Why diversity matters

Diversity comes in many forms including age, gender, race, religion, disability, and socio-economic background. Creating and fostering a diverse workplace should be high on the agenda for any progressive organisation. In this article we will discuss why diversity is important and how inclusion plays a part in achieving long term success and employee wellbeing.

Why should diversity be on the agenda?

Firstly, it is the right thing to do. Employing people that are reflective of today’s society and the modern world makes business sense. HR professionals will note that people are the key to a business’s ongoing success. Research shows that a diverse workforce can improve a company’s bottom line. Organisations can benefit from a mix of life experience, blend of cultures and departure from group thinking. As clients become more and more progressive and the world more globalised, forward thinking and well-rounded businesses are likely to perform better than those not open to change.

The current climate

As a black female professional working in the City, I can speak to my own experiences of why I believe diversity and inclusion is fundamental. Recent events have yet again shone light on the need to embrace diversity and address racism and any forms of discrimination head on. It is also important that organisations understand the effect racism (in its various forms) can have on employees and their performance and that this is looked at in context when dealing with performance related issues, especially where employees are experiencing bullying or harassment.

This is also an opportunity for organisations to consider implementing Anti-Racism policies to hold individuals and the wider business to account, note that race discrimination is unlawful in recruitment and workplace settings.

Employee experience

It is important that organisations aim to help and support staff if workplace barriers are preventing them from meeting job expectations. Employees should not suffer due to a diverse characteristic that they possess and should be empowered by their employer when dealing with such issues. One way to do this is to keep an open dialogue with employees throughout the year and be mindful to not only check in during notable celebrations of diversity.
 
Failure to deal with these issues as they arise could lead to employees leaving prematurely. It is also important to note that such data surrounding reasons for leaving is not always captured by HR on an employee exit which means the company may miss the opportunity to address such issues going forward.

It's everyone’s responsibility

While HR will be responsible for creating policies and procedures to address diversity, senior management and the executive branch of the organisation need to be involved and invested in furthering diversity; executive level buy-in is paramount when addressing such issues. Ultimately, the tone comes from the top and works its way down to staff including those in middle management who the company should train and support to assist them in the drive to live the company’s values regarding the creation of an inclusive culture.

Don’t forget inclusion

It is paramount that organisations have fair recruitment practices that enable them to attract the best talent from diverse backgrounds. Whilst some organisations may use contextualised recruitment and blind CV reviews this should not end when a candidate obtains the role. Employers have a duty of care toward their staff which includes supporting their wellbeing; inclusion plays a part in this when dealing with diverse employees.

Feeling included gives employees a sense of belonging, value, and importance, this all contributes to a good company culture and increased retention of the great talent organisations work so hard to attract. Ultimately diversity initiatives will not be as successful as they could be without addressing inclusion.

Studies show that employees who feel valued and appreciated tend to work harder and be more productive. A good culture is likely to improve a company’s reputation and could lead to the attraction of more diverse talent.

Inclusion is something that should be embedded in a company’s culture. It can be difficult for HR to monitor culture in every area of a company and therefore open conversations are important, as is working to foster a culture where staff feel empowered to speak up without fear of reprisal or being victimised.

Reflection points:

  • Does your organisation have an equal opportunities policy and is it enforced?
  • Has your organisation created a safe space for employees to discuss concerns?
  • What is the view at board or management level on diversity? Is management reflective of the workforce?
  • Is the view of management filtered down and reflected in company culture?
  • Does your organisation have a mentoring programme and is it utilised?
  • What more can be done to improve inclusion and whose involvement is needed?

Creating a diverse and inclusive organisation is not an overnight process however it is necessary and should be tracked and scrutinised by senior management and HR. Where possible work with your staff and try to include them in the change process as they can provide real insight and offer feedback on proposals.

Written by Diarra Brown (Trainee Solicitor) Qualifying in September 2020

 

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