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Workplace diversity is on top of the agenda for today’s businesses. But what does it actually mean? Leaving aside the day-to-day value that a diverse workforce brings – such as fresh ideas and a wider skill set – there are other important benefits.

Many organisations now consider workplace diversity as an indicator of a high quality business partner, for instance. This remains a genuine differentiator, as only 1 in 4 senior leadership roles are filled by women and 1 in 10 by ethnic minorities.

I’m proud of Haines Watts – as women now make up 40% of our Leadership Development Programme. But I also believe it’s time for diversity to go beyond labels like gender and race – because the value your people bring to the business also comes from their personal experiences.

Breaking down stereotypes

From a personal perspective, I know I didn’t feel like typical ‘accountant’ material when I started out. If you’re from a small town or the first university graduate in your family, it can be daunting to reach for your dreams or know where to find support in an unfamiliar world.

But people from different backgrounds bring fresh perspective to your business; and they help you connect to new audiences.

The trouble is that they might not always be aware of their potential. As leaders, we should actively scout for talent from a wider economic, cultural or geographic spectrum.

Different life circumstances

Single parents, for example, might assume that an employer would see them as less flexible or committed.

However, the truth is that bringing up a child single-handed requires many skills that are transferable to the workplace – such as commitment, diplomacy, loyalty, time-management, budget control and forward planning.

Equally, people who have taken time out to raise children can lack confidence about returning to work. With a little support and upskilling, they become loyal and hardworking members of the team.

By thinking about workplace diversity and the bigger picture when recruiting, companies can assess people’s strengths and successfully work around their needs. In return for low-cost investments like flexible hours or additional training, you could gain an employee who fuels your next breakthrough or innovation.

It’s not just doing what’s right – it’s also good for business.

Final piece of the workplace diversity puzzle

Finally, let’s talk about another less obvious benefit of diversity. While companies have made strides in achieving workplace accessibility, ‘out of sight’ can still mean ‘out of mind’ for some problems.

Mental well-being, for instance, can be particularly difficult to manage. The symptoms of depression, anxiety or ADHD can be hard to spot – or misjudged.

While I’ve talked about the importance of mental health at work before, I want to emphasise once more that we have a responsibility to take care of our employees and help them reach their potential. 

Business reasons for caring

 It seems obvious, but companies who value having a team that’s more representative of society also do better – by 35%, according to McKinsey.

So next time you’re preparing for interviews, consider adding these questions to the mix:

  • What have been your top three life experiences?
  • What is a memorable life challenge you have overcome?
  • What would make us an attractive employer for you?

Read more

A healthy business needs healthy employees

Social mobility is good for business

Find and contact your local Haines Watts office

About the author

Donna Bulmer

With over 20 years’ experience, Donna is Managing Partner in the North East. Having facilitated the growth of the region’s two offices and almost doubled turnover over a four year period, she is now helping to drive national strategy through her position on the Haines Watts board. As well as advising growing owner-managed businesses, Donna spends a great deal of her time working with voluntary sector organisations and, as such, is one of the leading voices for the not-for-profit sector in the Haines Watts group. She is a strong advocate of social issues and diversity in the workplace, and is using her board position to help businesses understand the importance of corporate social responsibility. On top of this, she is a Trustee and Treasurer for local charity Streetwise Young Peoples Project and sits on the Finance Sub-committee of national charity Changing Lives.

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