Many businesses experienced a considerable slump through 2020 due to the pandemic, but as the world begins to recover in 2021, companies can see this as an opportunity to develop themselves in new directions. A great place to start is by diversifying your employee base, and creating a more inclusive workplace.
If you’re a small business who had to make employees redundant recently and are now starting to grow your company again, it can be easy to hire people from similar backgrounds, believing this will make it easier for them to bond in the workplace. However, there are huge benefits to being more inclusive in your hiring, beyond the obvious moral, ethical, and legal reasons, as diversity really can help to build an excellent business strategy.
There’s no one-size-fits-all explanation of how to be diverse and inclusive, but as a general rule, everyone should feel valued and respected within your organisation, regardless of age, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion or belief, pregnancy (and accompanying maternity/paternity options), marriage/civil partnership, or social or economic background.
Here are just a few reasons why being an inclusive workplace can help you to make the most of the future of your company in 2021 and beyond.
1. Reflect and understand your customers
Most businesses have a diverse customer base, and so it’s sensible for your staff roster to reflect the cultural and socio-economic backgrounds of your target audience. Research from Deloitte revealed that 1 in 2 customers from minority groups felt that their customer needs were often unmet over the past 12 months.
To really understand your customers, you need to have people on your team who can truly inform you about their wants, needs, and ways of thinking, helping you to broaden your knowledge of how to appeal to minority customer groups more directly.
Ensuring disabled people with different access needs and impairments feel confident they will receive the same customer service from your team as everyone else.
In turn, if customers can see your commitment to being an inclusive employer, that may be the deciding factor in them choosing to deal with your company over one of your competitors.
2. Innovation and diverse thinking
“We have seen the rewards of having a really inclusive hiring policy,” says Anthony Murphy of Murphy’s Liquidation Furniture, “Not least that we have a team of people with lots of diverse ideas, but it also brings a real mix of characters together who all have different perspectives – and that can be hugely beneficial!”
Employees are what really makes a business, and staff bring ideas, innovation and positive change to a company. Staff from varied backgrounds can bring new ideas and perspectives that others simply might not have even considered.
“At its highest point, inclusion is expressed as feeling “safe” to speak up without fear of embarrassment or retaliation, and when people feel “empowered” to grow and do one’s best work. Clearly, these elements are critical for diversity of thinking to emerge.“ – Deloitte
3. Anonymised CVs
Anonymised CVs (often referred to as blind CVs) allow applicants to apply for a position without including personal information that could relate to their gender, ethnicity or race – anything that’s unrelated to an individual’s ability to perform in their role isn’t included.
From the company’s perspective, it removes any opportunities for unconscious bias when reviewing and shortlisting potential candidates for a position in the company. If you receive an anonymised CV you may have initial reservations on your ability to assess the applicant’s experience, capability and how their skills relate to your vacancy without seeing ‘key’ information – well, you’d be mistaken. Anonymised CV’s include everything you need to determine whether a candidate could be a suitable fit; experience, education and skill set.
4. Increase productivity and performance
Having a range of different perspectives on your team can build a great atmosphere that is constantly buzzing with new ideas and innovative strategies. Staff morale will be higher when it’s obvious that everyone is being listened to and valued as individuals, and people who feel they can be themselves as work will be more likely to achieve their full potential.
Employees from a range of different backgrounds may also bring with them new ways of working, which could help to kick-start a stagnant team into one that thrives with renewed motivation and skills.
The possible financial rewards for being an inclusive employer are vast and far-reaching. You may find your business breaks out into new areas you’d never considered before and could find yourself as pioneers of a product you never knew people needed.
Even if you stick with the basics, it’s no secret that a better-performing team makes more profit, and more profit means every area of the business will benefit.
There are also ways you should support your employees to provide a more inclusive workplace environment, such as accessibility allowances for disabled employees, offering flexible working arrangements for anyone who may need it for medical, familial, or religious reasons, clear and concise HR policies for dealing with any grievances, and even offering uniform alternatives where applicable such as different cuts of shirts/trousers, hijab options, or non-leather shoes and belts.
All of these will make you an appealing prospective employer for the diverse team you’re seeking to attract, and likely increase morale within your existing team as well.
It’s always been advantageous to be an inclusive workplace, but it’s particularly important at the moment, in a culture of economic uncertainty, that you’re doing everything you can to make your business the best it can be.
With the sudden increase in unemployment rates, there’s a huge pool of incredible talent available to employers, so it’s really worth casting the net wide to root out the very best candidates from all backgrounds and communities. It will benefit your employees’ morale and productivity, your customers’ trust in your company, and ultimately, your business’ profile and profits.