Last week the new UK coalition government published its official work programme. Amongst its many commitments was a pledge to “promote gender equality on the boards of listed companies”, a pledge I wholly support and endorse. However I am left questioning why it should be that in 2010 we still require the government to focus our attention on the promotion of diversity in the boardroom.
Surely this is just a political exercise, making the right noises to appease all views? Surely business leaders in 2010 are long sold on the enormous benefits a diverse leadership group can bring to an organisation?
Business is an ever increasingly small world. Opportunity is less dictated by geography than ever before and talent is certainly not defined by gender, race or any other measure that we may think to apply. I have long been of the view that hiring should be a simple decision of securing the very best person (within budgetary means) from the widest possible pool of talent. My blog post yesterday reflected on the global reach social media affords those of us in the war for talent. Male or Female, European, American, African, Asian, it makes no odds. I want the very best person I can afford. Surely this is the widely held view? It would appear to me to make perfect sense. I find myself struggling to challenge my thinking, to understand in what circumstances I could be wrong. Perhaps I look at life through very simple eyes peering out from behind somewhat rose tinted specs at a very blue sky? Accepting there is much prejudice on planet Earth, surely when it comes down to business such prejudice is put aside? Sadly on further inspection it would appear not to be so.
The benefits of diversity around the leadership table and indeed in the workforce are enormous. Not without its management challenges I accept. However with the pace of globalization accelerating by the day, for most business to survive and thrive success means being able to cast aside traditional assumptions and prejudice in order to seize new opportunities in new markets. That means new cultures, ways of working, beliefs, customs, religions. Enormous benefit is to be gained from a different view, way of thinking or approach.
Diversity in the workplace encourages innovation and creativity, fresh ideas, new products, services and strategies. Diversity brings with it different skills and talents that can improve an organisations ability to deliver goods or services and enhance the customer experience, better understand customer need, add value and sustain competitive advantage. It can reduce the costs of turnover, sickness and absence, impacting positively on employee engagement and have a significant impact on the strength of the employer brand. It can certainly help business to manage better the impact of globalisation and technological change. Not to be underestimated is the positive impact to be had on the image of the organisation amongst external stakeholders and ultimately on social cohesion.
Recruiting from the widest possible pool of talent and embracing diversity in both the boardroom and the workforce is a “no brainer” if an organisation wants to thrive. This is not about political correctness, this is about adopting common sense best practice that simply looks at hiring the best possible person regardless of gender, ethnicity,sexual orientation, age, race, religion or disability.