Workforce diversity and inclusion is a valued asset for any business that seeks competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. You meet people and learn about another culture at your workplace very often. It is common for companies today to have a diverse workforce, one that is composed of individuals having a wide range of experiences and characteristics. The key components of workforce diversity include race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, disability, and sexual orientation. An inclusive culture is one that values and uses the unique talents of each of the members of a diverse workforce. Perhaps the best way to retain and engage the diverse people that organizations hire is by inclusion – inclusion brings in new perspectives and new talents where policy making needs fresh new ideas. Inclusion is needed to realize the benefits of having that diversity beyond just meeting workforce representation.
Advantages: It is imperative to introduce diversity and inclusion in the workplace due to evident reasons. A diverse workforce produces better results. Diversity garners huge business results. A company that embraces diversity can expand its skill base as people from diverse backgrounds bring in more innovativeness and creativity by bringing in their experiences, skills, and cognitive approaches into the workplace. A diverse group offers a range of perspectives to problem-solving and may generate high quality solutions than less diverse groups. It also helps to improve the group process. Studies have revealed that those organizations who place importance on a diverse workforce are high-performing organizations.
Diversity as the Key to Growth: Any organization today that seeks global market relevancy must embrace diversity – in how it treats its diverse people; in how it thinks, acts, and innovates. It is no longer about only meeting compliance protocols. It is associated with key business drivers: greater market share, diversification into emerging markets, greater number of customers, greater profits, and higher sales revenue. Diversity and inclusion is a business enabler as it contributes to business strategies such as developing effective global leaders, building a more customer-oriented workforce, and enabling an organization to be agile.
Most progressive organizations have taken initiatives to promote D&I (diversity and inclusion).
Accenture is one of the top global leaders when it comes to diversity and inclusion. The corporate website says “Accenture’s commitment to inclusion and diversity makes us stronger, smarter and more innovative. Inclusion and diversity are fundamental to our culture and core values, fostering an innovative, collaborative and high-energy work environment.” Having a diverse workforce of people with varied ethnicities, cultures, and beliefs enables Accenture to compete effectively in the global marketplace by fostering collaboration and opportunity.
The corporate website of EY (Ernst and Young) states that “Our commitment to recruiting, developing and advancing ethnically diverse professionals through our ranks and into leadership has been recognized by many external organizations. For example, in 2012, DiversityInc magazine named us to its Top 50 Companies for Diversity list for the seventh consecutive year and the fourth straight year on its top 10 list.
Our competitive advantage depends on our ability to leverage the differences of our people. Key statistics — such as the representation of minorities at our partner/principal rank nearly tripling since 2000 — show we’re right on track.”
Steve Howe, Area Managing Partner — Americas, says “At EY, our diverse, inclusive and borderless teams are key to delivering exceptional client service and meeting our clients’ specific needs in their local markets. That’s why diversity and inclusiveness are a priority for EY, commanding my attention and our investment.”
MasterCard, along with 13 other leading firms joined hands to launch Open for Business, an informal global coalition focused on supporting LGBT inclusion. Tim Murphy, general counsel and chief franchise officer, in the announcement, voiced “Diversity cannot be a ‘nice-to-have.’ It is a foundational element to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all our employees, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, age or religion.”
The Flip Side of Diversity: Research has also indicated that workforce diversity can produce negative issues and challenges. It is but natural that diversity in organizations may create conflict among individuals, such as miscommunication and dissatisfaction. It may increase turnover and absenteeism and also result in lower performance. Unfair treatment or discrimination is common in workplace. Discrimination happens when someone is deprived opportunities on the basis of a personal characteristic such as gender or skin color or race that has no effect on work performance. For example, it is not a good practice to limit diversity to only workforce representation — like some organizations tend to do — and reserve the bigger decision-making roles to a select gender or race. Popular American clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch found itself embroiled in many lawsuits as it was thought to be promoting a particular race to increase its sales by including and hiring majority of white Americans in the positions visible to public and pushing people of color to stockroom jobs.
The positives of D&I outweigh the challenges which can be handled if organizations have diversity management measures in place. Therefore it is important for companies to have and manage policies which contribute to positive work environments to leverage diversity.