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Improving Business Performance with Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

by Dr. Clare O’Hagan

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equality-diversity-inclusion-lanczos3Are you experiencing difficulties with attracting talent? Are your employees fully engaged and committed to staying?  Are they innovative and creative in ways that benefit your business?  Embracing an equality, diversity and inclusion strategy (EDI) can provide a solution to the challenges of attracting and retaining talent, engaging employees and increasing innovation.

What is equality, diversity and inclusion?

Equality is about ensuring everybody has an equal opportunity, and is not treated differently or discriminated against because of their characteristics.  Diversity is when we recognise and value difference in its broadest sense, it is about creating a culture and practices that recognise, respect, value, and embrace difference for everyone’s benefit. Inclusion refers to an individual’s experience within the workplace and the extent to which they feel valued and included.

How does it benefit business?

The recent Deloitte Millennial Survey (2018) shows that Millennials – those employees born between 1983 and 1994 (i.e. aged 24 to 35) are most likely to be attracted by good pay and positive cultures, but diversity, inclusion and flexibility are important keys to keeping them happy, productive and engaged. The Global Labour Market Survey found that diverse and inclusive workforces demonstrate 12% more discretionary effort, 19% greater intent to stay, 57% more collaboration among teams and 42% greater team commitment. And, in terms of innovation, identity diversity among intelligent people on a team contributes more to effective problem-solving than a team comprised of best-performing, intelligent people without identity diversity (Page, 2010).

In a global survey of more than 50,000 employees, it was found that employees’ commitment to their managers was a critical factor in engagement. The Corporate Leadership Council claims that managers are an important link between employees and the organisation, and the most important managerial characteristic is when the manager ‘shows strong commitment to diversity’[1].

Not only does diversity and inclusion benefit employee retention, engagement, and innovation but it improves overall business performance. Catalyst (2007) found that companies with more women board directors outperformed those with the least women directors on return on equity (53% higher), return on sales (42% higher), and return on invested capital (66% higher). Herring (2009) found that a racially diverse workforce was positively associated with more customers, increased sales revenue, greater relative profits, and greater market share, while gender diversity was positively associated with increased sales revenue, more customers, and greater relative profits. While Blazovich et al (2013) demonstrated that firms that implemented LGBT-friendly policies experienced increases in firm value, productivity, and profitability. This was particularly relevant for firms needing employees with technical expertise.

How are Irish companies doing?

McGinnity and Lunn (2011) sent out nearly 500 equivalent CVs from Irish and minority candidates in response to advertised vacancies in the greater Dublin area and found that candidates with Irish names are over twice as likely to be called to interview as are candidates with an African, Asian or German name.  This is consistent with CSO (2015) findings: 20% of people looking for work reported discrimination on the grounds of race/skin colour/ethnic group/nationality while 46% of people looking for work reported age discrimination. There is also discrimination in employment: 28% of people experienced workplace discrimination on the grounds of race/skin colour/ethnic group/nationality, while 17% experienced discrimination on the grounds of gender.

However, many organisations in Ireland have diversity and inclusion programmes in place because in addition to improving retention and innovation, it broadens the applicant pool as many job seekers from minority groups desire a sense of inclusiveness in their workplace.

How to improve your EDI profile

Equality, diversity and inclusion benefit a company hugely in productivity and creativity, so it is important to embrace it, this means fostering an environment where different views are acknowledged, diversity of thought is encouraged, and a wealth of experiences are utilised.

For smaller organisations, investing large sums of money into a diversity and inclusion strategy is not necessarily feasible. However, there are ways of making a big difference without spending big money. You can commit publicly to inclusion and diversity; survey employees to establish your organisation’s profile, and in consultation with employees, develop a policy.  You can promote diversity in visual images, marketing and recruitment materials.  You can encourage family-friendly and gender-supportive policies and practices, encourage the establishment of employee networks, e.g. women’s, LGBT, different ethnicities and celebrate differences e.g. national holidays.  Significantly, you can train line managers in awareness of unconscious bias, in ways of demonstrating a commitment to diversity and in supporting and managing diverse teams. Because equality, diversity and inclusion are essential for organisations that want to tap talent, attract superior candidates, improve motivation and provide climates in which all employees want to give of their best efforts.

For expert advice on dealing with any aspect of employment equality, diversity and inclusion, call Insight HR on 056 770 1060 or email mcullen@insighthr.ie

[1]           Corporate Leadership Council (2004) Driving Performance and Retention Through Employee          Engagement Washington, DC: Corporate Executive Board.

 

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