Believe it or not, this trend started in America in the mid ‘80s when it was recognised that the aging demographic would cause a shortage of skills in the employers’ ‘normal’ recruiting foraging grounds, that is: the white, under 45 year old male.
The large corporations understood that they would need to embrace everyone in the population in order to acquire and maintain a skilled workforce, but what they weren’t expecting was that it would do them good too!
In 2007 McKinsey brought out the first white paper which suggested that there might be financial benefits to diversity in the workforce. They showed that where organisations had more women at the top of an organisation, the company would see greater revenues, better profits and better share prices. Every year since that time McKinsey produce a report which looks at particular aspects of diversity; one year; ethnicity, another year; gender, age, or disability. Every report shows the dramatic financial benefits which accrue to companies which embrace mixed populations in their workforce. Today, it isn’t just McKinsey. Every reputable industry watcher wants to have a report on the benefits of diversity in business in their repertoire.
Of course, every company wants to grow revenues and profits, but there are other attractions to having a diverse workforce. Females make up around 60% of UK Graduates annually, get great marks at GCSE and A Level, and generally do very well in the academic stakes. So, businesses which embrace gender diversity in their workforces can take advantage of their academic prowess. Equally, ONS statistics from a couple of years ago suggested that, on average, the youngsters coming out of school with the best qualifications weren’t the white British kids, but a whole raft of other ethnicities. If you were selecting apprentices, choosing from only one ethnic pool wouldn’t serve a company well. It would be much more advantageous to spread vacancies around the ethnic groups.
There are lots of other reasons why having a diverse workforce makes sense, and the research backs it up all the way.
The way that you get that, of course, is by employing a diverse range of staff.
I have an acquaintance who remembers a time that an all-female organisation merged with a mixed gender organisation. She tells me that the best working time of her life was when the new, merged company hit 50:50. Her view is that the reason it was so much fun was because of the mixed workforce. Sadly, the organisation, a technical conglomerate, lost the advantage, and can’t boast a good gender balance these days, and that leads us to the second requirement here; ensuring that your company can acquire and keep a diverse workforce.
As a leader of an organisation you may well ‘get’ the validity of these arguments for the business case for diversity. The problems arise because you are not always the hiring manager and that you delegate that responsibility to staff who may have a very narrow view of the ‘individual’ they want for a given role or job. This view may be built from long held (but not maliciously held) stereotypes of what ‘’good’’ looks like. The thing is, what you get with this approach is more and more of the same type of person. Your chance of accessing some of those greater revenues, profits, USPs, skills etc. disappears with the hiring manager’s belief in there being only one type of ‘best person for the job’. If that person just happens to have the same background or football team as the hiring manager, then ‘they are in’. ‘Hiring in your own image’ wins the day, and sadly, chasing that really unique USP will be a nil result. Helping managers to take a chance on underrepresented staff, or maybe those who don’t have the exact skill match, but something desirable because it is a different life experience, is key here. Equally, where a manager cannot seem to take advantage of the skills in the team because they don’t ‘hear’ the alternative views when they surface means that staff feel unwanted and that really unique USP is lost to the organisation.
For this reason, many companies are now seeking to understand how they can make hiring teams aware of the stereotypes that they hold or the ways in which to attract and retain diverse talent. Training in Implicit or Unconscious Bias is important and a way to enlighten teams about the unconscious processes at play as we meet people or interview people. Perhaps even more important is helping managers and team leaders to understand how to encourage, facilitate and retain diverse teams. This is not just a one off, but an on-going business process which values every member of the organisation for the difference that they bring, and for their (sometimes small, but nevertheless invaluable) part in the process of gaining revenues and driving greater success. ‘’
If you’re interested in diversifying your workforce you can access support from our job connectors.
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More about Gillian
Gillian has extensive experience in the IT industry and now runs her own training and staffing company, supporting women to find positions in STEM roles. She sits on the board of directors for the British Computer Society, and latterly on the board of directors for WISE, supporting women in STEM. Her long involvement with Women in IT includes; supporting industry and academia on diversity, chairing BCSWomen, and she is currently leading the European Taskforce for Women in IT for CEPIS. Gillian won the 2012 Cisco/Everywoman award for 'Technology Inspiration of the Year' and was entered into the Computer Weekly ‘Women in IT Hall of Fame’ in 2017.