The importance of diversity in the workplace

05 April 2019
blog author

If a company is to be successful, it requires staff to have a wide range of skills that flow effortlessly into a diverse talent pool.

However, to achieve this an employer needs to look at a broader spectrum of possible candidates when advertising vacant positions, perhaps in comparison to what they would normally gravitate towards.

A manager might have an initial idea of what he or she thinks is an ideal candidate when they place a job advert, but this can narrow down the chance of recruiting a future employee who possesses a wealth of knowledge and expertise.

This is because although like-minded people generally gel well on a day-to-day basis, a professional connection needs to reach a deeper level. Focusing on diversity can introduce a whole new range of opportunities and a variety of different people will naturally bring a plethora of different attributes to the workplace.

Diversity has never been a hotter topic. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines diversity as “the collective mixture of differences and similarities that include, for example, individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, preferences, and behaviours.”

Employers need to fully understand diversity in the workplace, including being aware of any inappropriate behaviour from colleagues (from office banter to telling a joke in poor taste), while being mindful of their own prejudices.

Opening the mind to new ideas is good for business, particularly from a financial point of view. From race and ethnicity to sexual orientation and physical abilities, diversity motivates businesses to stay competitive when it comes to hiring the right people, which in turn brings success through sourcing top talent and a rich skillset.

Only recently the former CEO of National Grid, Steve Holliday, slammed the oil and gas sector for not being up to speed on gender and ethnic diversity.

He believes attracting a more diverse workforce will play a major role in addressing the industry’s skills shortage and told Energy Voice: “If I look at what we achieved at National Grid and I look at where we are in the oil and gas industry right now, the oil and gas industry is appalling. Absolutely awful. It’s pretty much the worst sector for diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity.”

Anna Blue is the co-executive director of Girl Up, an organisation which helps to empower a generation of young women leaders who promote and defend gender equality worldwide.

She told Acre: “Hire women because they make your company better, not just to make your company look better from a diversity standpoint. And after you’ve hired them, include them.

“Traits that are traditionally considered feminine – empathy, collaboration, flexibility, patience – are critical to a successful and balanced workplace.”

American worldwide management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, has been examining diversity in the workplace for years and in a recent report, the firm confirmed businesses with more diverse workforces perform better financially.

The ‘Delivering through Diversity’ report was co-written by Dame Vivian Hunt DBE, the managing partner for the firm in the United Kingdom and Ireland.Dame Vivian was named one of the ten most influential black people in Britain by the Powerlist Foundation, and one of the 30 most influential people in the City of London by the Financial Times.

The report looks at how businesses can introduce inclusion strategies to give them a more competitive advantage.

The new analysis expands on McKinsey’s 2015 report ‘Why Diversity Matters’, and studies data of more than 1,000 companies, across 12 countries.While the analysis measures profitability, it also looks at the longer-term economic profit and explores diversity (beyond gender and ethnicity) at different levels of the organisation, while providing insight into best practices.

The study looked at top-team ethnic and cultural diversity and recognised it is correlated with profitability.

In McKinsey’s 2017 data set, researchers looked at racial and cultural diversity in six countries where the definition of ethnic diversity was consistent. The report highlighted that companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams are 33 per cent more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.

It also looked at the role of women in the workplace and noted that when it comes to the women’s share of executive roles, Australian companies lead the way (21 per cent). This is followed by the United States at 19 per cent and the United Kingdom at 15 per cent.

The report said: “We found that having gender diversity on executive teams, specifically, to be consistently positively correlated with higher profitability across geographies in our data set, underpinning the role that executive teams—where the bulk of strategic and operational decisions are made—play in the financial performance of a company.

“Our research confirms that gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity, particularly within executive teams, continue to be correlated to financial performance across multiple countries worldwide.

“Companies report that materially improving the representation of diverse talent within their ranks, as well as effectively utilizing inclusion and diversity as an enabler of business impact, are particularly challenging goals. Despite this, multiple companies worldwide have succeeded in making sizable improvements to inclusion and diversity across their organisations, and they have been reaping tangible benefits for their efforts.

“We found that these companies all developed inclusion and diversity (I&D) strategies that reflected their business ethos and priorities, ones that they were strongly committed to.”

Strategies include strengthening decision-making capabilities, attracting and retaining the right talent, adapting the current approach, and identifying the mix of inherent traits (for example ethnicity) and acquired traits (educational background or experience).

If you are an individual who feels you have a wealth of talent and expertise to offer a company, get in touch with one of our Acre consultants and find out how you can be connected.