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A culture of diversity and inclusion - delivering results, innovation, employee engagement, attracting investors and reputation.
If I told you that I knew of a way to not only improve the performance of your own business but also to deliver increased prosperity for the whole of the UK you’d be interested wouldn’t you? If I then told you that the idea was backed by bodies such as the CBI, the government and increasingly by corporate investors then you might really start to take notice.
And if I then went on to explain that implementing this idea wouldn’t involve you in a large capital outlay or the time/cost expense of rewriting computer programs or buying new machinery then you might start to agree that this is an idea which perhaps deserved further exploration. So let me introduce you to the concept of building diversity and inclusion into your corporate culture.
Now I admit that the idea of diversity as a deliverer of results is still viewed with mixed feelings, particularly at the directorial level. So much so that the 2016 PwC Corporate Directors survey revealed a significant difference of viewpoint between male and female directors. For example, 92% of female directors and 38% of male directors believe that diversity leads to increased board performance. And when it comes to the impact of diversity on company performance the split was also in evidence with 89% of female directors and 24% of male directors viewing diversity in a positive light.
Diversity across the workplace
But when we talk about diversity and inclusion we’re not simply looking at some arbitrary division within the boardroom. True diversity if it is to mean anything at all encompasses not simply age and gender and ethnicity but also diversity of background and thought and opinion. And regardless of boardroom perceptions, study after study has shown the benefits of a culture of diversity and inclusion in a wide range of areas including delivering results, innovation, employee engagement, attracting investors and reputation.
That’s why the CBI’s recent report ‘Time for action: the business case for inclusive workplaces’ is unequivocal in its call for government and business to do more to boost diversity and inclusion across the UK’s workplaces. The report’s authors come up with ten recommendations starting with a call for businesses to recognise the impact their workplaces have on productivity with good employee relations helping to make workplaces more inclusive, thereby helping everyone to perform at their best. Other recommendations cover areas such as recruitment, training, internal language, attitude and leadership.
Taken as a whole, the CBI report’s message clearly points to the interplay between employee engagement, inclusion, productivity and results. What is also clear is that diversity isn’t simply an HR issue but has to be driven from the top. As the report says “While many leaders champion the importance of diversity, the best go further. Their day-to-day actions demonstrate it is a business priority.”
Diversity and inclusion isn’t some tick box exercise or some arbitrary attempt to artificially boost the prospects for one or another section of society. What it does do is give everyone an equal chance to contribute their talents and abilities for the benefit of organisations and eventually the country as a whole. Whatever your business strategy, whether it’s to come up with the best product, the best customer service, the best rate of return for investors or simply the best reputation, doesn’t it make sense to select the best people available from the whole marketplace rather than simply from one corner of it?
There is nothing new about the idea of boosting diversity within the workplace. Eight years ago the CBI, TUC and EHRC combined to published ‘Talent not tokenism’ and in the intervening years numerous reports have highlighted the benefits of a diverse workforce. This latest CBI report is also packed with statistics which highlight the benefits of diversity but perhaps the overwhelming case is not simply in boosting engagement or delivering innovation or improving results. The CBI report also highlights the interplay between business and society and the fact that the good of both a renewed emphasis on diversity and inclusion is “the right thing to do.”