Put simply, workplace diversity is about how different the people in your workforce are from one another in terms of race, gender, ethnic group, sexuality, disability, education level, socio-economic background and more.
While most forward-thinking business minds recognize that it is both sensible and right for a company to reflect the full spectrum of the society in which it operates, many organizations have been held back by a ‘comfort zone’ approach to recruitment. It can be tempting to hire someone because ‘their face fits’ – because you know you’ll get along. But if it ends up in a workplace where everyone’s face is basically the same, the results are bad for your business as well as bad for society.
Studies have shown that diversity within a group – whether that’s in terms of race, gender or other differences – results in groups that function more effectively. More diverse companies gain a higher market share. So if your business could use a boost, boosting the diversity of your workforce could be the answer. Here are a few problems that an upswing in diversity could solve for your business.
1 You’re unprepared for change
You don’t need us to remind you of how quickly business can change – you get those reminders every time you open the Uber app instead of calling a cab, or walk past the storefront that used to be a Blockbuster.
So what happens if technology, demographics, the economy or climate change drop a blockbuster on your industry? Are you ready to adapt?
To be prepared for change, you need problem-solvers; and diversity brings the best problem-solvers to your organization. The more diverse in range of backgrounds your employees hail from, the broader the pool of talent and experience you can draw on to help you meet the fluctuating challenges facing your business.
2 You want to broaden your customer base
Rapid shifts in technology represent an opportunity as well as a threat to your business: the world is getting smaller, meaning far more customers are out there waiting for you. And you should go get them. If your customer base is concentrated around one or two major customers it can appear unstable to potential customers and investors, even if you think you’re doing just fine. A diverse customer base can cushion the loss of business from any single customer, and increase the value of your business overall.
A diverse company has a competitive edge in accessing new markets because it collects diverse skills and experiences like a magpie collects shiny treasure. What’s more, a better understanding and accommodation of diverse customer groups and their needs will improve marketing and customer service with all of your customers, making it easier to attract and retain a diverse range of customers, build relationships with them and increase customer satisfaction.
3 You’re struggling to come up with new ideas
Innovation is the lifeblood of any successful business: driving growth, bringing access to new markets, attracting and retaining customers, and simply helping you to work better. But you don’t get new ideas from a culture of uniform faces.
A diverse workforce provides a greater range of experiences from which to draw new ideas; but it also provides a greater range of viewpoints and working styles. Managing these diverse perspectives effectively makes for a more creative, innovative, problem-solving culture.
4 You’re finding it hard to recruit and retain the best staff
More and more companies report finding it difficult to fill full-time vacancies at all – and it’s frustrating entrusting any part of your business to anyone short of the very best.
Focusing on diversity and equality in your workplace doesn’t just give you a wider pool of candidates to hire: it provides a virtuous circle whereby the best candidates are attracted to your business. Research has shown a high proportion of recent graduates give weight to the diversity, equality and inclusion policies of their potential employers.
What’s more, having the necessary policies and procedures in place to manage a diverse workforce will help you retain a happy, high-performing, productive workforce, with low rates of absenteeism and litigation.
5 You have an image problem
If the benefits to your business, your employees, and society at large are not enough to convince you of the merits of a diverse workforce, consider this: running a homogenous business makes you look bad. Outdated, boring and bad: to your potential customers, potential employees, regulatory bodies, the media and almost everyone else. We’re not suggesting you make ‘diversity hires’ simply so you can put a few pictures of women or minorities on your website – that creates resentment and frankly looks even worse. Instead, take a good look at your business and think about how you can transform it into a genuinely diverse, welcoming environment for everyone – and how much of a better business it will be when you do.
Diversity is a journey – a journey that is essential to travel as the economy becomes increasingly global but is also the right road for our businesses and our societies to go down. It’s a journey towards more innovation, a more talented workforce, better performance for your business and a more inclusive, equal society for all of us.
Both studies and anecdotal evidence from businesses across the world show that equality and diversity are vital for businesses to achieve their full potential. The collaboration of different minds with different ideas, different backgrounds, and different skills can transform an organization. Will you let it transform yours?