5 reasons you need to take action on diversity and inclusion

As Friday food for thought, here are my top 5 reasons why you need to take urgent action to improve diversity and inclusion in your organization.

1.      The workforce of the future will expect diversity as standard. Labour experts predict that the workforce of the 21st Century will be characterised by increased numbers of women and minorities, and by people who expect a different work-life balance than the workforce of the past. These born-digital millennials will not accept leadership from a homogeneous white male board or senior team; they will expect their workplaces to reflect their experience of an interconnected, global and inclusive community.

2.      Brexit. As the UK stumbles towards Brexit, the easy access to a large labour pool that we have enjoyed is likely to disappear. It will be more important than ever to maximize the talent organizations already have and to encourage experienced staff to stay in the workforce – studies suggest that as many as 43% of women with children leave their jobs. Businesses need to retain this knowledge and experience, and only by focusing on diversity and inclusion will they be able to reverse this trend.

3.      Gender pay gap legislationFrom April 2017 businesses with over 250 employees have a year to gather and publish gender pay data on their own website and on a government portal. Businesses who have already started collecting this data are being forced to acknowledge the extent of the gender pay gap. There is a short window of opportunity to get ahead of the curve and start actively working towards diversity, inclusion and equality before the potentially damaging message about gender pay differentials is exposed.

4.      Diversity is good for businessAnalysis by McKinsey has shown that a 10% increase in diversity in the senior executive team of a UK business will typically lead to a rise in EBIT of 3.5%. Diversity and inclusion are also proven to drive innovation; research published in HBR shows that leaders who cultivate an inclusive environment and give equal airspace to a range of voice are nearly twice as likely to uncover new value-driving insights, and employees working in these environments are 3.5 times as likely to contribute to their full innovative potential.

5.      Your current diversity strategy isn’t working. The very latest research published in HBR in February 2017 shows that diversity initiatives are failing to deliver the expected benefits, and can often have the reverse effect of activating bias and causing resentment. So although putting in place diversity programs is a first step, it is increasingly clear that without inclusion these programs will not succeed. Organizations need to start working on making a range of people feel included, and ensuring that diverse voices in the business are embraced, not just tolerated.

The moral case for diversity and inclusion does not need to be restated; however the business case continues to gather evidence and momentum. Businesses need to actively commit to inclusion, starting at the top of the organization, if they hope to continue to thrive.