Diversity and Inclusion – It Makes Sense

Image of hands holding multi coloured puzzle pieces togetherAustralia really is the lucky country. We are an inclusive country with a population of people from vastly diverse backgrounds. While it may not have always been easy and without incident, we have been able to learn from each other and celebrate and embrace the knowledge and skills that each different perspective has brought. It is only because of the insight, beliefs and actions of those that came before us that we have been able to develop what is, generally, a community that respects each other, values the difference that each of us brings and works together to break down the barriers for true equality.  This really is the lucky country.

As leaders, we must ensure that we bring those same values and guiding principles that exist within our communities into our workplaces. Not only is it a legal requirement, it also makes great business sense for leaders to make sure that diversity and inclusion are seen as a business imperative.  The evidence supports the belief that diversity and inclusion promotes innovation, provides more opportunities and delivers better business results.  In fact, it is so highly regarded as important that more than 150 CEOs of some of the world’s leading companies signed up to the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion.  These CEOs are committing to developing workplace culture that values each person’s skills, knowledge and perspective. Dennis Nally (former Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers in the US) wrote an article, Five reasons why diversity and-inclusion matter, that identifies the five reasons why this approach is so important to businesses.  His five reasons for making diversity and inclusion a business imperative are:

1. The Right Thing: Creating a culture and a community for there are equal opportunity for all is simply the right thing to do.  We must ensure our policies, practices and behaviours support the creation and maintenance of a workplace culture that is fair for all.

2. The Best Thing: The research is clear, organisations that embrace diversity have a competitive advantage and gain a greater share of the market.  These organisations attract quality people who are more engaged which results in higher levels of customer satisfaction.  This in turn, results in greater returns to the business.

3. Go Forward: Nally refers to research that clearly shows a very high percentage of those seeking employment consider the organisations policies on diversity and inclusion as a key factor in helping decide where to work. If you are seeking to grow your business and get the best possible people, you need to ensure you have created a culture that welcomes people from all parts of our community.

4. Societal Benefits: Leaders often tell me they are having trouble finding the right people.  I challenge them to take a broader approach to their search and not just focus on the traditional group of candidates. Take a look at the people returning to work, older candidates or candidates from different backgrounds.  The adoption of a different approach that attracts a diverse group of people leads to an increase the bottom line and provides a positive influence on the communities that we live and work in.

5. Learn and Grow: We learn and grow by working together.  When we work together with people from diverse backgrounds; who have had different experiences and bring a variety of working styles; we gain another perspective and grow as individuals.  Better business outcomes are driven by people with diverse views all sharing their knowledge and experience.

While the positive outcomes and benefits of ensuring your business sees diversity and inclusion as key business driver are clear, it is important to note that it’s not always easy. The responsibility of ensuring that diversity and inclusiveness is a priority in our workplace rests with each and every one of us, not just the leaders.  We must hold each other to account, role model the values and behaviours we are seeking and recognise the benefits that that such a focus can deliver to us all.  As Henry Ford said, ‘Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress but working together is success.’ So let’s get busy creating a culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion. It is the right thing to do for our people, our organisations and our community.

Happy leading!