It's Working for Them; If So Many Successful Organisations Value Diversity among Their Staff, Why Doesn't Every Employer? after All, Research Shows It Makes Sound Business Sense. by Niki Chesworth

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Byline: Niki Chesworth

CREATING an inclusive workplace involves more than just "doing" diversity for cosmetic reasons. While the law, particularly the new Equality Act, puts legal requirements on employers, many successful organisations do not need an Act of Parliament to act on this issue -- they are already committed to ensuring their workforce is diverse and inclusive.

"There is a compelling business case which should encourage organisations to look beyond legal compliance with anti-discrimination laws," says the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

"We believe that recognising and valuing diversity is central to good people management. Employers who sit on the sidelines regarding diversity will quickly become less attractive to existing and prospective employees."

Aside from the social justice argument -- the belief that everyone should have a right to equal access to employment and when employed should have equal pay and equal access to training and development, as well as being free of any direct or indirect discrimination, harassment or bullying -- there is also a compelling business argument for a diverse workforce.

"However, these business case arguments build on the social justice arguments," says the CIPD. "They are not an alternative."

CIPD research on the psychological contract shows that people want to work for employers with good practices.

They also want to feel valued at work. CIPD says: "To be competitive, organisations need everyone who works for them to make their best con-tribution. Increasingly, employers are recognising the importance of diversity in recruiting and retaining the skills and talent they need.

"Creating open and inclusive workplace cultures in which everyone feels valued, and respects colleagues, is recognised as key."

A diverse workforce can also help organisations with their market competitiveness, for example by broadening their customer base. In the case of a supermarket, that could be offering products to satisfy a wider range of dietary needs and eating preferences. A broad and representative workforce can also enhance an organisation's reputation.

"Businesses need to consider corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the context of diversity," adds the CIPD. "CSR is usually thought of as being linked to environmental issues, but an increasing number of employers take a wider view, seeing the overall image of an organisation as important in attracting and retaining both customers and employees. Indeed, it can be argued that CSR is part of the psychological contract between a firm and the community or communities in which it operates."

At the most visible level, this can include employing staff that reflect the customer base.

"Equal opportunity is often seen as meaning treating everyone in exactly the same way," adds the CIPD. "But to provide real equality of opportunity, people need to be treated differently in ways that are fair and tailored to their needs but in ways aligned to business needs and objectives."

Many of the successful organisations which already provide this "real equality of opportunity" are taking part in The Diversity Careers Show, which takes place in London tomorrow.

FINANCIAL SERVICES Heavily represented at the careers show is the financial services sector, which is recognised as one of the most diverse employers.

However, while the public sector may feel the need to have a diverse workforce to reflect its customer base, in the Square Mile the driver is the need to be competitive.

To remain so, banks need to attract top talent regardless of sex, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, maternity, pregnancy, gender reassignment or age (the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.) A headline sponsor of The Diversity Careers Show, Credit Suisse, says it aims to be the employer of choice by attracting and retaining the best and most diverse talent. …

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