offered the opportunity of either part time working, job sharing or working from home options.

The Agrifood Diversity and Inclusion Forum’s Pulse Survey found that there is a disconnect between business leaders and employees on the importance of the diversity and inclusion (D&I) agenda: 84% of business leaders state that gender equality and diversity and inclusion are priorities for their organisation, yet only 63% of employees believe this is true where they work while one in five believe D&I is ‘a box to be ticked’.

This gap is also evident in the progress made in attracting, retaining and progressing a diverse workforce to senior management with 86% of business leaders stating advancements have been made in recent years while only 65% of employees believing that to be the case. While 1 in 2 business leaders think diversity and inclusion is a high priority within the organisation, 24% have not dedicated any time or focus to the issue.

Steps have been undertaken with the food and drink sector to create a diverse talent pool with 79% of employees confirming Irish food and drink firms offering graduate specific programmes, 76% offer part-time working and 86% providing health and wellness supports.

These measures are playing a role in improving the attractiveness of the Irish food and drink industry to top talent with 4 in 5 employees surveyed choosing to work in the sector due to the opportunities offered to use their qualification and 7 in 10 highlighting the prospects of career advancement.

CEO of Bord Bia, Tara McCarthy (pictured) said: “It is evident from the data that, in line with the Origin Green charter, we are successfully advancing the diversity and inclusion agenda with 85% of CEO’s within the Irish food and drink industry, therefore enabling more companies to be in a strong position to compete to attract the best talent at all levels and across all fields of discipline.

“The difficulties posed by Covid-19 means that business leaders will now need to balance their short term needs with a longer-term vision of how diversity can contribute to strengthening the resilience of their business.

We believe that the insights from this survey will contribute to supporting the Irish food and drink industry on a road to recovery through innovation and diversity of thought.

“To assist in this process, the AgDIf Forum has developed a free online Toolkit for all companies in the food and drink industry, designed to embed a best practice culture in Irish businesses that will ensure that both companies and the entire sector remain competitive and attractive as a talent destination.”

Bord Bia has addressed the issue of attracting female talent, most recently, by appointing Deirdre Ryan as its Director of Origin Green; having 60% females on its senior leadership team; and by welcoming its largest in-take of graduates in its 25-year history (across its Marketing Fellowship Programme, Origin Green Ambassador Programme and Food Works programmes) with 70 new grads, 50:50 women.

Tara McCarthy added: “We believe that in two short years we have taken the correct steps in working towards shifting the needle on diversity and inclusion in this industry, and we look forward to building that momentum in the years ahead.”

The survey, developed jointly by Bord Bia and Aon, is part of a wider piece of research to measure existing diversity and inclusion metrics across the industry; to understand current challenges for women and to help accelerate diversity across the area over time. By comparing the views of employees and C-suite leaders, the results reveal some interesting differences in perceptions and attitudes.

Ciara Jackson, EMEA Food & Drink Industry Lead, Aon in Ireland said: “The findings of our survey demonstrate the strong business case for diversity and inclusion. Companies in the agri-food sector who attract and retain a diverse employee group benefit from a mixture of perspectives, experiences and skills that are key to fostering innovation and driving business growth.

The data identifies a perception gap between business leaders and the lived experiences of employees, so while there is evidence of a wide variety of D&I activity happening in organisations, supported by a variety of policies, perhaps communication with employees needs to be clearer.

At Aon, we encourage industry leaders to regularly review their D&I strategies and policies.

Making flexibility really work can be a true differentiator in attracting and retaining talent.

Offering and clearly communicating initiatives around health and wellbeing, flexibility and the organisations D&I agenda and plans will help companies to actively promote their employer value proposition.”

Over the course of the last year, the AgDIf Forum rolled out a series of Masterclasses to accelerate diversity in the agri-food sector, including webinars on How to Grow your Talent PoolCreating a Culture of Flexible Working and Overcoming your Recruitment Challenges. The next Masterclass webinar will take place on June 2nd providing a deep dive into the findings of the 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Pulse Survey. The webinar can be accessed here>>

For more information on the Pulse Survey visit here>>.