A recent surge in awareness and allyship surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement has led individuals, communities and workplaces to evaluate both their own personal shortcomings as well as the systemic failings that have led to black people suffering inequality, racism and injustice. Despite Britain being a so called ‘multicultural society’, people of colour continue to be at a disadvantage and experience prejudice every day.
In the UK, the employment rate for white people is 88% compared to all other ethnic groups combined whose rate is just 65%. BAME groups are less likely to be promoted compared to their white counterparts, only one in sixteen management positions are held by a black person and within the FTSE 100 companies, two thirds have executive leadership which is all white.
Based on the reality of the inequality evident in the above statistics, companies and brands could easily fall into the trap of diversifying their work-force merely as a tick box exercise, tokenism in its original format. However, if we really want to make real long-term change and end systematic racism within our society, employing people from ethnic minority groups just to hit targets and appear anti-racist will never be enough. To truly change culture, diversity should be a standard not just a trend. All companies should acknowledge the myriad of ways in which diversity at every level within the workforce would bring in comparison to their counterparts.
So why is it that companies which prioritise diversity and inclusion perform better? One of the most obvious yet frequently overlooked ways is that a diverse workforce brings a variety of backgrounds, lifestyles and experiences. Companies who seek diversity in potential candidates will have access to a larger pool of talent. Individuals are able to contribute different ideas, solutions and concepts in addition to being able to challenge each other. As a result, organisations are likely to become more open-minded and therefore more in touch with an ever-evolving client base.
In addition to better performance and increased productivity, diversity within the workplace also attracts and retains employees. Environments that lack diversity are likely to feel more hostile and less inclusive for people who don’t feel they fit in. On the other hand, imagine a place of work where people feel seen, valued and cared for; individuals are likely to have both higher performance output, job satisfaction and retention.
Think of the ways in which companies have previously tried to solve problems, inspire individuals and generate new ideas – work ‘retreats’, new offices, different team meetings. In the same way that these activities aim to promote change and unity, a diverse group of employees means unique perspectives which then leads to innovation and change. Not only is this of cost benefit to the company but also promotes a constant culture of change and expansion of the organisation as opposed to the ‘once a year’ drive which is hard to sustain over time.
So, if the benefits of diversity in the workplace are so prevalent, how can companies look to cultivate this? It is important to note that implementing such a change will look different and be implemented in different ways in every organisation. It is also vital that companies recognise that diversity amongst the workforce needs to be a long term, sustainable commitment to eliminate the risk of the tokenism culture.
The ways in which companies and organisations can promote inclusivity is clearly a complex, multi-faceted task and this is not an exhaustive list. It is important to acknowledge that initiatives are not static and should continue to evolve based on the ever-changing needs of the workforce. Initiatives should be reviewed and developed and employees’ feelings towards these initiatives and their perception of the companies efforts should be considered.