Is People-friendly the new Eco-friendly?

What does diversity mean to you and your business? Or inclusivity and cohesion? 

A few zzzz lines in the company report, a policy destined for tumbleweed, an unreachable recruitment target, something largely negative under the umbrella of ‘compliance’ that must be reluctantly ticked? 

What would true diversity and total inclusivity look, feel, and sound like?

How would it humanize the business strategy, engage the war for talent, animate culture, alter the way management decisions are made, inform the way the business looks at and projects itself, change the way it develops products and services, the way it talks to its customers – diversifies the way it – and as importantly you – think and act? 

What would the ROI of positive true diversity be over negative tick box diversity? 

For most, diversity simply means having more women and ethnic minorities in the workplace and on the board. Inclusivity here is just a by product: ‘Look, we now have an Hispanic female director on the board now, which means that you can make it to the top too!’ If that Hispanic female director also happens to be pushing 95 disabled and lesbian, and if that can be somehow portrayed as mirroring society and smooth minority recruitment in some way, win win win. 

And diversity is, well, diverse. The always worth following, Karla Porter adds (or would like our businesses – and ourselves – to add): age, nationality, disability, dual/multi citizenship, education, international work experience, language skills, life experience, marital status, multicultural/multiethnic background, parenting experience, personality, physical disability, religion, socio-economic background, veteran/military experience, work experience in different industries, work function, work style etc to the mix.  Let me know if I missed any?

Right now of course, the battle is still raging to ‘prove’ the business case on a much narrower front. And so far the facts are compelling. Companies with more women on their boards for example apparently outperform their rivals with a 42% higher return in sales, 66% higher return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity. 

Talking of more women on the boards, pioneering work (Groysberg) has also been done to show that hiring female stellar performers is better business than hiring males: women ‘port’ better into new environments precisely because a traditional lack of diversity within all firms has led them to be less firm dependent in getting ahead. Think twice about who you pick to make up your star teams too. Apparently collective IQs is much less an indicator of group success than the group simply having more women.

The standard 12 point plan style argument for diversity (not just of women of course) is that it:

  1. Widens the perspectives brought to bear on decision-making
  2. Increases creativity and problem solving
  3. Reduces people risk behaviours
  4. Avoids too great a similarity of attitude
  5. Offers access to a deeper pool of candidates
  6. Helps companies understand and connect better with their customers
  7. Engages employees and keeps them loyal
  8. Opens up new areas of business opportunity and enhances adaptiveness to change
  9. Secures investor/shareholder/government and regulatory confidence
  10. Reinforces organisational cohesion
  11. Helps drive HR as a strategic priority
  12. Is a core driver of innovation, productivity and sustainability

In a world where it seems the race to being a good capitalist is on (look at Schultz over at Starbucks), where the business actually benefits from being open and transparent and ethical and socially embedded, diversity certainly hits the spot. Being people-friendly is the next eco-friendly. For some at least. 

But the question remains: how to get there from here? After all, amazingly, startlingly, in this century, and after all those male dominated chest thumping corporate cock ups, were still talking about how it might be a good idea if calmer – female – heads played a part in the decisions making. Or just cottoning on to the fact that just maybe our Polish workforce might help us crack a Polish market.

Of course, you could always start by thinking of Diversity as an Asset. And if you’re in the UK, and happen to be a Human Resources Director, pop along to a free HRD Network event on 25th April in London where Professor Mike Hardy CMG OBE, Executive Director, Institute of Community Cohesion and Linda Bellos OBE, Chair, Institute of Equality and Diversity Practitioners, will be discussing all of the above in much more erudite and practical depth than I ever could, being a single working class white male in his early forties with an atheist’s philosophy degree and a penchant for scampi.

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