The business benefits of diversity
Diversity describes people’s differences. Differences can come from individual characteristics and life experiences, such as where you went to school or where you live. Being married or in a civil partnership, being a parent, your political affiliation, career path or level of income can also influence your personal perspectives. These factors make us react, approach challenges and solve problems differently. When people refer to ‘diversity’, especially in a business context, they often focus on a particular set of key characteristics or differences. These are:
• ethnicity (which refers to colour, race and national origin)
• sexual orientation.
These differences are protected by law. This means staff and customers have the legal right to be treated fairly and equally in relation to these characteristics. Diversity brings real benefits to society and businesses. For society, diversity brings richness and variety. There are always new and interesting things to be learnt from each other. For a business, employing a diverse workforce enables it to use a wider range of talents and skills. These lead to creativity and innovation. Businesses need to mirror the communities and cultures they work in so they can understand and anticipate the diverse needs of their customers. In order to get the best from staff and meet the varying needs of their diverse customers, it is very important for businesses to ‘manage diversity’ in a positive way. They need to recognise, respect and value people’s differences.
The following facts help to show how diverse society is becoming:
• Ethnic minorities make up 8% of the external labour market (4.6 million people).
• The UK population is becoming older. By 2016 there will be more adults aged 45-59 than in any other age group.
• 6% of the adult population is estimated to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual (3.5 million people).