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The importance of diversity in the workplace

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by Michael Macfarlane | 18 August 2018

Diversity in the workplace is a hot topic in today’s business environment. The term diversity is nowadays widely understood, and most people understand its importance in the workplace, but when you take a good step back and take time to assess can you truly say your company is diverse? Managing diversity is about having the right person for the job regardless of sex, race and disability. It combats prejudice, stereotyping, harassment and other undignified behaviour and creates an environment in which people from all backgrounds can work together harmoniously. With strengthening laws surrounding LGBTQ+ rights and the global movement of different cultures coming together means that that the need to consider diversity in the workplace has become a prominent issue for business leaders.

A complex global issue

Diversity is a complex issue globally and has become a bit of a minefield for businesses who don’t fully understand it and are finding it increasingly difficult to stay up-to-date and adapt. Business leaders have to consider different races and genders, as well as considering the full spectrum of what diversity is about. Diversity laws nowadays cover race, gender, ethnic groups, age, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organisational function, education, and background, with the list constantly growing.  It has become a hiring managers’ nightmare, and almost impossible to ensure all the boxes are being ticked when building a diverse workforce, which is possibly the reason why many tend to hire the same sorts of people.

Human nature

We instinctively strive to find our own ‘tribe’ in life and fit in with like-minded people, which in business can often lead to issues when hiring a diverse workforce. We are all drawn to traits and personalities we can relate to, and are most comfortable with. However, constantly hiring the same type of employee can do a disservice to your business, team and overall business reputation. On the other hand, creating, nurturing and building a diverse workforce can bring with it an abundance of different skillsets, experiences and points of view and can help promote growth, new collaborations, and huge success. It is difficult to do, but recruiters and hiring managers need to step out of their own comfort zone, and leave personal preferences at the door when taking new staff into the business.

Diversify and get noticed

While diversity in hiring is one part of the task at hand, promoting complete inclusion within your organisation on every operational level is essential. Businesses adopting innovative diversity business models are reporting huge success and being recognised for it. For example, PwC was named the 2017 LGBTQ+ employer of the year at the British LGBT Awards (with the likes of HSBC, Deloitte and EY vying for the 2018 prize), IBM are the current top employer for women, and Barclays, Santander and Tesco are among those honoured in the Stonewall Equality Index. Receiving accolades like this is not only good for team morale, but also your overall brand reputation which is of the upmost importance.

Progression aside, we still have a long way to go to truly achieve what the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) strives for, and even the most forward thinking and reputable companies have come under fire in recent years. Facebook, seen to be at the forefront of diversity success in recent years has recently been under scrutiny for having a “predominantly white male workforce” with the release of their annual diversity report showing only minor changes, and the likes of the BBC coming under fire for the pay parity between their male and female actors. It is instances like this that we still need to shout about to ensure we achieve complete gender equality in our time. The EOC is working tirelessly to ensure all businesses, big or small are complying with legislation but this is incredibly difficult to enforce, but we can live in the hope that one day, all inequalities within the workplace will be a thing of the past.

Getting the business advantage

When the EOC was set up, it was to tackle the issue of gender discrimination predominantly and to offer women the same working rights as their male counterparts. However equal opportunities has now been broadened and backed up by law to provide the same level of protection to other minority groups in the workforce. So today, we have a Race Relations Policy, a Disability Discrimination Policy and an Equal Pay Policy, and great steps forward to achieving total equality.

Today, diversity in the workplace is much more than a vital social goal. Forward-thinking companies understand that building diverse teams of employees within their ranks at every level is actually critical to their organisational and operational success.

In other words, diversity is not just a business requirement, and it is not just the right thing to do; it is the basis of a powerful business advantage – sparking innovation, creativity and efficiency. To capitalise on the remarkable workplace culture that results when differences in talents, viewpoints and experiences are embraced, organisations should start by developing a clear strategy to embed the search for diversity within their core principles.

Manage diversity effectively

Your employees should be a true reflection of your diverse customer base. Injecting multiple world perspectives into your teams, attracting and retaining employees who speak a variety of languages, and seeking out individuals from different backgrounds can only enhance your offering. The benefits are clear: a more collaborative workplace, the promotion of innovation, greater synergies with customers and a powerful business reputation.

For more information about Sellick Partnership’s own diversity strategy contact our Diversity Champions on diversitychampions@sellickpartnership.co.uk