During the last ten months, industry along with the working population of the world has demonstrated enormous resilience and responded positively to the impact of the pandemic, witnessing working practices change almost overnight.
When tested by adversity, as a society we have demonstrated the ability to respond immediately and innovatively. Why therefore, on the subject of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, which receives extensive contribution on news and business social media channels, do we continue to see in-substantive progress?
Interrelationship between business performance and workforce diversity
Many of the published studies on this important subject advocate the interrelationship between business performance and workforce diversity, in particular at the senior decision making level. We often see gender, race and ethnicity being the headline for articles, but this just seeks to highlight how slow businesses are in responding to what should on a moral level, not be considered a ‘subject’.
As a female managing director of a business, it is important to advocate not having diversity merely as a ‘representation’ within a business. This is not a good outcome for the individual or the firm. An appointment to a role should not be about simply ticking the ‘diversity box’ on a recruitment checklist; rather it should be based on the role requiring the values of diversity as part of the position criteria. Recruitment decisions made by business leaders should always be on an individual’s merit and the skills that person brings to the position. This is exactly where businesses need to consider their strategy with regard to the importance of the people within it. Instead of bringing diverse talent to an existing team, the focus should be on building a team that is diverse.
Create a culture where it is safe for staff to share views in an environment that facilitates innovative thinking
But what does being diverse really mean? Diversity simply reflects what is normal in the world. People are inherently different and bring different perspectives and differing views. Culturally, businesses should be accepting of a healthy and more representative debate that will inform decision making. Creating a culture where it is safe for staff to share views in an environment that facilitates innovative thinking will be key and could culturally present a challenge for established businesses who are led by people who have grown and moved into their positions during very different social times.
Now is the time for business leaders to be brave and lead the changes society needs and demands to see. A diverse group of decision makers are inherently more representative of today’s society and will assist corporate decision making reflecting, logically, more acceptable decisions for staff and clients alike. Leaders should be forthright with their stated corporate values based on delivering wider representation that will create a more diverse and productive culture.
It will become increasingly more important for firms to be measurable and accountable to stakeholders, staff and shareholders. Clear communication on financial performance is a given, but what about cultural indices?
We could reach a point where firms that are leading their business, accessing a much wider talent pool, benefiting from the ‘fresh eyes’ of a diverse group of contributors that starts to drive that improved performance and greater shareholder value leaving firms that are entrenched in the ‘old way of doing it’ behind.
If we stop to consider for a moment that according to McKinsey, millennials will shortly become the largest population within the global workforce. Being a diverse and inclusive employer could mean the difference between corporate stagnation and critical achievement in delivering long term financial success.
Written by Nicola Gott, Managing Director of Oak Jersey.