Profiting from diversity: a guide to harnessing diversity for the benefit of your business




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НазваниеProfiting from diversity: a guide to harnessing diversity for the benefit of your business
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Changing behaviour


This is often the hardest task to achieve. Behaviours and views are built up through years of experience and can be very difficult to alter, particularly at the most senior levels of an organisation; however, it is possible with the right training, support and leadership.


Senior people in your company need to take ownership of the Diversity Strategy, reinforce its key messages at appropriate opportunities, and behave consistently with the commitments of the plan. If a company’s leaders do not support the Diversity Strategy, the aims and objectives of the plan will not be met in the long term. Employees will notice if leaders act on diversity as a token gesture, or speak and behave in ways inconsistent with a commitment to diversity. Even if training is given to managers and employees, cultural change will not last unless there is clear direction from the very top of the organisation: the Board, the Chief Executive or Managing Director, and all of the senior management team.


Any diversity training which is given should be based on people’s real experiences, otherwise it can do more harm than good. A quick single hit of training, that just ticks off the requirements, will not have a lasting impact. Any training you are planning needs to be appropriate for your employees.


Often, drama-based or experiential learning is the most powerful way to change people’s perceptions. It’s important to include people from all diversity groups in training, as this kind of learning can have a strong impact. Have you ever asked an employee about their experiences as a black person or as a woman in your company? The results can be eye-opening to some, and reassuring to others.


Training should be clearly linked to your business targets. Employees should be encouraged to discuss how they can use diversity for the benefit of the business. Diversity training also improves the way employees deal with customers and suppliers who are from different backgrounds to themselves. It can be invaluable in planning your company’s expansion into new markets.


It is important that diversity is not confined only to ‘diversity training’. Diversity-based activities and problem solving exercises can be embedded into existing training such as management development modules, team building activities, inductions and recruitment training. Reinforcing diversity messages at key points in an employee’s career is crucial.


Where strong leadership and appropriate training go hand in hand, diversity can become embedded in the corporate culture, and bring visible and lasting benefits to the business.

Managing progress and measuring performance


It is vital to measure the success of your Diversity Strategy and to monitor progress. As well as ensuring that diversity actions are given to named individuals, and that managers have diversity targets as part of performance appraisals, it is important to have a person or group with overall responsibility for the implementation of the plan.


In smaller companies, this role may be part time for an influential individual. Larger companies may prefer to set up ‘diversity councils’ or steering groups for each of their business functions. These bodies should contain people from all levels of the company: senior managers, line managers, front-line staff, support staff and trade union representatives.


They should also include people with a mix of diversity backgrounds. They are often led by a member of the senior management team who is designated a ‘diversity champion’.


The role of a diversity council or a diversity champion is to:


  • ensure that employees and managers are aware of the benefits of diversity and inclusion

  • regularly receive reports from those people tasked with implementing the plan

  • monitor the progress of the Diversity Strategy

  • assist managers to implement the plan

  • ensure that barriers to progress are identified and addressed

  • publicise and share successes


Measures of success will be specific to every company, but could include:


  • number of employees, managers, senior managers and Board members from groups under-represented in your company (such as women or disabled people)

  • number of job applications received from under-represented groups

  • number of discrimination complaints received (grievances and employment tribunals)

  • number of active employee diversity networks

  • satisfaction rates of different groups of employees in staff survey

  • number of new business ideas generated by diversity networks

  • sales of products marketed to a particular diversity group

  • level of awareness of the company among diverse customers

  • number of diverse suppliers


Many people working in the field of diversity find it helpful to develop a small group of ‘critical friends’ who they can test ideas and share good practice with, both within and outside their company. These can be other business people or voluntary sector organisations that can give you guidance on specialist areas such as working with migrant communities, work life balance and so on.


Carry out regular progress checks to assess whether the Diversity Strategy is achieving its stated aim. If not, why not? You may need to revisit the plan and develop or amend it. If it is succeeding, what are the critical success factors, and how can these factors be replicated and sustained?


During the implementation of your plan, issues will arise that you had not considered previously: you may have been successful at increasing the numbers of women in management positions, but can you retain them? What about other groups, such as those from BAME backgrounds, older, gay or disabled people, or individuals from a range of different faiths? Or it could be that your first Diversity Strategy concentrated on employee diversity, so your next step could be to develop an action plan focusing on supplier diversity.

After you have implemented your Diversity Strategy, or key parts of it, you need to reassess your business. Ask yourself the same question as you did before you developed the plan: is the company taking full advantage of diversity to improve business performance?

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