People bus

Diversity has been a consistently hot topic within the business world but recent weeks have seen a number of high profile cases hitting the mainstream headlines. As with various years preceding 2016, the Oscars has again been called out for a lack of diversity amongst its acting nominees, of which the ranks are 100% white.

Yet the one that took many by surprise was Stonewall’s announcement that MI5 was the most LGBT-friendly employer. Up until 1990, there was still a ban on recruiting gay members of staff in place – so the news was a little unexpected. But what does this mean for business? Practically, fairly little. Yet the concept of diversity that these incidences support goes far beyond the mundane, ‘tick box’ conversations or views currently held by many and looks towards a future where true diversity reigns.

These revelations will have had a huge effect on the popularity of both the Oscars and MI5. Although both are institutions within their own fields, the Oscars will have lost a lot of – often high profile – support in reaction to this news, whereas MI5 is likely to attract a much wider pool of candidates and respect as a result. However, the importance of both of these entities to bring on board talent not just from different ethnicities, sexualities or genders, but from different walks of life, types of education, banks of experience and with individual opinions, is crucial to their future success. The Oscars need writers and directors who can conjure up representations of all aspects of life, and talented actors who can portray them. MI5 also needs this diversity to aid its work in other countries as much as within the UK – even candidates within its hometown of London are likely to have had different experiences of life, and many of these can be valuable to an organisation such as this.

Yet just as both of these establishments need true diversity to survive, so do those operating within business – how better to push into new markets, disrupt trends, and leave the doors wide open to the top talent from a huge array of backgrounds than to celebrate all of these differences?

As one of only two recruitment agencies that are also Stonewall members, diversity is an issue very close to the heart of our organisation. There is a huge decline in the portrayal of these issues as merely ‘tick boxes’ or HR matters alone, but it’s important that they must be championed from the top of an organisation all the way to the ground in order for them to thrive. Professor Brian Rubineau of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, has just published new research on this topic, which suggests that using word of mouth referrals for jobs can help to increase diversity by reaching out to minorities within existing employees’ contact networks. This encourages all members of the organisation to get involved and to tackle the unconscious biases that can undermine true diversity.

However, putting aside the obvious advantages of attracting a genuinely diverse range of candidates by collecting diversity accolades and awards, managing to retain applicants is likely to be dictated by honest commitment to these ideas. Not only this, but investors and clients want to work with organisations that they know behave in this way – not just because a diverse workforce has a positive effect on a company’s bottom line, but also because it is an indication of the morality of the company and authenticity of its leadership. So it looks as though true diversity is becoming a strategy that businesses would be foolish to ignore – and with the war for talent so rife, why not make sure you are a head a shoulders above the rest?

By Dean Ridgewell, Director at Empiric