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The five benefits of equality and diversity to business

Having attended a key Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Prevent Conference in Coventry last week, FSB East Coast Member Robert Adams outlines the the five benefits of equality and diversity to businesses, and how the the business imperatives of equality, diversity and inclusion are hard to ignore.

It is interesting that there still appears to be some confusion over the benefits to the business of ensuring and promoting equality and diversity.

Equality and the ‘state of being equal’ is about creating a fairer society for all individuals with different needs. This is not about giving everyone the same monthly pay packet. It’s about ensuring people are given equal and fair access and chances to opportunities that will allow them to meet their full potential. This does sometimes means giving some people extra help. But it is not about treating everyone the same.

We hear a lot about treating people as individuals, whether that be individual characteristics or socioeconomic positioning. Diversity, at its most basic level, means difference. It’s about recognising that we all have a broad range of differences; cultural, economic, abilities and attributes. More so it is about celebrating what these differences can bring and add to all our contributions to society.
The ‘protected characteristics’ referred to in The Equality Act 2010 cover, in theory, most forms of discrimination in a number of situations, such as, employment and recruitment, education and other public services, and as consumers. Although there are still many examples of inequality at work, such as;

The pay differential between men and women,

The polarisation of high and low wage employment,

The pay gap between the over-50s and under-21s which has mushroomed by 50% in the past 15 years,

Ethnic minority groups – even with higher levels of education – experience lower employment rates than their White counterparts,

People with a declared disability who are 50% less likely to be in employment,

The north/ south divide in the United Kingdom.

And yet diversity in society has impacted greatly in many areas of our lives, such as the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the art we appreciate and the journeys and holidays that have been opened up to us. The greatest consequences of diversity in society is that it brings us into contact with new ideas, new ways of seeing things and new ways of thinking, and so enables us to challenge our own beliefs and prejudices.

This of course is where many of the problems lie. When uncertainty takes root a dash for the old ways and a tightening of the status-quo is likely to take hold.

Unfortunately, without this challenge to our beliefs they can become ‘limiting beliefs’ and society begins to stagnate – as would your business.

The five key benefits of equality and diversity to businesses, that will ensure you thrive rather than just survive, or worse stagnate and decline, are:

1. Similar to the saying ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’ where the business as a whole is enhanced through the pooling of individual and collective resources.

2. Attracting and retaining the best people for the job. This is a real boon to team working were having a diverse range of skills, experiences and knowledge base creates opportunities to generate and build on new and varied ideas.

3. Connected to the point above, a diverse workforce enhances your bottom line. With a diverse workforce you are more able to appeal to a diverse customer base, have internal understating and specialist knowledge of your customers and new and potential customers, giving you that competitive edge and potential for greater market share (especially important as the business progresses towards international markets, irrespective of Brexit).

4. From a purely pragmatic perspective a benefit to having a diverse workforce is avoiding potential legal threats and costs. Being proactive in your equality and diversity policies and procedures can reduce the likelihood of discrimination and so complaints and legal investigations.

5. And reputation. You will attract and retain more able and talented staff, thereby impacting on your bottom line, give you the cutting edge to generate new markets or strengthen existing market loyalty, generating profit and reducing costs associated with discriminatory workplaces.

Bringing it all together

People have a right to be treated as an individual, with equal and fair access and chances to opportunities that will allow them to meet their full potential.

The Equality Act 2010 gives particular rights against discrimination due to the nine protected characteristics with particular reference to the workplace, in education and other public service areas, and to consumers.

Smart businesses would do well to tap into their two greatest assets; their workforce and their customers. So let’s keep disrupting the status quo for a better future.