A recent picture posted by Richard Branson on LinkedIn depicted the staff of the Virgin Group, dressed up for an employee event. This is typical Virgin Group and Richard Branson’s promotion of the role of the employee in making an organisation great. However, what really caught my attention was the first comment under the photograph. A keen follower asked about the diversity or rather the lack of diversity at the organisation. Truth be told, I thought the exact same thing when I looked at the photograph. The replies were controversial, to say the least. My thoughts were not so much about the comments but rather the lack of diversity that still exists in large corporations, particularly here in the UK, despite the enactment of the Equality Act 2010.
My rant is not about the legal ramifications or understandings about the Act but is more focused on the whys and wherefores. Is it so difficult to hire a diverse workforce? What is the sentiment about not fitting into the “culture” of a company? Homogeneity makes for a monotonous world. I firmly believe that it is in the diversity and the differences that evolution and innovation can thrive. As such, the world would continue to develop. No two persons are the same, and therefore, they should not be measured by the same yardstick.
Which brings me to my other concern. What’s with these survey questions before or after an application? How important are these when determining who will be hired or who will receive admission? I am very sceptical about filling out these forms, so my default is “I prefer not to say”. But if the aim is to wield out the misfits or the “people of colour” or the marginalised, I think organisations are doing themselves a real disservice. Why not use the surveys for good, colour outside the lines, add some colour in company pictures and company events? It is high time large corporations recognise the value that the “others” bring to the table and stop judging a book by its cover.
As it stands, too many companies are just focused on meeting the legal quotas when it comes to diversity and continues to miss the real mark. Diversity is now a trending word with little or no substance behind it. I believe companies today have not embraced the tangible benefits associated with having a diverse workforce, primarily higher profits. A study conducted by McKinsey & Company, which included 180 companies in the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe found that companies with more diverse top teams were more profitable. Another research conducted in Australia, in the manufacturing, retail and health care sectors, showed that higher employee engagement is an outcome of diversity and inclusion. According to the research done by Deloitte, there is an intrinsic link between workplace diversity and employee engagement – when employees feel included, they are more engaged.
There are many more benefits than disadvantages to inclusion and diversity in the workplace, but the main one, I believe, is providing access to jobs and opportunities to the “others”. For the true tenets of the Equality Act 2010 to be effective, the concept of equity needs to be practised. All persons should have equal access to opportunities, thus creating a favourable environment for both the employees and the employer.
– Dara D