Diversity 'brings plethora of workplace benefits'

Workplace diversity is a topic that features highly on HR departments' list of priorities.

Various studies point to the fact that the more diverse a workplace is - be it in terms of gender, ethnicity or sexuality - the better it will function thanks to the increased range of skills on offer.

For example, MIT economist Sara Ellison has said that switching from an all-male or all-female office to a 50/50 split could increase revenue by 41 per cent. This is obviously a very compelling reason for looking at the issue of diversity.

The number of females in leadership roles in the UK is monitored through its Women on Boards reports, and there has been significant progress over the past few years, while a number of high profile tech companies in the US have recently taken the decision to publish statistics on their diversity in an effort to move the conversation centre stage.

These figures show that 42 per cent of eBay's employees are women, which puts it ahead of Pinterest (40 per cent), Yahoo (37 per cent), Google (30 per cent) and Microsoft (29 per cent) in terms of gender diversity.

Looking at the information about workplace demographics that has been released, it's clear there is still a lot of progress to be made in this area.

The need for diversity
Tidjane Thiam, CEO for Prudential, is a big advocate of the need to encourage diversity in the workplace. However, the first black CEO of a FTSE 100 company has insisted he does not believe in diversity purely for diversity's sake.

"Diversity and meritocracy go hand-in-hand. The benefits are obvious for a global organisation," he said at the recent Women's Business Forum, HR Magazine reports.

"Diversity leads to better decision-making; independence of mind and diversity of opinion is what you want in any high-performing team. Teams, companies and countries that embrace diversity will win in the end."

Avoiding complacency
While progress has been made in this field, companies cannot afford to be complacent with their diversity strategies. This is why continuous investment is required to maintain a high-quality talent pipeline.

Professor Alison Wride, provost at GSM London, thinks that aside from moral considerations, there are also solid financial reasons why large organisations should be looking to create a diverse workplace.

"They recognise the value of matching the increasing diversity of their clients and customers, with that of their workforce ... This is rational, profit-maximising behaviour by employers. It isn't a case of being soft-hearted or charitable; it's the right business strategy," she added.

Professor Wride also highlighted the issue of innovation - as continually hiring the same type of person is only going to stymie creation in the long term. As she pointed out, having a collection of different perspectives, voices and experiences is key if companies want to stay nimble and ahead of the competition.

As both of these experts state, there are distinct business reasons behind promoting a diverse workforce. A failure to engage in this topic will slowdown the progress of companies.