'Diversity: it's fundamental to business success' - Monica Atwal writes for CBI Business Voice

Embracing diversity enhances business resilience – and the UK can lead the way, says Clarkslegal’s Monica Atwal

Diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity deliver business success. Organisations that have a variety of different mindsets, embedded throughout, have the component elements to deliver innovation. It is the diversity of thought that results in new ideas, better solutions, identification of unarticulated market needs. But that creativity, the ability to morph and adapt comes as a result of having and harnessing a workforce that is diverse in experience, culture, gender and age.

It makes both moral and business sense. Latest research from McKinsey (Delivering Through Diversity, 2018) found that companies in the top quartile for gender or ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.

But diversity in itself will not increase the velocity of success. If you are doing something because you have to or your HR team is says so, if you are scared of #MeToo, then it is merely an exercise passive lip service. Don’t be complacent. Discrimination persists and it’s costly on all fronts.

A change in approach

Companies need to embrace and truly welcome diversity. It requires a rethink of values and practices. It is not a program but a movement, with targets. It is about fostering and valuing the difference in your workforce, customers and community. It is accessing new talent and customer pools. It relies on commitment and change at the executive level all the way down. It is creating an inclusive, open environment based on respect. It requires an analysis of your organisation, policies and training. It is having forums where there are constructive debates on the line between the joy and fun at work and hurtful banter. It is recognising each organisation has an unwritten code of conduct and value norms – a club that not everyone understands. It is about challenging staff to work differently to add value to the business proposition. It is offering and trialling agile working at every level.

At the CBI Thames Valley and South East Annual Dinner last month, Alex Depledge, founder of Resi.co.uk spoke about tearing up the recruitment process, not specifying qualifications or experience and rewording adverts on key requirements and attitude. By making changes, it is becoming an employer of choice.

Challenging what you do and inviting different points of view creates change and resilience in the workforce. And the ability to innovate and adapt have never been so crucial. Against a backdrop of Brexit uncertainty and rapid advances in technology, business needs to stay in control.

Working together

​Business must work together as a collective voice, as it is the engine of employment opportunity. The UK has led on equality law. The CBI has given a UK employer perspective on employment related law reforms on many occasions, including reforms supportive of protection at work and of diversity. This includes the practical implementation of the proposed ethnic pay reporting, for example.

This will continue to matter in the UK after Brexit to provide sensible and cohesive dialogue with the Government of the day and the TUC. While the UK looks to build its own place in the world it will need collaboration and co-operation from industries and trade unions working together for common good.

The role of the CBI in the near future may be increasingly important both for employment issues in the UK and in our national influence on global trade and workforce standards. It is an honour for Clarkslegal to have been closely associated with the CBI for over 20 years in both these contexts and proud to have been the Corporate sponsor of Thames Annual dinner at a crucial time to ensure UK enterprise is the best it can be to compete globally.