Diversity and inclusion. Two words which, until a few years ago, were largely only ever heard in HR departments and conjured up varied images of trendy types. Diversity and inclusion were regarded as a ‘nice to have’, a soft option, and for some, more forward-thinking organisations, perhaps an annual tick box exercise in the form of a staff survey which was perceived as being in tune with the needs of the people who worked for them.
It was not a subject for regular board room discussion, nor was it something which was at the forefront of decision-making. Now however, there has been a remarkable shift in thinking and this can be described as a revolution of sorts.
Boards, directors, senior managers are all beginning to realise that cultivating and being a part of a truly diverse and inclusive environment has a positive impact on a company’s finances in a number of ways. This shift in mindset has been underlined by government commitments to strive for accountability and more balanced boardrooms in our largest and best known companies.
Firstly with the focus on gender and, imminently, turning the microscope on the representation of ethnic minorities. Targets to aim for can only be a positive step forward and go some way to helping companies gain credibility in using those new buzz words of “competitive edge”.
The benefits of a diverse organisation are well documented and statistically supported – improved financial performance, reductions in costly litigation cases, legal compliance, being in tune with the trend towards globalisation and increased mobility, attraction and retention of talented people, and so it goes on – it’s no secret that if people feel valued for who they are and the contribution they make, they will be more motivated and likely to stay.
Businesses have stopped talking and starting doing and the benefits of this are starting to reap rewards. It’s really much more than being able to take the moral high ground, it’s simply about being better together for the business of today and, perhaps more importantly, for the world of tomorrow.
Sara Winfield is Head of Operations at The National Equality Standard