The case for diversity- achieving a more diverse workforce

This is an era of unprecedented diversity in our workforce. Organisations that create a diverse workforce will benefit from diversity of thinking, creativity and innovation and will position themselves as the dynamic organisations of the future, able to derive benefits for people and the planet while also realising their goals.

There are four layers of diversity that should be considered when thinking about the concept:

  1. Personality.
  2. Internal dimensions (age, gender, race, ethnicity, physical ability and sexual orientation).
  3. External dimensions (appearance, parental status, marital status, income, personal habits, religion, educational and work experience).
  4. Organisational dimensions (level, field of work, seniority, location, union affiliation and management status).

The case for more diversity

You can’t engage and represent members who you don’t understand.  There is no one best answer to any question – the more ideas you can obtain from different people, the more likely you are to develop workable and creative solutions to aid representation. In fact, research at Stanford University has proven that teams comprised of individuals with a diversity of experience and backgrounds to be often far more creative and adept at problem solving.

Organisations that demonstrate a commitment to diversity with proactive outreach, and greater recruiting efforts are more well known for their ethics, values and fair employment practices and attract a wider pool of often better skilled people, so can hire better people and be more effective.

Did you realise that you can change the culture of your community just by being a more diverse organisation? Inequalities and stereotypes spread into the workplace from wider society and societal barriers to equality, human rights and inclusion can be amplified in the workplace. But this process can also work in reverse as colleagues learn more about each other, break down barriers, and pass on this knowledge to others in their social networks. Creating change at work can bring benefits that spread much further than the confines of one organisation’s walls.

According to Deloitte’s Inclusion Maturity Model cited in their report, ‘Waiter, is that Inclusion in my Soup?’, ‘to feel highly included, a person would not only say they were treated fairly and respectfully, but that their unique value is known and appreciated, and that they belong to the group.’

And a more proactive approach to diversity may enable competitive advantage by attracting to your organisation some of the 8.7m full-time workers seeking a more flexible job ‘right now’, or  some of the 600,000 women who are classed as ‘economically inactive’, wanting to work but unable to fit jobs with the hours that may work for them.

The challenge

The challenge to creating a more diverse organisation is how best to perfect the blend and be able to accommodate all types of people, while realising the possibility of new generations of employees’ with expectations for purpose-driven organisations and new innovative approaches to work (that may be challenging for example to older generations). This may mean making operational and structural changes as well as changes in compensation, promotion and training structures, as well as adjusting productivity expectations.

These changes are not straightforward to implement and have the potential to cause both short-term financial implications as well as unhealthy tensions. For example, delaying retirement to support an older workforce may increase payroll and benefits costs, while younger workers may find that there’s a leadership and progression ceiling.

So yes, there are challenges, but there are also opportunities. To do so will require a new approach and style of leadership, as we move from more autocratic traditional models of authority to more collaborative styles that believe in the power of the collective team. Diversity is at the heart of the future.

The questions to ask of your organisation:

  • Has your union created a work culture for employees revolving around diversity and its concepts? In other words do you focus enough energy on building a culture of inclusion and respect? This underpins everything.
  • Do the conditions exist for underrepresented groups of people to work effectively if they join you or in other words, does your culture help or hinder?
  • Do your union’s core values include a commitment to equality, human rights and inclusive working?
  • Can you create, extend or improve policies on equality and human rights and make sure other policies are equality proofed?
  • Do you make inclusion a key management approach?
  • Do you train all staff on inclusive working, human rights and equality? Tackling the hidden dangers of unconscious bias, vocabulary and discrimination is an important start-point.
  • Do you always take immediate action to address and tackle discrimination, harassment and bullying?
  • Are your employees enthusiastic about recommending your organisation as a “great place to work” for all?

The questions to ask about your recruitment practice:

  • Have you identified key selling points relating to being a diverse employer?
  • Is your employer brand communicating everything you want it to around diversity? Is it giving out a consistent picture of a diversity-driven place to work?
  • Do you enable a wide range of people to hear about the vacancy (wide promotion), and do you actively encourage their applications (if appropriate)?
  • Do your recruiting managers / HR team having a good understanding of diversity?
  • Do your people adopt the right attitude and approach when communicating with candidates at any /every point in the candidate’s journey so that potential employees feel that they will be welcomed to a friendly team and appreciated for their unique value?
  • Do you demonstrate that you value skills achieved outside the workplace?
  • Do you encourage and enable development for all? How do you do this and how can you communicate it through recruitment?

Finally, remember Positive Action is not illegal.  The law allows positive action before or at the application stage in recruitment (encouragement or special training and support to make a compelling application) so you are simply encouraging participation from under-represented groups.  Employers can treat under-represented groups more favourably through the process in ‘tie-break’ situations, although the best candidate for the job must always be appointed.

Peridot Partners are NUS preferred suppliers for recruiting Executive and External Trustees to students’ unions.

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