Diversity can come in many forms: age, gender, race, religion to name a few. For us, the average man on the street, our lives can be enriched in a number of ways when we embrace diversity. We become more creative, more worldly, more tolerant and accepting of difference, and we enjoy a richer life experience. The business world has caught on to this and many organisations actively implement Diversity and Inclusion policies.
However, even though we know how important diversity is, we have seen the political and governmental world moving in the opposite direction. In the last 12 months, we have seen Donald Trump get elected President of the United States citing major anti-immigration policies. We have seen the UK vote to ‘Brexit’ from the Europe as the country wants to restrict migrant numbers. Closer to home, we saw Pauline Hanson pick up more support for her party ahead of the state elections. It seems the political world thinks integration is a bad thing.
What is Workplace Diversity and Inclusion?
Diversity in the workplace is often associated just with race or gender, but it’s truly about the differences in people just like us, and how we can come together to improve the skillsets of an organisation. Diversity can be confused sometimes with equality and closing the gender pay gap in the workplace, and whilst this is important, it’s not the only purpose behind initiatives. Research has proven that diversity improves productivity, business performance, innovation, talent acquisition and retention.
Diversity and inclusion encourages employees to increase motivation and work to their fullest. We’re all interested in hearing of our colleague’s fascinating experiences and Lazear’s research into the Globalisation of Team-Mates found that productivity gains are achieved when different skills and information sets come together.
Greater diversity on boards has to be a good thing, right? It’s been proven that there are positive links between company performance and female board representation. Companies with more than one woman on their board were 36% more profitable than those with no women. Cindy Gallop, a former advertising senior executive, goes even further and advocates that boards need to have three or more female members in order to get a positive and supportive environment.
Diversity is instrumental in unlocking innovation by creating an environment where employees are stimulated to ‘think outside the box.’ Organisations that can demonstrate both inherent and acquired diversity through birth and through experience are more innovative than those that had just the one form.
Talent Acquisition and Retention
Picture the scene – an office full of millennials demanding the best tech, chasing promotions after 6 months and choosing the best work hours for them. Well, although that description might be a stereotype, some of it is becoming reality. Millennials are changing the face of the workforce and they are often inspired by employers’ promises of diversity. 2 out of 3 graduates by 2020 will be women and female university graduate intake is already over 60% in the US. Employers stand to miss out on the best talent if they don’t acknowledge this and develop gender equal workplace cultures.
However diversity only drives business performance when it is associated with inclusiveness. It’s important that businesses treat employees as valued insiders, so that they want to share their knowledge. And not just bore the colleague who sits next to them with endless uninteresting stories!
So What Can The Social World Learn From The Business World?
UNESCO’s definition of social inclusion suggests it should be based on ‘the principles of tolerance and embracing diversity’. Balancing diversity and inclusion should be central to developing social inclusion policies. In reality what we see in many parts of the world is that things are getting worse. Cyndi Gallop explained at Mumbrella360 2016 that diversity is as much about humanity as hitting token human resources criteria. State and Federal governments and NGOs need to work harder at developing urban policies that bring together people of diverse origins. Inclusion needs to spread through people’s everyday life and not just be found in the workplace.
If governments work harder to promote the benefits of social inclusion, the public and not just corporations can start to see the benefit in diversity and inclusion. I’m not suggesting Trump will change his colours and support diversity, but his rhetoric and decisions might actually encourage governments and business to create some surprisingly positive results.