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It’s time to stop seeing diversity as a numbers game and embrace it as the driver of a strong future.
Whenever we talk about employee engagement, about business culture, about delivering game changing innovation; invariably the solution is founded in people. Whether it’s the leader seeking to engage hearts and minds or the employee bringing fresh enthusiasms to challenges, an organisation’s people are not just the greatest asset which the business can have, they are the single most important determining factor between success and failure.
Now obviously in order for that to be true we can’t look at our people in terms of regimented process followers or identical clones. To be quite honest, even if people were prepared to behave in that way, when you dictate rather than engage you get jobs-worth mediocrity rather than inspired solutions. And never forget that your customers aren’t faceless automata so in order to devise great products and services for them need you to be able to represent them in the workforce.
All this is a long-winded way of saying that if you haven’t embraced the diversity equation then it’s about time that you did. And here we’re not just talking about gender diversity or ethnic diversity but about the true richness which comes from different training and backgrounds, different outlooks and abilities. That’s why it’s so sad when businesses which move towards embracing diversity do so in terms of numbers and balance and quotas. No one wants to be hired or promoted simply to make the figures look good but on the other hand no one wants to be overlooked simply because their face doesn’t fit.
This poses a tremendous challenge for business leaders and HR departments alike. It is a human trait to naturally gravitate towards those with whom we share something in common and this can lead to unconscious bias. In order to remove that bias we need to be able to move away from scanning the CV for gender or age or qualifications or ethnicity and instead concentrate on asking questions such as; will this individual add to the richness of the organisation, or could this individual’s personality or experience help to bring out the best in others.
This move away from number-crunching to added value has recently been highlighted by the Legal Services Board which is looking to replace a prescriptive approach with an outcomes focused approach. This is intended to enable regulatory bodies to further develop a diverse profession through means such as collaboration, intelligence and best practice.
It’s a drive which was further highlighted by the justice secretary, Liz Truss, when she spoke at the Conservative party conference. Calling on the legal profession to break down barriers and improve diversity Liz Truss said that a modern justice system was reflected in its people, not just in practices and processes.
But this move towards a new emphasis on diversity is not solely confined to the legal profession. A recent study from Hermes Investment Management revealed that 51% of investors believe that diversity among senior managers is either important or vitally important. This represents a significant rise from the 25% showing last year but does reflect moves across sectors to see diversity as a game changer rather than a numbers game.
Your people have the potential to change lives, through the delivery of innovative solutions allied to outstanding customer engagement. It’s time to stop seeing diversity as a numbers game and embrace it as the driver of a strong future.