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The importance of diversity in the workplace

by Jo Sellick | 24 June 2019

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. However when you take a good step back and take time to assess can you truly say your company is diverse? As LGBT+ Pride month comes to a close, Managing Director Jo Sellick takes a look at the global issue of diversity and offers advice on how businesses can use diversity to their advantage and create a truly inclusive culture.

Diversity is a complex issue and something many businesses often get wrong. Organisations that are successfully managing diversity will hire the right person for the job regardless of sex, race and disability, something that I would argue is not happening across the board here in the UK. Businesses that are conscious about diversity combat prejudice, stereotyping, harassment and undignified behaviour, creating an environment in which people from all backgrounds can work together harmoniously and succeed.

Diversity is a complex global issue that needs to be addressed 

Diversity can be hugely confusing and is often perceived to be a minefield for businesses who do not fully understand it and are finding it increasingly difficult to stay up-to-date and adapt. Diversity laws nowadays cover race, gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity, education, religion or belief and sex 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 similar candidates.

Human nature can stop you building a truly diverse workforce

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 bringing new staff into the business.

Diversify and get yourself (and your business) noticed

While diversity in hiring is one part of the task at hand, promoting complete inclusion within your organisation and externally is essential. Businesses adopting innovative diversity business models are reporting huge success and being recognised for it. For example, Vodafone Group was named the 2019 LGBTQ+ employer of the year at the British LGBT Awards and Pinsent Masons, Newcastle City Council and Lloyds Banking Group are among those honoured in the Stonewall Top 100 LGBT+ Employers 2019. 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 previously been under scrutiny for having a “predominantly white male workforce” with the release of their annual diversity report showing only minor changes. Also the likes of the BBC has come 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. We can however 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. As a result at Sellick Partnership we have a Race Relations Policy, a Disability Discrimination Policy and an Equal Pay Policy, amongst a number of other policies to protect our diverse workforce and ensure we are an inclusive employer.

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. It is also not just a business requirement, or simply the right thing to do. It is the basis of building 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 customer base. Injecting different perspectives and seeking out individuals from different backgrounds can only enhance what you are offering. In my opinion the benefits of hiring and retaining a diverse workforce are clear. You will build a more collaborative workplace, create greater synergies with customers and colleagues and promote and maintain a powerful business reputation.

If you want some help building an inclusive workforce and attracting diverse candidates, check out our Employer Resources, or get in touch with one of our team today.

Or to find out more about Sellick Partnership’s own diversity strategy contact our Diversity Champions on diversitychampions@sellickpartnership.co.uk or visit our website.