BY DEREK BENTON, Benton and Shergill

diversity

In its broadest terms, diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from each another. This means respect for and appreciation of differences including ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, marital status and religion. But it’s more than this. We all bring with us diverse perspectives, work experiences, life styles and cultures. As a source and driver of innovation, diversity is a “big idea” in business and in society and the power of diversity is unleashed when we respect and value differences.

The evidence shows that managing diversity is key to:

  • an organisation’s reputation – a good reputation attracts talent from all communities, helping to meet service delivery needs
  • staff recruitment and retention – valuing diversity enables employers to recruit and retain the best people for the job
  • productivity – staff perform better in organisations that value diversity and are committed to employees’ well being
  • mitigating organisational risks – effective diversity  management limits the risk of legal challenges and costly awards
  • driving new business with clients – to effectively do business in an increasing diverse customer base organisations need to mirror the marketplace

There is also a direct financial benefit of diversity. In 2015 McKinsey research found that companies that were more ethnically diverse were 35% more financially successful that those who are not. This was also the case for companies that were more gender diverse, where they were 15% more financially successful.

Diversity however cannot work on its own. Increasing the proportion of staff from certain under-represented groups does not lead to successful business change unless the workplace culture is an inclusive one where all individuals are able to flourish and have the same opportunities as everyone else.   For example, an organisation can increase its recruitment of women but without the correct organisational culture in place to support them, there will be an attrition problem as they will not stay.   Many organisations have lost some of their best diverse talent because of this.

The key to effective positive change in diversity leading to benefits to an organisation is through a combination of programmes to assist with the recruitment, progression and retention of staff combined with authentic inclusive leadership driven from the top, with accountability and ownership.

And for the cynics out there (often from the majority population) who see diversity as a threat to their own development or those of their colleagues, it is important to remind them (and ourselves) that diversity management is not about creating advantage for specific groups but about eliminating disadvantage.

Should you wish to know more or seek advice regarding diversity and inclusion in your business, please contact our D&I partners at Benton and Shergill at derek@bentonandshergill.com or visit their website http://bentonandshergill.com/