The ‘business case for diversity’

Interview with Bruce Roch, CSR Manager of Adecco group France and President of the French Association of Diversity Managers

The business case for diversity advocates for a diverse workforce in the employment sector. Diversity is about recognizing, respecting and valuing differences based on ethnicity, gender, colour, age, race, religion, disability, national origin and sexual orientation. It also includes an infinite range of individual unique characteristics and experiences. In this context, ENAR interviewed the CSR manager of Adecco on his views on the business case for diversity. Adecco is known to be an industry leader in providing recruitment and access to work. With this interview, we highlight a concrete aspect of diversity and how it is implemented in a global company.

1. How is the business case for diversity in the workplace implemented at ADECCO?

It’s really a “day to day” business case since our business is to enable as many people as possible to find a job. So whatever the colour, whatever the gender, whatever the age, whatever the disability or not, the more people we put in employment, the more money we get out of it. It’s just good business sense to have all skills - and skills is a very important word - at work.

2. How was the diversity policy communicated to ADECCO employees and how was it perceived?

It’s a long term diversity policy. We started our efforts back in 1999 with an external audit, then we took stock of a few issues internally and decided to create a unit against discrimination which was a first at this stage (before the equality bodies were set up in all EU Member States). The unit against discrimination was up and running as from 2001 at ADECCO and from that moment we trained our people again and again. We first trained our managers since they are the ones who carry out our policy at all levels. Then we trained our sales persons on how to resist discriminatory orders, and our recruiters of course, on how to recruit without discrimination. We then worked on all the processes, whether recruitment or sales processes. We negotiated with all the social partners an agreement against all types of discriminations back in 2007 and since 2008, we undertake discrimination test campaigns in our networks, during which we send fake candidates from various backgrounds and we measure the discrepancies with the so-called “average candidate”.

3. Why did ADECCO choose to adopt this new approach?

Diversity is at the very heart of our job. We are people that help people find a job, but we help skills find their positions. So it’s just “business as usual” I would say. This approach is a comprehensive approach and I think we now have something that is quite complete and which is known by everybody. I can’t guarantee that everybody will respect it, but I can guarantee that everybody knows the rules.

We are in a global economy, we need to attract talents. By being able to display a diverse workforce, we are being employers of choice and this is what we want to be.

4. According to you, what are the positive aspects to a diverse workforce on an internal level, e.g. in terms of human resources management?

We conducted back in the year 2007 a survey on the return on investment of diversity policies. We were really happy to have so many positive feedbacks, whether on gender equality policies, on age friendly policies, on disability friendly or on origin friendly policies, since management is a key issue. If you manage diversity, if you manage people properly (since it’s really a management issue), you get your profit out of it. People are trained and retained in their positions and feel happy with the company and their job. A good atmosphere creates productivity. But you need to repeat things at all levels and have cautious managers.

5. What are the positive aspects to a diverse workforce on an external level (regarding your clients and or external work relationships)?

We are in a global economy, we need to attract talents. By being able to display a diverse workforce, we are being employers of choice and this is what we want to be.

6. Do you feel that diversity has become an integral part of ADECCO’s work and happens ‘without even thinking’, or is it something everybody has to remind themselves about continuously, given the major prejudices within society?

I wish it was as perfect as this but we do have to repeat things, we have to convey our messages all the time. We are lucky because we have branches in many countries, and for example in France we have posters in these branches that act as reminders of the principle messages, such as non-discrimination or safety in the workplace etc., posters that say “here, no discrimination”. In the social agreement I talked about, there is a letter sent to all managers that has to be on the wall in the office, with the acknowledgements of everything that is contained in the agreement.

7. Apart from that, is there regular training on the issue of diversity?

We have an E-learning module that everybody has to go through. If required, we also have onsite trainings. They were conducted during the 2000 years but they are ongoing, especially for new recruits. We also have a team which is available for any questions, even for candidates who are eager to know if they’ve been discriminated or not.

8. Was the business case for diversity hard to put in place? If so, why?

Yes, but it was helped in time by the regulation. I believe the EU Race Equality Directive helped a lot with the implementation of non-discrimination in EU countries, to find a common ground for companies and to better raise awareness on diversity. Now it’s a matter of executive management, and a good diversity policy has to survive three CEOs. It’s not the project of the first one, or the hobby of the second, if you get the third one it’s the issue of the company.

9. Would you advise this way of working to other companies? Why?

I think each company has its own specificity. You need to bear in mind that diversity is something plural and it’s not race issues against disability or against gender issues. It’s all the various criteria that make a good diversity policy.


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