In recruitment, as in all other areas of life, new ways of working come and go. Many things start out as a great idea but become a passing fad as more effective solutions are found.

So what about workplace diversity? “Diversity: the art of thinking independently together”, is the definition of diversity, according to American entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes. But is it just a fad – or a sensible recruitment strategy that delivers tangible benefits?

Studies clearly demonstrate that organisations embracing a greater diversity in the workplace outperform the competition and deliver higher profits. Indeed research by the Boston Consulting Group in 2018 concluded that “increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance”. That improved financial performance equated to 19% higher revenues.

A better financial return is reason enough for most companies to consider such a strategy, but actively seeking increased diversity in the workplace delivers a whole raft of other benefits too.

But first, let’s look at what we mean by diversity

Put simply, it means actively growing a workforce that includes people with a whole range of different characteristics.

That could be anything from gender, ethnic background, religion, age, sexual orientation, education level, race, socioeconomic status – in fact, anything that might give that person a different outlook on life.

If we accept that diversity is a good thing, what benefits can an organisation expect to see from such a strategy?

Access many points of view

People view the world from their own personal standpoint, and so you will get access to a whole range of unique insights and perspectives. And when you get a variety of viewpoints, you can take elements of each to come up with the most effective solution.

It’s great for customer relations too, as your customer base will also be diverse.  As an example, disabled people and their families in the UK have a spending power of over £250 billion. If your workforce includes people with disabilities, they will be able to give valuable insights into understanding the challenges of this sector of society.

Foster a more creative environment

You’ve heard the expression ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. If everyone in a group thinks the same way, they’ll fall back on familiar and comfortable solutions. Throw in some different viewpoints, and suddenly the creative spark flares. New ideas are born, which in turn generate different and innovative trains of thought.

Achieve higher productivity

As human beings, we naturally want to ‘fit in’. Where there is a group with similar views, one person finds it hard to disagree. But where you have a range of ideas, people feel braver about contributing their own. And once they feel able to contribute, they feel included. Inclusiveness removes barriers and fosters teamwork. And effective teamwork has a direct result on productivity with diverse teams seeing a 60% improvement in decision making.

Recruit and keep the best staff

It’s kind of obvious that if you open up your vacancies to all elements of society, you’ll attract a wider range of candidates. Only last week we heard that a client put a hold to the interview process until they had a more diverse selection of candidates on their shortlist. Having a diverse shortlist is likely to increase your chances of finding an outstanding person for your job. And because people enjoy working for an open, diverse organisation, retention rates will increase.  As your reputation grows as an inclusive employer, a virtuous circle is created.  You attract a diverse range of higher calibre candidates because of your reputation, which in turn enhances your reputation even more.

Open up new markets

OK, not every organisation is looking to expand into other countries. But if you are, having employees with different language skills and cultural backgrounds is a massive advantage, and makes it easier to interact with a more global customer base.

So fad or sensible strategy? Given the range of benefits diversity delivers, we’d definitely argue the latter. It’s really no wonder that it is seen as one of the key workplace priorities in 2019. So, does it feature on your HR agenda this year?

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