Updated: May 6
Future focused companies are investing in diversity. Yes, the future of cutting edge organisational and business development is increasingly rooted in the solid acknowledgement and investment in diversity and inclusion - but WHY?
Diversity and inclusion is at the heart of people and business development processes. Amongst the challenges that businesses in the UK face, are concerns around recruitment and staffing.
The changing face of recruitment means that a full recognition of diversity and inclusion must be realised with companies, that seek to build a competent, future focused employee base, that delivers quality and attracts and retains candidates from a wide range of backgrounds.
The benefits of diversity are real. Generation Z is entering the workforce.
This group of diverse, emerging talent, will present game-changing issues for a multitude of businesses.
It is the first group of talent that has spent its whole lifetime in the technological age. Growing up, living and learning with digital, means that they are global in their interactions, their career aspirations and life outlook.
Concepts of self-identity and freedom of expression is of great importance to this new cohort of professionals.
The ability to identify culturally, through gender, and sexuality is part of the fabric of life for this generation.
They are more likely to have strong social interactions with people of different cultures and faiths than previous generations. They are more likely to have been socialised through interactions and relationships that have honed their skills in embracing culture, diversity and inclusion.
How then, can a business attract and accommodate a diverse group of emerging talent that expects an investment in their diversity?
Investing in new opportunities for diversity and inclusion
There are countless opportunities to build diversity and inclusion into business processes and operations. It is within these opportunities that companies begin to cultivate and embody inclusive processes and build diversity into business.
Diversity is the norm for Generation Z and they are entering the workforce! These bright, ambitious young people want, need and demand diversity and inclusion. They want to work in environments where they can express themselves and contribute to the growth, innovation and effectiveness of the business, without feeling excluded.
They expect to fit into the workplace environment, without fear or favour, and be able to journey on with their careers, fully supported by leadership, without gaps to access.
Embedding diversity and inclusive processes helps to support employee development. It not only enables recruits to feel welcome within the workplace, but also supports them to progress within the business, in a fair and equitable manner.
No longer can companies maintain piecemeal diversity initiatives, hoping to placate employees, in the hope of appearing to 'value' diversity and inclusion.
Investing in diverse talent acquisition
UK businesses are starting to acknowledge the benefits that a diverse workforce brings.
Recruiting diverse talent is an investment that benefits business. It helps to attract talent from all backgrounds. It supports a range human capital that is rich in social, personality, and creativity, that helps to enhance the skills that a business has at its disposal.
There has been an explosion of visible diversity in television advertisements and other branding activities. There has been a noticeable increase in televised documentaries and dramas, targeted at minority ethnic communities and other marginalised groups.
This is a welcome affirmation that minority ethnic communities, women and people of different sexualities, do indeed matter.
It serves to provide visual role models for women and minority ethnic groups and expose culture to the masses.
It helps to attract a wider range of potential employees of all ages, and aligns customers and clients to a brand.
However do such activities, go far enough? Are companies embedding diversity into the fabric of their business processes? Do these advertising pursuits building real diversity and inclusion into business or are they merely seeking to 'appear' more welcoming, diverse and inclusive?
Recent diversity reports suggest that some corporate sector businesses are failing in inclusive talent attraction processes.
More critical, commentators suggest that some companies are deliberately engaging in practices that inherently fail to attract, recruit and promote diverse candidates.
D&I as a business investment activity
Diversity improves employee, customer, client and financial outcomes. There are documented links between increased performance and agility and diversity and inclusive business processes.
Business investment in developing an inclusive workforce, at all levels, improves outcomes for the business and those that invest in them. This includes shareholders and potential partners.
The connection between cultural and gender diversity and improved business results has been established. However, The Hampton Alexander review on Gender balance in the UK's FTSE 350 companies uncovered tokenistic gestures to gender diversity balance.
The Chair of the government commissioned review, Sir Philip Hampton, called on consumers to boycott companies that were "so clearly out of touch"
Whist the review made grim reading, it was not totally surprising. Many companies still employ obsolete procedures within recruitment and talent acquisition processes.
Given the reluctance of many companies to attract and promote women to leadership and C-Suite roles, this is an area in which many companies should focus attention and resources.
Investing early in gender diversity is crucial to developing skilled and motivated talent to join companies.
If women feel that they will be marginalised and restricted in realising their ambitions, company image and profits will suffer. Companies will eventually lose traction in the market and talent will be lost to more inclusive competition.
Investing in diverse recruitment and retention processes, help to facilitate an inclusive environment, in which employees from a wide range of backgrounds are able to flourish and contribute to the development of the organisation.
It enables a company to attract and retain talent, that can help to shape decision making. It also allows a company to think 'outside the box', manage homogeneous group think around issues of diversity.
Embracing diversity allows leadership to benefit from the modernisation of company structure, and allows for better business decisions.
This is critical for any business that seeks to engage with a wider customer base and develop products and services internationally, or to a wider, local customer base.
Will investing in diversity improve business outcomes?
Integrating business and people performance indicators for diversity, is important for growth and sustainability. An investment in diversity and inclusion brings a multitude of business benefits to enhance results.
Performance indicators supports learning and development activities, as well as business development and enhances talent acquisition processes. They help to direct a strategic focus on inclusion, which supports diverse talent and markets.
Investing in diversity, adds value to the development of products and services, enabling greater innovation and a much broader outlook.
It unleashes creativity and allows for an engaged and performance driven workforce, which attracts a wider range of customers to brands.
This will inevitably increase quality outcomes, as well as attract customers and potential investors to the company. This will support growth ambitions in both local and global marketplaces.
Inclusion is a healthy and proactive business choice. It is important to both the organisational and employee wellness agenda.
Strategic planning around diversity and inclusion, helps to cultivate an environment which supports an advance in business objectives and outcomes.
Backing the diversity and inclusion agenda
Embracing a collaborative approach to inclusion, is the starting point for a well defined, cohesive agenda for embedding diversity.
It requires board level support, strategic input, and investments of time, energy and defined monetary expenditure, to develop and maintain an inclusive business brand.
An approach that seeks to embed diversity and inclusion across the functions and processes within the business, will enhance:
increase in human capital
Cross promoting diversity and inclusion across projects and business functions develops the broader D&I agenda.
This helps to achieve increased outcomes for a wider range of employees, clients, stakeholders and customers groups.
It also helps to develop brand image and the corporate social responsibility agenda.
Backing diversity requires financing to develop a cohesive and sustainable plan to leverage the business benefits of diversity and inclusion.
It cannot be a superficial measure that promotes visible diversity for the purposes of branding alone.
It must be sustained with an intrinsic set of processes, that are part of the strategic, growth, people development, information technology and HR functions of the business.
Embedding the ability to leverage knowledge and skills, from internal and external participants, will help to promote and embed inclusion.
It will also have the effect of building capacity to lead an effective diversity and inclusion agenda.
No framework can be effective without a well designed process for review and evaluation. For this reason, the ability to collect, analyse and share data to develop practice and enhance outcomes, is important.
It helps to solidify intent, by promoting diversity and inclusion as more than a one off initiative, and helps to maintain quality.
Diversity is part of strategic business planning
The sustainable development of D&I within any organisation, is part of the strategic planning agenda. It must be part and parcel of the functioning of the organisation, and must be both process, and people driven.
By developing a strategic diversity plan to drive an inclusive agenda, organisations can build a suite of people and process focused agendas that will integrate inclusion into all business frameworks.
By developing a strategic plan to develop the inclusion agenda, through calculated investment, a business can support growth and build a competitive edge.
The process of attaining a diverse and inclusive business brand, is relative to all aspects of a business.
It is part of the policy development, people management, leadership, branding, IT and stakeholder management processes of business.
Establishing a charter for diversity and inclusion, will help to cement diversity and inclusion, as a core theme of business activity.
It will act as a catalyst for the belief and utility of diversity and inclusion, across company values and operational practice. This will have the effect of helping to embed diversity and promote inclusive behaviours, in delivering workplace and brand outcomes.
Inclusive Leadership Development
'Inclusion' is imperative to a well led, progressive leadership structure. It promotes engagement with employees teams, develops diverse roll modelling and enables effective decision making.
Expenditure on programmes to develop diversity and inclusion across leadership helps to boost the relevance of D&I within stated company values, and mission statements.
It helps to promote the D&I business agenda and gives leadership the ability to 'walk the walk' instead of just 'talking the talk'.
By integrating inclusion at the highest levels, brand trust is created.
Failure to attract and retain a diverse leadership, through inclusive processes, will result in a structural inability to benefit from the enhanced results, that diverse leadership creates.
Without commitment to embedding inclusion at the leadership level, activities to promote inclusion will inevitably be viewed as piecemeal, one off interventions.
An inclusive leadership agenda supports a whole organisational approach to diversity and inclusion.
Investing in diversity and inclusion, as part of the leadership development framework, helps to promote openness and increases trust and confidence.
It confirms a board level commitment to embed diversity and inclusion. It supports leadership development as open to all and acts as a vehicle for developing understanding and knowledge sharing activities.
A diverse leadership agenda promotes the values and principles of a proactive, inclusive business, which attracts a diverse range of talent, customers and clients.
A collaborative approach to inclusion
Businesses must facilitate a coordinated and collaborative approach to D&I, This acts as a precursor to building high performance teams to attracting best in class talent in constantly changing, uncertain economic times.
A bold and coordinated push to leverage the benefits of diversity and inclusion is paramount. It will support the sustainability of business and impact positively, as we seek stability, within an ever changing environment.
Investments in diversity and inclusion must be embedded across all teams and projects.
Programmes to collaborate on areas of common D&I interest, help to develop engagement and develop awareness of issues, that serve to exclude groups from company processes.
By leveraging both internal and external networks, to explore joint initiatives, a business can develop diverse and inclusive processes, that help to support talent, and secure high levels of staff engagement and retention.
A collaborative approach to diversity, helps business innovation and promotes sustainable and inclusive people development processes.
Going forward - Diversity and Inclusion
To be successful with diversity and inclusion, there must be an authentic belief in the utility of diversity.
External challenges for business are real. As the UK navigates challenging economic times, what is the vision for for diversity and inclusion in your business?
Do your leaders seek to advance diversity to help develop better teams and business outcomes?
Do you aspire to unleash the power of diversity and inclusion to developing and support frameworks for of business development?
Do you seek to support a new generation of employees to help drive innovation and competitiveness? .
What is needed is a full and comprehensive understanding of the benefits of diversity and inclusion, and how it impacts every facet of business.... and the ability to perform effectively.
By developing goals to achieve best in class, inclusive organisations, we can not only embrace diversity and inclusion, but also increase business outcomes fundamentally.
There are many reasons to build diversity and inclusion into the fabric of our businesses and institutions. Diversity and inclusion can be the life support to changing business priorities in challenging times.
What plans will your business be developing and what challenges do you face?
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As a diversity consultancy, Kenroi Consulting works with clients across a wide range of business industries to support leaders to build diversity into the fabric of their operations.
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