Most people think of workplace diversity as a measure of a company’s inclusivity and values of fairness. It’s not surprising, then, that evidence of diversity in a workforce is usually taken as representative of a positive company culture and an attractive place to work.
But in an increasingly global business environment where evolving technologies, economics and politics continue to influence the way we do business, diversity can bring many more tangible and intangible business benefits than you might think. Research by Deloitte has even found a direct link between workforce diversity and financial performance and competitiveness.
Unsurprisingly, focusing on building diverse workforces is becoming more important with Australian businesses rating the trend more important than most other countries around the world. Some reports are even saying we’re currently experiencing a diversity and inclusion revolution.
What is workplace diversity?
The first thing to remember when it comes to nurturing a diverse workforce is that there’s much more to diversity than hiring people to achieve the perfect balance of gender, age, race or cultural background.
By hiring people from different cultural and social backgrounds, different generations and at varying stages of their career, you’re actually building a workforce enriched with different ideas and perspectives – a team of individuals who can each contribute something unique to your business. In fact, by hiring talent for their unique skills, attitudes and experiences – first and foremost – you’re likely to find this naturally leads to greater equity across age, race, gender and cultural boundaries.
Here are a few business benefits of workplace diversity:
Drives profitability with increased creativity and innovation
A study has found that companies with greater diversity have 19% higher revenues because of innovation. With a range of individual experiences and perspectives, different people within your business will have their own way of making decisions and solving problems. Like a melting pot, it’s the combination of all these different outlooks and working styles playing out together that can lead to new innovative ideas. Specifically, this is about creating a workforce of people who can collaborate, learn from one another and leverage the benefits of individual strengths and weaknesses.
By contrast, creativity and innovation can stagnate among workforces where too many like-minded individuals lack the necessary inspiration and influence to broaden their ways of thinking.
Easier to attract talented staff
Generally speaking, people want to work in an environment that’s accepting and supportive of all walks of life; after all, everyone wants to feel like they fit in. But, at the moment, there’s a huge gap between what employees want and what employers are achieving in terms of a diversity – only 50% of Australian employees think they work in a diverse and inclusive culture.
So, there’s a big opportunity to build your reputation as an employer of choice among candidates looking for more progressive workplaces. Better still, by creating an environment where people feel happier and more motivated, you’ll stand more chance of reducing turnover by retaining staff for the long term.
Improves engagement and productivity
Engaged employees are also more productive employees – 21% more productive, in fact. The good news is, researchers have found that when diversity practices and trust coexist in a workforce, it increases engagement levels.
When a sense of purpose at work is critical to engagement, a greater level of diversity in your business means each employee will feel they can add value to the business by playing to their own individual strengths. What’s more, the opportunity to observe different ways of working, share personal stories and gain exposure to different cultural backgrounds is essential for building engaging and trusting working relationships.
Workplace diversity Helps to develop staff
With as many as 94% of employees saying they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career, there’s no doubt ongoing learning and development is said to be crucial to retaining staff. By promoting a culture of collaboration and communication across a diverse workforce, you’ll increase the opportunities for staff to learn from each other and upskill themselves for new roles and promotions.
Not only is learning and development essential for ensuring staff can progress their careers, but this could also make it easier for your business to manage the talent pipeline across different skill areas and levels of management.
More efficient conflict resolution and problem-solving capabilities
When a business builds a diverse workforce, people are encouraged to think more open-mindedly while they learn from other peoples’ behaviours and become more respectful of alternative views. A workforce diversity that collectively develops these soft skills is therefore better equipped to resolve problems and differences and overcome new challenges than a workforce that’s set in its ways.
As we move into the future, embracing workplace diversity will become increasingly integral to becoming more competitive in the market. Focusing on diversity will not only help your business shape the type of services and experiences clients want, but it will also help you attract the best employees to make things happen.