What do you think of if you hear someone mention “Diversity and Inclusion ”?  What does it mean to you – and mean for your business?  Is it something that you consider when hiring, or when you thing about your customer base?

First of all – what it it?  You know me – I like a definition!

In its simplest form, diversity means being composed of differing elements. In a workplace, diversity means that the workforce is made up of employees with different races, genders, career backgrounds, skills, etc. Diversity is proven to make communities and workplaces more productive, tolerant and welcoming.

We do hear about it a lot – that companies need to be more diverse – and some people may still be under the misapprehension that the point of “diversity” is to benefit so-called minorities. (in many people’s eyes that’s anyone different to them). It makes sense; employ more women or people who are not neurotypical, or younger people (you get the drift) – and that benefits them, right?

Well yes, it does (or it should – we will come to inclusion later!) but that last point in the definition above needs repetition.

Diversity is proven to make communities and workplaces more productive, tolerant and welcoming
No it doesn’t stop there! There is now evidence that having a diverse workforce benefits the company financially – yes – the bottom line is – diversity affects the bottom line – Positively!

Many of us (especially in Scotland) may live in towns and cities with little racial diversity (which is what we commonly think of when the subject comes up) and so it may appear difficult to attract people from different races or cultures. But if you look at most small businesses the workforce will be largely white, possibly of a similar age, and you may indeed not know whether Jim is gay! There may be few women on a construction site or indeed in the boardroom.

When and if you do attract anyone who’s “different” then the story continues. Is the working environment “inclusive”?

It may seem amazing in 2022 to have to say this – but there are legions of workplaces which make life harder for women (and this is the week of International Women’s Day)! The pregnancy “thing” still hasn’t gone away (by which I mean that women are STILL discriminated against in the 21st century simply for being pregnant.  There was a recent case of a woman who was treated badly for “being menopausal” and talking to my female friends some managament attitudes really do stink!

But it’s not all about discrimination and tribunals – at least it shouldn’t be.

So let’s think about what adjustments people in the workplace need.

I have a friend who volunteers for a partially-sighted sports club. For various reasons I was invited to their facebook group – well they may regret that!

I am continually having to point out things like – you need to put a verbal description in for any photos (on Facebook there is no “Alt Text” facility) – as screen readers can’t “see” what’s in a photo – or – Don’t use ALL CAPS in a post. Apart from the fact that it can be seen as Shouty – ALL CAPS is much harder to read. You need the tops of Ts and the bottoms of gs to make sense of what you are reading – this may apply to people with dyslexia too.

My point being… (and I am listening to myself here too) – what if there is someone on LinkedIn who might be interested in my posts – why don’t I make a tiny adjustment that costs me nothing (maybe a teeny bit of time) which will GREATLY help them?

Sometimes it can just be a case of find the right role for people – maybe people with autism thrive in IT departments where they can code or problem solve on their own – but in a customer-facing role will feel overwhelmed.

So being inclusive – in general – will mean small changes to your business – but will make life SOOOO much easier for your workers.

And of course – customers. Again – it is hard to believe in 2022 that wheelchair users still have such a hard time. I get that making huge changes to a building could be costly but if you are looking for new premises then why not take into consideration whether a wheelchair user would experience difficulties?

So my message for this week is – think about your workplace and consider how hiring people with a different point of view, or a different culture, or a different sexuality, or who are neurodiverse or disabled, will actually benefit your business. How they have skills and knowledge which will complement the existing team.

And – make your workplace welcoming by making those tiny adjustments that make people feel that they have been considered – it will make all the difference.

Get in touch with me if you’d like to chat.