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Why is Diversity and Inclusion important? Leadership buy in to the business & moral case.

19 Feb 2021 -

Why is Diversity and Inclusion important in the workplace? 

Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace is important because it is now so significant in society. The awakening on a global scale through recent years with #metoo, the gender debate, social justice and the behaviour of high-profile individuals to name but a few exploded in 2020 with BLM. 

Our workplace culture, environment and personal lives are now so blurred that it’s almost impossible to ‘compartmentalise’ what is important at work compared to at home, online or in the wider environment.

In our social-media-led, everyone-has-a-voice age, we expect our leaders (of countries, organisations, brands or social trends) to speak up and get involved.  

“74% of employees expect their employer to become more actively involved in current cultural debates. CEOs have to respond with action to retain and attract the best talent.” (Gartner) 

Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace has been listed by countless sources as one of the key people trends in 2021 – and indeed Fast Company reported that only 6% of companies they surveyed are not focussing on D&I in 2021, down from 25% last year.  

Organisations have the potential to make a huge impact on diversity and inclusion 

Listening to inspirational speakers like Janet Stovall from UBS,  you realise that businesses have the potential to dismantle racism and that organisations taking the lead can help make the world a totally different place. We spend literally one third of our lives – that’s 90,000 hours – at work, where it is possible to create a new normal of acceptance and value, which over time becomes habitual and spills out into our non-work lives. 

There’s a moral imperative for organisations to do the right thing, a societal and employee expectation… and leaders are in one of the best positions to make change happen. 

The Business case for Diversity and Inclusion 

Diversity and Inclusion and Company Performance 

There’s a significant wealth of research data that correlates diversity with business success. A McKinsey study found companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 36% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean. In McKinsey’s 2015 analysis, companies in the top quartile for executive team gender diversity were 15% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. This rose to a statistically significant 21% in their 2018 study. 

Diversity and Inclusion are correlated with your ability to attract and retain talented employees 

Brands are likely to attract a broader talent pool if they demonstrate a diverse and inclusive culture. Individuals are more likely to stay in an organisation where they see people like them achieve and thrive. Over 86% of job seekers say workplace diversity is an important factor when looking for a job.  

Diverse teams make better business decisions

Diverse teams make for more effective decision making.

A study by Cloverpop found that effective decision-making increases with greater diversity in a team. Gender-diverse teams outperformed individuals 73% of the time. Teams that were geographically diverse, and included members with different genders and at least one age gap of more than 20 years, were the most successful – making better business decisions than individuals 87% of the time.  

Diversity means innovation and improved access to a broader market place 

It’s not just employees who want to see a more diverse organisation; customers across diverse backgrounds want to see themselves reflected in the brand they purchase from.  And minorities in the UK have a spending power of £300bn according to McKinsey.  

Whether in customer facing employees, in models on a website, in leaders speaking out on Twitter or amongst developers creating products and services for a broad range of customers, diversity is key. In fact, 74% of millennials believe that their organisation is more innovative when it has a culture of inclusion. 

Why a Diversity and Inclusion business case isn’t enough  

The arguments and studies highlighted above are interesting and indicative observations – but often correlations not causations. It is becoming more widely acknowledged that expecting a change in policy to revolutionise the bottom line is unwise. To quote the Harvard Business Review,  

“Taking an “add diversity and stir” approach, while business continues as usual, will not spur leaps in your firm’s effectiveness or financial performance.” 

The commercially focussed business case for D&I doesn’t work on its own

What we have to do is embrace not just profit but a broader vision of success. As we said at the beginning of this article, there’s a moral imperative for organisations to do the right thing; a societal, customer and employee expectation… and leaders are in one of the best positions to make change happen. 

So how do we convince our leaders to wholeheartedly embrace D&I? 

How to convince leaders to prioritise D&I was the million-dollar question raised at our recent  webinar. One of our presenters, Cheryl Busby, HR Director at Clarion Events highlighted the effectiveness of having senior leaders listen to employee feedback on the topic. 

Employees who were particularly passionate about D&I had individual 1:1 calls with a senior leader. The reaction of employees to world events and the strength of their emotion about D&I had a significant effect, mobilising them to get on board with such a heartfelt issue. (Find out more about Clarion Events’ D&I strategy in our forthcoming blog).   

It’s more than just the right thing to do  

A compelling business case for diversity and inclusion is critical to getting leaders on board, but we’ve seen that this must be followed up with visible commitment and action from leaders. With D&I on the minds of employees, customers, families and industries, staying silent or ticking boxes will no longer cut it. 

It’s time for leaders to stand up, listen and act.  

Want to know more about our approach to Diversity and Inclusion? 

  • Missed the D&I Learn and Share webinar? Email us for the webinar & slides 

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