Diversity: A positive in the workplace
It's a word that might just set fear into the heart of some employers. Diversity means increased costs, difficult work practices, empty office chairs and ineffective workers. Right? Well, the fact is that if a company such as KPMG, one of the largest global networks for professional accountancy services, is more than happy to use diversity to its advantage there must be more to it than scaremongering will have you believe.
A company set apart from the rest
On their website, KPMG proudly point out that their simple introduction of basic diversity principles has not only transformed their business, it has improved it, often in ways that are surprising to the rest of us. Their aim is to offer a workplace that is entirely inclusive with high levels of attention paid to performance and ability, while still fostering an environment where individuals, regardless of their background, religion, race, gender, age or parental roles can and will succeed.
Being rigorous about fairness and removing bias in how we recruit, and in how we manage, evaluate and reward performance. We recruit the best irrespective of difference.
By being rigorous in the way they recruit, KPMG has managed to achieve 34% of their employees from ethnic minorities and a 97% success rate for anyone asking for flexible working patterns. With additional paternity and maternity support, KMPG has placed itself as a supportive workplace for parents to and they make special effort to encourage and support religious observance and ethnic celebrations. Essentially, KMPG has made itself a great place to work.
A basis for evaluation
Why has the focus on diversity become so prevalent for KMPG in recent months? In July 2014, KMPG carried out a survey of 11,500 staff and asked them to fill in a diversity profile that had some positive and some negative results. For example they discovered that many members of staff were unwilling to reveal their sexual orientation and that they have a woefully small number of Black partners. They also recognised the need for more female partners. This led to plans for a change in the culture and a concerted effort to make profound changes to how people are employed and the biases that may exist.
Simon Collins the KPMG Chairman stated at the time that part of that process was “providing more transparency of the make-up of our current staff against where we would like it to be. It's uncomfortable but we need to step up and be open and honest about the challenge we face. Greater transparency means we can be scrutinised against the targets we set ourselves.” A brave move for any company.
KPMG's head of Diversity and Inclusion, Stephen Frost, agrees. “Staff profiling enables us to take a focussed approach to our recruitment, training and diversity and inclusion strategy.”
But this isn't simply about ticking boxes. Diversity is known to improve business culture in so many ways – not least when it comes to the bottom line.
A happier workforce
Employing new staff is expensive, training takes time and money, finding the right people is difficult and if people leave because they feel discriminated against – the effect on the company image can be devastating. The aim of any business, and KMPG is not alone here, is to keep good staff happy. Happy people work hard, produce more profit and stay where they are. Win win for employers and clients alike.
Diversity fills vacancies
Accountancy is seeing a boom in recent months with some very impressive employment rates and some great increases in rates of pay. This obviously means that good employees are moving between companies to find the very best roles. It is simple supply and demand – there are too many roles and not enough people to fill them adequately. A culture of inclusion that brings people from all walks of life into a business, widens the pool of candidates and opens up avenues that may never have been considered in the past.
Staff represent their clients
This is especially true when it comes to services such as accountancy. Anyone working in this industry will know that the client can run the gamut of nationalities, genders, ages, religions and backgrounds. These clients want to work with people who understand where they are coming from – the issues they face and with accountants who have sympathies with their needs. If your workforce is 75% male and 85% white – they simply do not represent your clients.
Diversity adds to the company profile
Is it cynical to promote diversity simply to achieve kudos amongst peers, media and the general public? Probably not, because companies who decide to tick boxes at first will quickly realise the other benefits that come with diversity are well worth the effort. Any company in the UK that has failed to recognise the importance of cultural diversity runs the risk of falling behind, very quickly.