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The importance of diversity in the workplace

The importance of diversity in the workplace | LMA

There are clear signs in the latest Leadership, Employment and Direction (L.E.A.D.) Survey results that organisations are slowly awakening to the positive benefits available through a diverse workforce.

Looking at how leaders, managers and non-managerial employees view diversity, it seems light is dawning and this previously often ‘hidden’ resource is beginning to be leveraged – or at least the potential is becoming more apparent.

There is growing belief in diversity as a positive in organisations, highlighting that there is much to be gained through having a rich tapestry of talent:

  • 37% of leaders believe diversity is or would be a positive for their organisation to a great extent (up from 31% in 2011)
  • 28% of managers believe diversity is or would be a positive for their organisation to a great extent (up from 23% in 2011)
  • 32% of employees believe diversity is or would be a positive for their organisation to a great extent (up from 21% in 2011)

So how big are the benefits delivered by a diverse workforce? The results suggest that organisations are increasingly recognising the benefits flowing from a diverse workforce:

  • 26% of leaders believe their organisations are benefiting to a great extent from having an ethnically diverse workforce (up from 17% in 2011)
  • 20% of managers believe their organisations are benefiting to a great extent from having an ethnically diverse workforce (up from 15% in 2011)
  • 21% of employees believe their organisations are benefiting to a great extent from having an ethnically diverse workforce (up from 14% in 2011)

Whilst there remains a solid proportion that sees no benefit flowing from diversity, the vast majority see benefit, click here to view the full report.

So if diversity is a positive and organisations are increasingly recognising the benefits of diversity, why don’t we want more of it? Only four in ten leaders (39%), one in four managers (28%) and one in three employees (31%) would like to see their organisation’s workforce become more ethnically diverse. Only amongst non-managerial employees is this proportion on the rise, suggesting this is the level at which diversity is able to demonstrate its potential more readily.

Perhaps the signal here also is that the balance is right at present – that the diversity we have is delivering the benefits we want and there’s no need to tinker.

This may be the case but the measure of how well organisations are capitalising on the diversity of its workforces reveals a great deal of room for improvement.

One in five employees (and slightly fewer managers and leaders) is unable to comment on how well the organisation capitalises on diversity. Less than one in five at all levels believes the organisation capitalises very well on its diversity.

And the stats are not progressing to any notable extent – in other words, we make the right noises about diversity but don’t appear to be making the best use of that diversity.

So what does this mean for our organisational leaders and managers?

  1. Leaders and managers need to identify where diversity exists in their workforce – ethnic, age, gender, experience, talent and more – and tap into it to derive benefit. Getting to know your people very well and, in particular, what they and their various backgrounds and experiences bring to the organisation in the diversity stakes, provides maximum opportunity for mutual benefit.
  2. Leaders and managers must create an environment that embraces and celebrates diversity to enjoy the full benefits. Simply paying lip-service to being ‘inclusive’ or ‘broad-minded’ won’t cut it. A genuine appreciation of the variety of people in a workforce speaks volumes and positions diversity as an organisational resource to be deployed and applied, like any other resource, to the benefit of the organisation and its people.
  3. Leaders and managers should be looking for every chance to reinforce a culture of diversity and all that it brings – through recruitment, through on-boarding, through learning and development initiatives, through feedback, recognition and reward processes. The powerful message that comes from leaders and managers who are not just comfortable with diversity but who laud its potential to drive organisational performance is one that should be shouted from the rooftops and through the hallways of our organisations.

To view the full report click here.