Benefits of attracting and retaining a diverse workforce
Diversity in the workplace comes in many forms; mindset, gender, talents, race, opinions, religion, age, sexuality, ethnicity etc. But what are the benefits of attracting and retaining a diverse workforce?
In recent years, the data has shown us there has been a substantial shift in western culture to be more inclusive in the workplace of groups that have traditionally been less prominent in powerful workplace roles, particularly in the gender and race categories.
There are many benefits of attracting and retaining a diverse workforce. Not just the obvious improvement for those in potentially marginalised groups now being included, but also for the business as a whole.
There is a strong correlation between having more diversity and higher productivity and success. Numerous studies from heavyweight organisations including, MSCI’s gender study, McKinsey’s & Company gender and ethnic study and Credit Suisse’s study suggest this.
Having a diverse workforce can allow you to understand customers better, as you’ll now have people who are more likely to relate to them in your business. In multicultural societies like ours, where you’ll be dealing with different ethnic groups, this can set you apart from other firms by giving you a way to relate. They can let you know if your advertising is appropriate for their group, preventing costly mistakes and PR disasters. For example, when the large Canadian Food retailer printed flyers relating to the Sikh holiday Vaisakhi/Baisakhi, by placing halal food in the promotion which is forbidden for practicing Sikhs.
This can also be extremely useful when working with international audiences. These employees can help you adapt your marketing messages to their culture much easier. There is also the added bonus of having your employees more likely to speak a second language. This can save you time and money on interpreters if dealing with other non-English speaking countries.
Having a wider breadth of life experiences, from different demographical groups in your business, can mean potentially new ways of thinking/perspectives and more creativity drawn from a deeper pool of ideas. Employees may be able to learn more by sharing ideas with different groups than they would from just their own.
Promoting your business as friendly to all social groups may encourage candidates to apply who otherwise might not. Therefore, you will have the widest range of candidates and talent to choose from.
Finally, by giving your business a more diverse makeup you can give your business a better reputation. Having these stats ready in your organisation is particularly important now. Political pressure in all major UK parties, such as from Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith’s report, to publish diversity figures is increasing. These can then come under detailed scrutiny from any member of the public. In the future there could be quota legislation which could mean sudden expensive changes to organisations that don’t fulfill them. Therefore, it makes sense to get ahead in the game by proactively adapting to more diversity now.
However, there are also lots of potential issues that can occur when creating a more diverse workforce. These include:
- Communication barriers: There may be more difficulty relating to/understanding people from different backgrounds. This is especially true if you’ve had a highly homogeneous workforce in the past.
- Different values: This could lead to more conflict if not dealt with quickly, as different cultures can have very different beliefs and values.
- Resistance/negative feedback: There can be resistance to this change from employees who want a more homogeneous workforce and/or have personal prejudices leading to damaging conflict.
- Temporary costs from inclusion programs: As suggested, the steps put in place to counter these issues (which we’ll look at next) may add unwanted cost in the short term, however, they should pay off in the long-run.
So long as they are managed effectively, then organisations can reap the rewards and benefits of attracting and retaining a diverse workforce, whilst minimising the challenges.
TOP 5 KEY TAKEAWAYS
- There are many different types of diversity in the workforce
- There is lots of evidence that a more diverse workforce leads to advantageous outcomes for your business. These include a higher performance, a better understanding of customers and a more positive reputation
- There are also potential issues/challenges that can occur when creating a more diverse workforce
- These can be overcome with proactive planning
- Don’t expect employees of marginalised (and non-marginalised) groups to be representative of the whole group