There are ongoing concerns in some quarters on the effect of diversity within the workplace. In his article for Forbes magazine, Paolo Guadiano makes the point that: “Rather than focusing on diversity we should be focusing on making the workplace more inclusive. Focusing on diversity creates the fundamental problem of labelling people and placing them into buckets, which fosters division.
Focusing on inclusion does the opposite: it acknowledges that your employees are human beings whose varied personal traits influence their needs and behaviours.”
We live in a globalised economy and that means individuals from different cultures, backgrounds, race and sexual orientation are working together in millions of workplaces. As Shutri Chada goes on to explain: “Diversity is, in fact, the new normal. And, this new normal works to promote a more creative environment. Studies show that racially diverse teams outperform non-diverse ones by 35%, and teams where men and women are considered equal create 41% more revenue.”
Diversity in the workplace is not a totally new phenomena but rather we are awakening to the benefits of having a plethora of different ideas and voices. In a 2006 study by Tufts University involving 200 participants on 29 mock juries, panels of white and black people performed better than all-white groups by several measures. “Such diverse juries deliberated longer, raised more facts about the case, and conducted broader and more wide-ranging deliberations,” said Sommers. “They also made fewer factual errors in discussing evidence and when errors did occur, those errors were more likely to be corrected during the discussion.” (Sommers, 2006)
The study shows that having a larger range of voices leading to more informed decisions across different organisations, leading to a high operating profit across the specific industry. In its 2015 report on diversity in the workplace, Mckinsey and Company found that: “There is a statistically significant relationship between a more diverse leadership team and better financial performance.
“The companies in the top quartile of gender diversity were 15% more likely to have financial returns that were above their national industry median. Companies in the top quartile of racial/ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median.” (Hunt, Layton and Prince, 2015)
This is further demonstrated in the Diversity Matters report, which goes on to show that not only does a more diverse workplace perform higher, conversely the lower the gender and ethnic diversity, the lower the financial performance.
There are several factors that increase performance, one of which is innovation. Nathan and Lee 2013 carried out a survey of 7,600 London firms to investigate links among cultural diversity, innovation, entrepreneurship and sales strategies in London businesses between 2005 and 2007. They discovered a “small but significant diversity bonus” for all types of London firms. Companies with diverse management are more likely to introduce new product innovations than are those with homogeneous “top teams”. (Nathan and Lee, 2013)
The search for improvements in performance diversity has also had the effect of making companies think in a different way to improve their performance. “In May 2013, software giant SAP announced that it would hire hundreds of people who were diagnosed with autism, most thought that this was a simple act of altruism but there was a definitive strategy at play, the employees were specifically employed to test software – a task best performed individually requiring individuals to go back and forth between computer output and a list of what should have been the computer output. It is the kind of activity that is perfect for those who prefer solitary work, those who are obsessive about detail, and those who take comfort in repetitive tasks: exactly the set of attributes of many people diagnosed with autism.” (Western University, Ivey Business School, 2014)
It is clear then that the search for more diversity in the workplace is not only an ethical practice but also a practice that leads a higher level of performance and ultimately profitability across all organisations. A recent article on the Ciphr website quoted a Glassdoor study: “Where more than half of recruitment decision-makers (59%) said that a lack of investment in diversity and inclusion (D&I) was a barrier to attracting high-quality candidates, while a fifth (20%) said D&I initiatives were among the most significant factors that influenced a candidate’s decision to join an organisation.” (Chignell, 2018)
Therefore, not only does a diverse workplace lead to higher performance, but also opens the door to a higher quality of candidate at the recruitment level.