The five benefits of a racially diverse workforce
Diversity can give a competitive edge, lead to greater innovation and help attract top talent
Research has shown that more diverse and inclusive teams outperform their peers. Photograph: iStock
1. Cognitive diversity is plain smarter
While there’s a certain comfort that comes with working alongside people from a similar background, the downside can be that employees with shared experiences tend to approach problems from the same perspective. “We know that people from the same backgrounds tend to assess problems in the same way, resulting in the same blindspots,” explain Antoinette Lynch and Brid McNamara from Intertrust Ireland’s diversity and inclusionary team.
“Without a diverse workforce there is the risk that the organisation will continue to do business as usual, seeing things from a perspective that was always there. People from different backgrounds can challenge the usual based on their experiences. A team which is demographically diverse can still become cognitively uniform, however, different racial backgrounds open discussions on alternative solutions to a problem that a demographically diverse team may not have considered.”
2. A driver of innovation
Following up on the first point, a racially diverse team can help a company break out of stale ways of thinking and in an era of technological disruption, new ideas can be invaluable. “Diverse teams are more innovative and they challenge one another to create better, more inclusive solutions,” explains Dr Michelle Cullen, managing director and head of inclusion and diversity at Accenture Ireland.
“Failure to use all the world’s talent to solve problems is inhibiting innovation and fresh thinking. Accenture solves our clients’ toughest challenges and those challenges are better solved by bringing diverse perspectives and experiences to bear. The diversity of our people helps us better serve our clients.”
3. A diverse workplace helps attract and retain top talent
“From a talent perspective, in a market where we are back to talent shortages in most sectors, fostering a diverse workforce and having diverse leadership role models serves to attract – and aids retention of – talent, says Anne Coleman, founder and director of Diversity Search. “Often, if an organisation is not focusing on diversity and inclusion they are not considered an attractive employer.”
Millennials are set to comprise 75 per cent of the Irish workforce within the next decade, and their views and work habits are slowly transforming work culture. The views and ethics of a particular company can be a make-or-break factor in their decision to sign on – and to stay there.
“They expect diversity – they loathe discrimination or unconscious bias,” says Valarie Daunt, partner, human capital at Deloitte. “They are less individualistic than previous generations and are more concerned about the whole of society. Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey shows that those who see their top teams as being more diverse are more likely to report their working environments as motivating and stimulating. They are also more likely to stay with those organisations, which is a distinct advantage in a country where we have near full employment.
4. A competitive edge
Business is becoming increasingly global, so any company that hires employees who can speak different languages or come from different cultures can prove to have a major advantage over competitors. These employees can represent the company to foreign clients and can help management identify opportunities they may not have considered previously.
“Racial diversity is like any other form of diversity in that it implies being different in some way,” says Daunt. “People are exposed to different experiences as they go through life based on all sorts of factors such as their race, gender, faith, socio-economic background, education and so on. These different experiences mean they see the world differently from someone who comes from another background. By bringing all these different experiences and perspectives together, a team can challenge one another and avoid groupthink to a far greater extent than a homogenous group.”
5. The numbers don’t lie
More than anything, a company seeking workplace diversity is just a smart move from a business point of view. A 2015 McKinsey report surveying more than 300 public companies found those in the top percentile for ethnic and racial diversity were up to 35 per cent more likely to have financial returns above industry standard.
“Research has shown that more diverse and inclusive teams outperform their peers and can generate up to 30 per cent higher revenue per employee and greater profitability than their competitors, says Daunt. “Indeed, our own research by Deloitte demonstrates that diverse and inclusive teams are more innovative, engaged and creative in their work.”