Workplace Diversity

Genuine Workplace Diversity or Box Ticking?

Is your organisation genuine about workplace diversity, or is it just a box ticking exercise for HR? What are best practices for workplace diversity?

Firstly, let me make this perfectly clear... We believe strongly in workplace diversity, but we're completely against diversity quotas, or diversity for the sake of diversity.

So what can an organisation do to demonstrate that they are genuine about workplace diversity? In this article I will share some thoughts on good diversity practices.


What is Workplace Diversity?

In simple terms, workplace diversity refers to the differences between people in an organisation, including: Age, Education, Ethnicity, Experience, Gender, Race, Religion, Personality and Sexual Preferences. Unfortunately diversity is not that simple, as it also involves how people perceive themselves, and how they perceive others.

It's easy to hire a diverse workforce... Getting a diverse workforce to work together in harmony is the real challenge!


Benefits of Workplace Diversity

There are a host of reasons why workplace diversity is beneficial to an organisation, but here are 3 key reasons:

  • Increased Innovation: A diverse workforce leads to increased innovation, as different ideas and perspectives are bounced off one another.
  • Business Beyond Borders: Technology has enabled every organisation to operate globally. A diverse workforce supports global operations.
  • Better Decision Making: A diverse workforce provides a variety of perspectives on decisions than need to be made.


Argument Against Diversity Quotas (Box Ticking)

There are a host of reasons why diversity quotas - or diversity for the sake of diversity - are a bad practice, but here are 3 key reasons:

  • Wrong Fit: Hiring or promoting someone because they fit a diversity requirement increases the chance having the wrong people in the wrong position, by trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
  • Disrespectful: Hiring or promoting someone because they fit a diversity requirement is disrespectful to the individual and other individuals who may have actually deserved the job or promotion.
  • Sends Wrong Message: Hiring or promoting someone because they fit a diversity requirement sends a clear message that ability and performance are not as important as meeting divesity requirements.


Implementing Genuine Workplace Diversity

As we have already learned, there are lots of benefits for genuine workplace diversity, there are also some very strong arguments against diversity quotas. So here are some best practices to consider:

  • The Business Case: There should be a clear and concise business case for diversity in the workplace, and whilst there are some generic benefits, it needs to be specific to the organisation.
  • Senior Leadership Committment: Genuine workplace diversity often requires a cultural shift, and as such, requires an absolute committment from the senior leadership team.
  • Diversity Ombudsman: There should be a specific person responsible for overseeing workplace diversity. This person should represent the Board of Directors and work across the organisation in a decision making role.
  • Competency Matrix: There should be a clearly defined competency matrix that outlines the specific behaviours, experience, knowledge and skills required to perform each and every job at each and every level.
  • Transparency: There should be complete transparency on recruitment and promotion, compensation and benefits, which should all be linked to a clearly defined competency matrix.
  • Fairness & Equality: There should be complete fairness and equality on compensation and benefits, career opportunities, learning and development. Recognition and rewards should always be based on merit.
  • Diversity Days: Understanding diversity is the first step to appreciating the beauty in our differences. Not ot unlike cultural days at school, organisations need to allocate time to celebrating cultural differences.
  • Zero Tolerance: Irrespective of who the person or people are, there should be zero tolerance for prejudicial behaviour.


The case for diversity is pretty clear... The big question is whether your organisation wants to be genuine about workplace diversity?