Total Business Magazine

Diversity: More Than Just a Quota

By Aliya Vigor-Robertson, Co-founder of JourneyHR

 

Let’s face it, diversity is an important and topical challenge facing businesses today. It’s becoming clear that there’s no room for slip ups when it comes to creating an inclusive corporate environment for everyone, and there is nowhere to hide for companies that refuse to address the problem. Despite all the great work that companies are doing, there’s always new steps to take, challenges to face and boundaries to push.

 

The state of play

Businesses’ attitudes to diversity have come on by leaps and bounds in recent years, and there have been several recent high-profile cases of companies taking drastic steps to address any failures in this area. For example, Starbucks’ decision to close over 8000 of its US outlets to provide its employees with racial bias training as a self-admitted ‘first step’ was a welcome decision that underlined the company’s ongoing commitment to improving its policy on diversity.

At the same time, debates around the gender pay gap remain on the agenda, with companies expected to close the gap and provide a transparent insight into how their staff are paid. It’s clear that the topic of diversity in business is a major priority that companies need to address.

Initiatives like these show that businesses, and society at large, are making a concerted effort to create an inclusive workplace, but there is more that can be done. Businesses of all sizes – from the biggest corporations to the smallest SMEs – need to make sure they’re getting diversity right, taking lessons from recent high-profile cases and applying these learnings to their own company.

 

What you should be doing

There are plenty of practical changes that businesses can make to help improve diversity in the workplace. An equal opportunities policy can do a lot to show candidates that race, gender or sexuality won’t prevent them from becoming a success in the business. Companies can go one step further by building links with local communities and creating a fair and transparent hiring process that accepts applicants based on their merits, not their background. These practical changes can do a huge amount in creating a positive workplace for everyone.

However, real inclusivity isn’t just an image. It’s not enough to simply meet a quota of diverse employees; it’s about making diversity intrinsic to a company’s success. Senior management have the largest role to play here. They are responsible for the direction of the company and have a duty to build the company’s culture by their own example. Making sure management can demonstrate this on a daily basis will instil an ethos that promotes inclusivity.

 

The biggest issue you’ve never heard of

Whilst issues surrounding race, religion or sexuality are hugely important, they aren’t the only diversity issues that need to be addressed. Other types of diversity also need to be seen as a priority and over the coming years, these are likely to gain more attention in the public eye.

For example, a study by the CIPD found that close to three-quarters of employers ignore neurodiversity – a term used to describe alternative thinking styles like ADHD, dyspraxia, autism and dyslexia.

Organisations need to recognise the unique strengths that neurodiverse workers bring to the table and learn how to properly utilise their strengths – ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Some companies are already doing this and seeing great success as a result. Software company, SAP, for example found that recruiting neurodiverse employees increased both its productivity and innovation. It also found that employees with dyslexia were particularly skilful in 3D modelling, whereas staff with autism worked best in its technology roles.

This is a great example of how welcoming a diverse workforce is not only the right thing to do, but also a great way to gain access to a talented pool of staff whose skills can push companies ahead of the competition.

The definition of diversity in the workplace is constantly transforming and evolving, and businesses face a unique challenge in making sure they do their part in promoting an inclusive environment. There’s no doubt that senior leaders have a responsibility to see how working practices can be better and to lead by example. With this approach, all companies have the opportunity to create a new era of social acceptance that welcomes everyone regardless of their differences.

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