It would be a pretty dull world if we were all the same, looked the same and liked the same things. And the same could be said of your workforce. If everyone you employ acted in the same way or made the same choices just imagine the adverse impact that could have on your business.
Employing a diverse workforce isn’t simply about treading a politically correct line, it can bring a greater understanding of your customers’ needs and a much broader range of knowledge, creativity and productivity to your company.
What is a diverse workforce?
A diverse workforce features people from a wide variety of backgrounds. It is one which is inclusive and embraces the many different cultures, ethnicities, experiences and knowledge that your workers can bring with them.
Why is having a diverse workforce important for a small business?
There's good reason for founders of small businesses to pursue an equal work environment from the beginning. "It's important that a startup is inclusive from the beginning as it ensures that all employees feel valued and appreciated in the workplace," says Jonathan Richards, CEO and founder of breatheHR. And whilst it may seem like an odd priority when a new venture is still trying to ensure its own survival, getting equality right will have long-lasting benefits. "Setting this norm at the start will ensure that the company culture goes from strength to strength and the company's values are at the centre of it," says Richards.
Here are just some of the reasons that small business employers should be embracing a diverse workforce.
Drives economic growth
The workforce in general is growing all the time with more women, racial and ethnic minorities and members LGBT community providing valuable skills and experience. People are increasingly open about who they are and businesses should embrace that.
Greater staff retention and reduces staff turnover
If you fail to create a diverse work environment you can create a more hostile environment. If the workplace atmosphere isn’t great, then staff will vote with their feet. Increased staff turnover then leads to higher recruiting costs at the expense of your bottom line. If your employees feel comfortable, included and valued they’re less likely to look for jobs elsewhere.
There is a fear among some managers that having too diverse a workforce will create more arguments and reduce productivity. But increased diversity brings with it a broad range of experience, skills and backgrounds which can have a positive impact. In a diverse, inclusive environment, teamwork and cooperation can thrive which in turn creates a more productive workforce. According to a study from McKinsey, companies with a diverse workforce are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than those who are not.
Wider talent pool to pick from
If you only pick from one section of society you’re automatically limiting your access to the most talented individuals you have to choose from. By opting for diversity you have much greater odds of finding the best people for your business.
Great innovation and creativity
Effective problem-solving often involves working with others and if those people all have different experiences, backgrounds and educations, then it can lead to new and innovative ideas which might not otherwise have come up. Scott E. Page describes in his book, The Difference, the addition of diversity in teams as super-additivity – with a diverse collection of people working together one can make an improvement, then others in the group can improve on that and so on. Essentially improvement builds on improvement in a way you wouldn’t get if everyone had similar backgrounds, skills and experience.
Increased boardroom leverage
There are plenty of stats about how boardrooms are dominated by white males. For example, in America’s 500 biggest companies there are fewer women than there are men named John on the boards, which is a pretty sobering statistic. Yet boardrooms need to reflect the changing demographics of our world and by having a diverse boardroom a company can draw on a much wider range of experience.
Better understanding of your customers
If you have a more diverse workforce you can market your business more effectively to different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Staff with similar backgrounds can also help promote better understanding between your business and your different customers as well as help increase your market share. They can also help your business to understand cultural differences which may actively hamper business growth. Did you know, for example, that in China and Japan the business card holds special importance and should be given with a much greater reverence than in the UK, and with two hands. You should also receive the card with two hands as well as have it printed in Chinese or Japanese.
Positive employer brand
It’s no longer enough to merely carry out your business function – if you want your business to thrive then you need to create a positive employer brand. One with a diverse workforce will feed into that brand, showing you as an inclusive and forward-thinking employer. You’ll be considered a brand people want to work with which in turn can boost staff recruitment and business growth.