Thrive through diversity (2/4)

By: Maria van der Schoot

This article is the second article as part of the series ‘Thrive through diversity’. In the first article, we explored how embracing diversity increases the resiliency, stability, and relevancy of an organization in times of turmoil by creating a solid foundation. Three domains of diversity were quickly introduced. For the next three parts of this series, we dive deeper into each of these domains. This article explores workforce diversity and the importance of it to become a sustainable organization.

Importance of workforce diversity in sustainable organizations
How female representation in board members affects CSR performance
Strategies for increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Benefits of a diverse workforce for future regulations and policies
Role of unconscious biases in diversifying your organization

‘Workforce diversity’ refers to having a workforce in which a mix of genders, ages, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, religions, and levels of education are represented. Although still unachieved in lots of organizations, the benefits of ‘workforce diversity’ are most recognized and acknowledged.

Having a diverse workforce will contribute to a more sustainable foundation for your organization. Research has shown that the gender, ethnical background, culture, and age diversity of an organizational board and workforce enhances the CSR investment and approach and therefore improves the CSR performance of the organization (Islam et al., 2022). In other words, having a diverse workforce relates directly to a more sustainable organization.

Female representation in board members for example increases higher quality decisions and provides more attention to community support. With their identified characteristics such as empathy, participation, cooperation and communication skills, they bring greater concern to the environment and society (Islam et al., 2022). Therefore, taking on sufficient representation of females in the workforce will increase the sustainability practices within an organization.

What to do

If you as part of your organization would like to increase the level of workforce diversity, I recommend paying attention to the following:

  • Check your data. What are the numbers? Do thorough research on the diversity of your workforce. Make sure that this diversity is represented in all levels of the organization. For example, not only junior females and senior males.
  • Focus on unconscious biases. We don’t like people for who they are, we like people for how we see ourselves in them. Same counts for dislikes. Becoming aware of your unconscious biases will simplify hiring a diverse workforce.
  • Invest in ‘inclusion’. Solely focusing on a diverse workforce won’t have much meaning if they don’t feel included.

The benefits

When increasing diversity in the workforce, you will notice that there will be a lot of ripple effects with positive repercussions. These benefits may include:

  • Operating in a complex environment. The more diversity the more perspectives and worldviews are supported. In complex environments you simply won’t survive when all people think the same way and hold the same values. Holding a variety of worldviews is a prerequisite to grow in this complex world.
  • Attracting new talent. More and more, young talent does not only judge their future employee on the salary and their position, but also on the values that the future organization carries. Showing these candidates that you care about these values, will increase the likelihood of getting the contract signed.
  • Being prepared for future regulations and policies. Already there is a quota on how many females will need to be hired as regulators within the Dutch government this will only grow further over time (link).
  • Lengthening your licence to operate. By being prepared for future regulations, the licence to operate will be extended. When a tighter and more ambitious quota will become reality and you as an organization are not prepared for this, your licence to operate will quickly disappear.
  • Keeping your workforce. By diversifying your workforce, they will start to feel a sense of belonging and respect. This will increase their connection loyalty to the organization. Subsequently, this will result in higher motivated people that achieve greater results.
  • Lowering your costs. As aforementioned, workforce diversity contributes to an increase in CSR performance. Having a higher performance, means that the organization is better prepared for future regulations and policies. Being prepared means that the organization does not have to spent significant amount of money to comply with the regulations. Furthermore, due to the scarcity of natural resources, they become more expensive. If an organization has reduced their footprint as part of their CSR performance, they have lowered their costs due to efficient use of (renewable) resources.
  • Increasing the reputation of your organization. Lots of organizations that do good in any shape of form attract rather positive than negative attention. I believe that people are the most important treasures an organization can hold. Treating them with respect and embracing their diversities will enhance the reputation.
  • Inspiring organizations to do the same. By contributing to diversity and inclusiveness, the bar is raised and more pressure to the outside world will follow to keep up with the status quo. People will be inspired and pressure their own organizations to do better as well. Besides, your legacy will be much cleaner.

Workforce diversity is key but not the only diversity domain making an organization stable, resilient, and relevant. Stay tuned for the next article on product & portfolio diversity.

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