By Aaron O'Sullivan
The Importance of Diversity
“Diverse teams benefit the boardroom.”
“Variety is the spice of life” or so the saying goes, but when it comes to diversity in today’s workforce, the potential benefits to be gained for companies are much more rewarding than the old adage may lead one to believe. A diverse team offers a rich tapestry of backgrounds, insights and perspectives to a company. The opportunities for talent recruitment, staff wellbeing, fulfilment and retention (and productivity as a result), innovation and new business can be hugely beneficial for a company.
A company that is known for embracing diversity will continually attract high quality graduates and experienced candidates. There are many aspects of life that candidates consider when choosing which workplaces to apply for, beyond the more basic conditions such as salary and stability. A parent might consider whether or not a company has a flexible work hours policy as this will allow them some flexibility to attend to the needs of their children at various points throughout the year. A practitioner of the Islamic faith might take into consideration whether or not a company provides facilities and support to observe Ramadan. A person who identifies as LGBT* might consider whether or not a company has other LGBT* members of staff and what systems are in place to support them. These are just a handful of examples of people that are more likely to apply to a company that embraces diversity and facilitates their needs, than one who lags behind. A diverse workforce also means diverse networks so talent searches and recruitment will naturally have a wider reach. A company that has a diverse mix of people will therefore be an attractive workplace to a whole range of people, while a company who fails to embrace diversity could be unknowingly discouraging people from applying, therefore reducing the talent pool of candidates from which to choose and ultimately reducing the potential talent pool of their workforce.
Staff Retention and Productivity
An ethos of diversity promotes inclusion in all of its activities and leads to a happier workforce. A happy member of staff is more likely to remain loyal to a company and more productive than one who is uncomfortable or isolated in their workplace. A diverse team creates opportunities for learning between colleagues about different cultures, backgrounds, faiths and experiences – this learning will in turn build comradery and boost morale among employees. This comradery will instil feelings of support and loyalty towards colleagues and lead to a happier, more comfortable and productive team. This in turn reduces staff turnover, a significant cost for all companies and increases productivity, which in turn makes the company a more enjoyable and successful place for all.
When faced with a problem, a boardroom with a diverse team will fare better because they will be able to view it from a variety of perspectives. A team made up of people with only business backgrounds could miss out on innovative solution, while a team with a mix of business, science, humanities and engineering backgrounds might be able to utilise a combination of different approaches to solving the problem, saving time and offering substantial learning opportunities for all involved, which can in turn be brought with each individual to their next problem. The potential for knowledge and innovation share is significantly greater in a more diverse team
New Business Opportunities
In recent decades the landscape of business has been changing rapidly. There are more female CEOs than ever before, the mix of nationalities working in different companies is ever increasing and awareness of and sensitivity to religious beliefs and practices as well as matters of civil liberties is growing. This change is being experienced at different rates across sectors. As a result, there is plenty of room for companies who embrace diversity to grab new business opportunities. A company that is led by a member of a minority group may be more likely to send business in the direction of a diversity-embracing company than a diversity-lagging company. Diversity is not just a nice add-on consideration but a potential driver for expanding a business’ portfolio.
In my time with Deloitte it has been evident that this is a company that embraces diversity. In my first couple of weeks I worked directly with colleagues from America, China, Germany, Portugal and Spain. I met a newly appointed assistant manager who took part in the global mobility programme having competed her first two years in Texas. We were also sent information on facilities available for any staff who were observing Ramadan in any of the offices, new increased parental leave was announced and the LGBTA network was launched. It is clear that Deloitte embraces diversity and inclusion and I think that the benefits are evident as a result. Long may it continue!
In a time of political and economic uncertainty across the world all firms, but especially global firms should seek to build diversity at all levels of the company. This is not simply a box ticking exercise. Companies should not just aim to mirror other companies or to mirror society. The aim should be to become a model for diversity and inclusion, not only for other companies but for society as a whole and to ultimately work towards a better tomorrow.