Diversity in the workplace

Diversity in the workplace

No, we’re not talking about the dance group Diversity – you know, the talented street dancers who won Britain’s Got Talent back in 2009.

We’re talking about diversity in relation to equality and inclusion – a topic that’s become increasingly prominent, commonly at the forefront of discussions. But what exactly is diversity? Why is it so important in the workplace, and how can we encourage it? 

What is diversity?

The online Cambridge Dictionary defines diversity as:

“The fact of many different types of things or people being included in something: a range of different things or people”.

In other words, diversity is about being inclusive – welcoming people of all walks of life and not discriminating against individuals based on who they are.

The Equality Act 2010 outlines nine protected characteristics: Age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. All workplaces have a lawful duty to make sure diversity is being practised.

“Everyone has the right to be treated fairly at work and to be free of discrimination on the grounds of the nine protected characteristics” – Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

But practising diversity in the workplace shouldn’t stop there. As the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)state:

“While UK legislation…sets minimum standards, an effective diversity and inclusion strategy goes beyond legal compliance and seeks to add value to an organisation, contributing to employee well-being and engagement.” 

Why diversity in the workplace is important

Imagine going to work every day feeling miserable because you’re undervalued, purely because of who you are. You’ve got lots of ideas to put forward, but you feel constantly belittled and judged by your boss and colleagues, so what’s the point in trying to participate? They’re never going to listen to you, anyway.

This is not diversity – this is discrimination. Ready for the snowball effect?

The individual is unhappy which is affecting their wellbeing. As a result, they don’t feel engaged in their role. Because they’re not engaged, they’re not productive and – you guessed it – there’s a knock-on effect to the wider business.

The Salesforce 2017 report – The impact of equality and values-driven business confirms this with a number of findings. For example, employees who feel like can be themselves at work are 2.8 times more likely to feel proud of their workplace compared to people who don’t, and employees who feel a sense of belonging are 5.3 times more likely to perform at their best compared to people who don’t.

“Diversity is about recognising, valuing and taking account of people’s different backgrounds, knowledge, skills, and experiences and using those differences to create a productive and effective workforce” – HSE.

A diverse workplace is a successful workplace. 

How to encourage diversity in the workplace

In the CIPD’s 2018 study – Diversity and inclusion at work: facing up to the business case, it was found that a number of barriers still exist. So, how can you encourage change? Here’s what the study recommends: 

  • The process of selecting and hiring candidates – be aware of the wording used in job adverts, check your recruitment methods to make sure the process is inclusive throughout and make sure reasonable adjustments are in place to support candidates
  • Make flexible working accessible
  • Make sure equality is instilled in policies, appreciating individual differences, and hold ongoing organisational reviews to monitor employees’ perception of workplace inclusion over time (source: CIPD, 2018)

The key takeaway? For a workplace to be truly successful, it can’t view diversity as a box-ticking exercise. It needs to go beyond the minimum legal standards to create an inclusive environment which allows individuals to flourish – an environment where people can be themselves and feel like they belong. Remember: Happy employees mean engaged employees, and engaged employees mean a more productive business.

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