Organisational Diversity: A Rich & Valuable Resource
One of the best things about my role as an equality and diversity specialist is that I get to travel the length and breadth of the UK and as a result get to experience the richness and variety of organisational diversity out there.
And it is rich, and fascinating – yet not all would agree.
It is not uncommon for me to hear at the start of equality and diversity workshops, “…but we don’t have much diversity around here” Of course, what they mean is we don’t have many Black and Minority Ethic people (BAME) in our customer base or in our team. This is interesting on a number of levels and poses three specific questions.
1. No organisational diversity – why not?
Geography and history can play a part especially in relation to organisations that serve a localised community or who, by the nature of job roles, need to recruit very locally. However it does call into question, how proactive are these organisations in terms of positive action?
I can also recall one organisation who said “But our BAME customer base is only 0.5 % of our total customer population”. Clearly it’s not OK to overlook any customers regardless of percentage numbers. In fact, it transpired that this particular 0.5% equated to several hundred people! Several hundred people who, it could be presumed, were not having their diverse needs and preferences met.
2. Why does ‘organisational diversity’ have to mean only race, ethnicity or national origin?
What about age diversity for example?
A survey by Dr Lynda Shaw, conducted to discover more about people’s attitudes to ageing in the workplace, found that 46% of respondents feel the over 60s are the least important age group in the work environment, while 27% voted those in their 40s as the most important. Commenting on the findings, Dr Shaw said:
“Over 60s are bursting with knowledge and experience. This needs to be embraced, enhanced and utilized… businesses can really benefit from an age diverse workplace, mixing the new ideas and knowledge of younger workers with the experience and expertise of older workers.”
Considering the nine protected characteristics covered under the Equality Act (race, sex, disability, religion and belief, sexual orientation, age, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity), it can be safely assumed that there is a rich pool of diverse experiences, skills and backgrounds just waiting to be tapped into in almost every organisation.
Why are you missing out on the benefits that organisational diversity in its widest sense can bring to all organisations?
If we move beyond the legislation and consider diversity in the way we manage, learn and problem-solve, diversity in our lifestyle preferences and interests, and diversity in our values and behaviours, it can clearly be seen that us humans are interesting and extremely diverse creatures.
Diversity is a rich and valuable resource which will enable your company to develop and retain new markets, make better informed decisions, meet customer needs more effectively, recruit the best and engage and communicate in the best ways.
What does your organisation actively do to promote diversity?