Is Diversity really just a business buzzword?

Is Diversity really just a business buzzword?

Diversity has been a hot topic for many years now, but the lack of progress in so many organisations suggests that this ‘hot topic’ has either passed them by or it has been relegated to HR’s to do list.  If this is the case for your business, I would urge the senior management team to wise up fast!  In our fast changing world, Diversity is quite simply one of the biggest contributors to the bottom line of the world’s most successful businesses.

How do I know that my business needs to change?

If any of the following applies to your business, a meaningful Diversity & Inclusion strategy and action plan may provide the business solutions you are looking for.

  1. Employees are leaving and you’re not really sure why.
  2. You are struggling to attract talent to your business.
  3. You are struggling to move fast enough in a crowded market to win new business.
  4. Management are dealing with a high number of employee relations issues and/or employee morale is low.
  5. You are not confident in the management team’s ability to make the best decisions.
  6. You want to increase the diversity of your leadership team.
  7. You want to be a business leader in diversity and inclusion.

So why is action around diversity and inclusion such a no-brainer?

In a diverse and multi-cultural society, a pro-active approach to encouraging and including employees of different genders, races, ages, disabilities, sexual orientations, backgrounds and thinking styles is clearly the right thing to do But as well as there undoubtedly being a moral argument, diversity is clearly a solution to many of the major business issues facing organisations today (just see McKinsey’s comprehensive 2015 study: Why Diversity Matters to understand how an effective Diversity Strategy has improved business performance and results for many businesses).

To give you just a flavour, an effective Diversity and Inclusion Strategy will help your business to:

 – Find and keep the best people. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that in a fiercely competitive recruitment market, businesses will increasingly need to access new pools of talent, and think creatively about how they do this, in to order attract the best people. And the same goes for retaining them. Employees are much more likely to stay with an organisation if they feel valued and respected, that they are contributing meaningfully to the organisation’s success and that they are being well recognised for this.

– Have the competitive edge. A diverse workforce leads to a far better understanding of and access to new markets. You will build stronger relationships with your clients, spot new opportunities and adapt to changes in the business environment much more quickly.

– Be more innovative. A diverse workforce that is enabled to think creatively and contribute actively to problem solving, relationship management, production and sales will reduce the limitations of ‘Group Think’ and create a more agile, innovative and commercially successful business.

– Create really collaborative and effective teams from the top down.  Inclusive teams that are able to harness a diverse range of skills, experiences, outlooks and thinking styles will overcome obstacles and achieve common business goals far more quickly and effectively than homogeneous teams.

If these arguments aren’t enough, Diversity will help YOU personally!  At some points in our lives, we will all have moments when we feel like the odd one out or uncomfortable within the group in which we find ourselves.  We might also find ourselves being judged unfairly based on something that makes us  different to others, or even excluded.  Conversely, we may make bad decisions based on the incorrect assumptions that we have made about others.  The more diverse and inclusive a workforce is, the less likely we will be to find ourselves in these positions.


What Do I Need to Do?

  1. Be open to real change.  Scrutinise each and every aspect of your business and be honest about the barriers that exist to creating an environment that is appealing and fair to all, regardless of background.   Don’t be afraid to call them out and change them.  Keep re-evaluating your approach.
  2. Be clear that diversity and inclusion are different things.  It is one thing to employ a diverse workforce, but keeping them and motivating them is a different matter.  It is essential that you create and maintain an inclusive culture to support your recruitment practices.   You can’t afford to rest once you have a diverse range of people on board – be prepared to work hard all the time to maintain a fair, respectful and supportive culture too.
  3. Invest in your people managers, as the success of your diversity and inclusion plan will hinge on them.  Educate and train your managers so that they are enabling opportunities, promotions and pay rises for everyone, not just people ‘like them’, and are sensitive to and understanding of different aspects of diversity.  Have a zero tolerance policy towards bullying and  harassment.  Reward collaboration and team work.
  4. Enjoy the buzz! Make your business somewhere where people from all backgrounds and with different ways of thinking and viewing the world want to work.  Once you have them, treasure their diversity and reap the benefits – both personal and business.

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