Harnessing the benefits of a diverse workforce
It is hard to remember a time when there has been a louder call for change than the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the world at the moment. The importance of diversity has slowly been gathering momentum over the last few years but at a far slower pace than it should. It’s terrible that it took a tragedy such as the death of George Floyd to accelerate the pace of this movement but perhaps what is happening can be the catalyst for a change in mindset in businesses across the world.
Outside of the moral importance of anti-discrimination, there is a quantifiable gain to be had from businesses embracing diversity. A recent study by Boston Consulting Group found that companies with above average diversity in their leadership team saw 19% higher revenue linked to innovation than those with below average diversity, as well as 9% higher EBITDA. As Matthew Syed explains in his book Rebel Ideas, a group of people who have similar experiences and similar frames of reference will likely generate similar ideas. These ideas may work just fine, but what if they don’t? What if there were better ideas? A diverse group of people with diverse experiences will more likely generate diverse ideas and solutions, providing a greater range from which to agree the best solution. It was why in 2016 he, along with a group of other experts, was asked to join the Football Association Technical Board, despite not being a football expert. There was a great deal of scepticism at the time as to what people with limited knowledge of football could really contribute, but the FA was already full of football experts and still England failed to perform. The idea was that a more diverse group of experts could bring more diverse ideas and solutions. As most of us will remember, two years later England defied the odds and went on to reach the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, the furthest they had got in 28 years.
The prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement comes at pivotal time for businesses as we face what could be one of the most severe recessions in a generation. At a time when companies are trying to forecast what the future holds in the context of unprecedented circumstances and how best to keep the lights on, it would be easy to lose sight of issues like diversity. In March, at the eleventh hour, the government suspended the gender pay gap reporting this year, on the premise of giving business the space to focus on the pandemic. While many will see the logic in that decision, does it not also send a message that in difficult times diversity can be put to one side for when we have more time? In contrast, the protests happening across the world serve as a reminder than even in the toughest of times diversity does matter and cannot be put to one side in favour of other matters, however serious.
There are many ways in which businesses and HR professionals can ensure diversity is given the consideration it needs when making strategic decisions about the future direction of the business. Whilst BAME reporting is still yet to become mandatory like Gender Pay (although we believe this is on the horizon), it makes sense for organisations to begin taking steps towards closing the gap, which starts with collecting the necessary data. At Innecto, we have already started working with clients on this, from helping them to identify where to start with data collection to a full analysis of their ethnicity pay gap.
When restructuring becomes unavoidable, it is important to include in your modelling what impact the changes will have on the diversity of your workforce. Inadvertently reducing diversity as well as headcount could impact your organisation’s ability to maintain its competitive edge, further adding to the challenges ahead. Job evaluation tools such as Evaluate can help here, but make sure you use one that goes further than just evaluating roles and allows you to assess the organisational design of your business from a gender and ethnicity perspective, helping maintain diversity across all levels of the organisation.
When looking at job design consider what impact your decisions might have on diversity, it is important that roles are accessible to people with diverse backgrounds. Something as straight forward as how you write job descriptions can impact perceived accessibility, individual words on their own may not suggest bias but together they might create a different impression. Now may be a great time to review this, and perhaps consider investing in training in how to eradicate bias when writing job descriptions to give managers some guidance over how best to approach the task.
If your business is thriving during this time and recruitment is underway, then consider how you write job adverts as the same principles apply. Put yourself in the shoes of different demographics of people and think about how the advert reads. Even in 2014, Glassdoor was reporting that 67% of candidates consider a diverse workforce as an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. Consider your employee deal, does it appeal to a diverse range of people? We now have four generations within the workplace so appealing to such a diverse range of people is a challenge, but it is imperative that businesses get it right. Having a wide range of benefits on offer maximises the chance of appealing to different types of people and building diversity within your workforce. A customisable employee experience platform, such as Amplify, can give you a holistic view of your wellbeing and benefits offering; connecting all aspects of mental, physical and financial wellbeing with the benefits, communication and engagement tools needed to create an environment for your employees to thrive and succeed. Accessibility is important too, so ensuring the platform you choose can be used by employees inside and outside of the workplace is vital.
While things will not change overnight, I hope that real change comes from what is happening and it does not get lost in the inevitable news cycle. It is the responsibility of us all to promote diversity, to make roles accessible to people with different backgrounds, and ensure we regularly question our practices to ensure unconscious barriers are not in place. At a time of economic uncertainty surely every business will want the unique advantages that a diverse workforce can provide.
If you would like to know more about Evaluate or Amplify, or if you would like to discuss ways in which you can harness the benefits of a diverse workforce within your organisation, please do get in touch – either call us on +44 (0)20 3457 0894 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.