There’s been a sea-change in employers’ attitudes towards diversity and inclusion in the workplace over the last decade. Not just with regards to gender diversity, but an increasing focus on making workplaces inclusive of people from a diverse range of backgrounds. This is the right direction of travel, not just because it’s the right thing to do. But because it makes business sense to realise the potential of the widest pool of people in a society where diversity is on the up.
More and more businesses get this. And the majority that I speak with get one aspect in particular, the skills argument behind the businesses case – they see that greater inclusion enables them to recruit and progress people with the skills their business needs. When three in four businesses don’t think they’ll find the skills their business needs in the future, this is a powerful argument for inclusion. But I think there’s a more fundamental argument behind the business case for inclusion. And that’s that greater inclusion contributes to higher productivity.
We’re facing a productivity challenge, with the UK’s output per hour being the second lowest among the G7. Many factors contribute to productivity, and businesses put employee engagement among their top three workplace priorities.
But what seems less clear cut among employers is the link between inclusion and employee engagement. Only about half think that staff engagement is a benefit of an inclusive workplace. This is striking because it suggests a sizable gap between employers’ perceptions and employee’s experiences. We know that when staff feel themselves, valued and fairly treated they’re more likely to be engaged, motivated and ultimately more productive at work. Indeed, Deloitte has found that staff feel more than twice as engaged in workplaces that are diverse and inclusive.
I think this is the real business benefit of inclusive workplaces, one that all employers can unlock. Changes in social attitudes, demographic trends and technology mean the workforce looks very different to how it did ten years ago. People aged 16–19 who’re from ethnic minority backgrounds make up the fastest growing population. People aged 16–24 are more than twice as likely to identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual as 35–49 year olds. And the largest age group at work is set to shift from 44–46 year olds in 2014 to people aged 54–56 by 2020. I only have to think about the diversity of friends and colleagues – all millennials with the majority of our careers to come – to see that diversity will be a growing characteristic of the workforce over the next ten years.
This means that employers need to build inclusion into their employee relations’ plans. Whatever your background, you need to feel able to be yourself at work, feel valued for your contribution and feel that you’re given opportunities irrespective of who you are or where you’re from.
When you do, you’re more likely to be engaged and motivated at work, less likely to take time off for sickness, and more likely to put forward new ideas. These are all reasons that higher employee engagement contribute to employees being more productive at work.
Inclusion is not, and cannot be, just a nice extra for businesses. Its link with staff engagement, a key driver of higher productivity, means that inclusive workplaces have a competitive edge. This is the fundamental business case that I think more employers should recognise. Higher productivity through higher staff engagement is something that all businesses can benefit from. And an inclusive workplaces is something that all businesses need to take action to build to realise the potential of our increasingly diverse workforce.
This article was originally published by PWC - http://www.pwc.co.uk/who-we-are/regional-sites/yorkshire-north-east/insights/5-days-of-women/inclusion–engagement-and-productivity–the-fundamental-business.html