Why Diversity Is Important in the Workplace

Posted on Tuesday, 31st Jan '23

Duane Jackson by Duane Jackson

Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives have come to the forefront of corporate life in the past twenty years. Legislation and pressures around public image have meant that, in some cases, improving diversity has led to box-ticking exercises.

From small businesses to large multinationals, championing diversity is incredibly important to businesses operating in the 21st century. A good, productive worker doesn’t look like one type of person.

No matter the industry, finding ways to be more inclusive and open-minded boosts creativity, productivity and in many cases, improves profits compared to competitors that are not championing inclusivity.

But why is diversity important in the workplace, and how can HR managers work to achieve greater diversity?

Why is diversity important?

Diversity breeds creativity, providing a more representative product or service for the end-user, and enabling more conclusive problem-solving. By having a range of employees from a variety of learned life experiences, you can better provide a holistic offering to clients, customers and users.

Diversity isn’t just about race or sex, diversity covers a wide variety of areas including sexuality, gender identity, parents, social class, disabilities, access to technology and even relationship status. The Equality Act of 2010 stipulates protected characteristics, which should be used to drive and create diversity programs in any company. Creating workplaces that enable diversity to blossom should be a key part of any HR manager’s role.

1. A diverse workforce better represents users

Users of your product, service or company are not one uniform person. As such, a diverse workforce of any kind will provide a more representative sample of the population and enable business growth through more inclusive services.

For example, if you are a company that uses driving license numbers to verify users’ age, or need it for insurance purposes, there may be hidden diversity issues.  If you had only used male license numbers during site testing, it’s unlikely that any females will be able to verify their license properly.

This is because there is one digit that changes depending on the biological sex of a license holder, 0 for male, 5 for female. Having a variety of users test products before rollouts ensures that each user has an equal experience of your product and sign-up process.

2. Diverse workforces are higher-performing businesses

In certain areas such as decision-making, problem-solving and innovation, companies with diverse teams consistently outperform those without.

Harvard Business Review found that cognitively diverse teams solved problems faster than those who lacked cognitive diversity and were less likely to experience functional bias.

The ILO (International Labour Organisation) found that a diverse workforce is more likely to report:

  1. 59.1% increase in creativity, innovation, and openness.
  2. 37.9% better assessment of consumer interest and demand.

Employees also feel more emotionally invested in their work and have a greater desire to stay at their job where inclusive principles are championed, according to Catalyst.

3. Innovation is boosted with diverse workforces

With less employees who think and act in the same way and have the same learned experiences, you can truly innovate. People with different life experiences than the rest of their company may have many ideas, but due to conformity bias, where people conform with the majority to feel included, those ideas are less likely to be shared.

A diverse workforce means diverse minds and experiences, helping to reduce conformity bias and therefore bring more ideas to the table from different people.

Diversity in practice: a look at Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic, one of the biggest international airlines, has taken its Be Yourself Initiative to a new level by scrapping the use of gendered uniforms and introducing pronoun badges in an updated gender identity policy announced in September 2022. This move makes Virgin Atlantic the second airline to remove the need for gendered uniforms.

Virgin Atlantic has introduced a range of uniforms, designed by Vivienne Westwood, that individual crew can choose between depending on their desired gender expression. Both crew and passengers are also able to request pronoun badges, with she/her, he/him and they/them available, which can be used to ensure that people are addressed with the correct pronouns.

Virgin Atlantic also introduced the gender-neutral passport option that is available in some countries to their booking system, allowing passengers to select U or X as gender markers and Mx, the gender-neutral honorific.

In an industry that has typically and historically been very gendered and reliant on the presentation of crew members, this move from Virgin Atlantic is perhaps overdue but nevertheless welcome.

How HR managers can introduce diversity without being tokenistic

For HR managers, especially in smaller companies, making diversity a part of company culture can be tricky if you’re starting from scratch. However, every step made is a step in the right direction.

1. Offer extended parental and adoption leave

Rather than simply keeping to the basic requirements, extended parental and adoption leave enables LGBTQIA+ couples to have greater access to spending time with their child. This doesn’t detract from mothers, who receive comprehensive maternity pay and protection, but instead ensures that all parents have equal access to care and leave, especially in the early years.

2. Encourage publishing pronouns

Pronouns are used to identify people in writing. To allow people to be their most authentic selves, self-declaring their chosen pronouns has become much more common practice.

The use of preferred pronouns in signatures and profiles helps to ensure that employees who want to disclose their preferred pronouns, can.

This doesn’t just apply to those within the LGBTQIA+ community either. For cisgender people, whose gender identity matches their biological sex at birth, using pronouns is a great way to be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Your HR software should allow you to set preferred pronouns, along with gender identity, to ensure a HR manager and the wider team can refer to a person in their preferred style. In Staffology HR, this can be set in the ‘My Details’ section of an employee’s portal.

3. Create a peer-to-peer education scheme

Rather than using external training or online videos, employees often learn best from their friends and colleagues. These are people they have real connections with, and therefore have an element of respect for one another.

By enabling opportunities for all team members to share their learned experiences, you allow productive discussions to take place, increasing the understanding of situations other people go through.

Learning is a key way to undo learnt discrimination and reduce unconscious biases. By regularly training and updating staff on news and changes in policy or other issues, HR managers can ensure a compassionate workforce. Training can be scheduled through Staffology’s training portal with ease.

Are you looking how diversity can improve your workplace?

Try Staffology HR’s digital workforce platform today. Our platform helps you to introduce diversity into your company in many ways, schedule training and even allow people to express their gender identity.

Get a free demo today.

Duane Jackson, January 31st, 2023

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