Diversity. It’s not just a hot topic, it’s a big one. Diversity as a business strategy refers to creating fairness and inclusion in the workplace. Not only does this make practical business sense, it’s vital to business success in the twenty-first century.

Moreover, it’s supported by law in the form of the Equality Act 2010, aimed at improving equal opportunities and fairness for employees and job applicants.

Why is Diversity Important?
Having a focus on diversity is about more than the following the law of the land. It’s about creating an inclusive and open business culture. Firms that do not embrace diversity risk creating an unproductive, disengaged workforce, potentially damaging their reputation as an employer and they will have difficulty recruiting. A report by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills claims that firms that have benefitted from equality and Diversity have done so by making them part of their business strategy, rather than addressing them as separate issues (The Business Case for Equality and Diversity, Jan 2013). So it is key to embed diversity and equality measures into business goals and objectives in order to be successful at diversity and inclusion.

Why does Diversity matter now?
Employers must keep pace with the changing UK workforce in order to retain competitive advantage and relevance in the marketplace. Currently 1 in 10 of the working age population is from an ethnic minority background. But within primary school children, this ratio is 1 in 4 (ONS 2015). It’s not just the ethnic make-up of employees that is changing; with the abolition of the compulsory retirement age in 2011, employees can continue to work well into their senior years, should they wish to do so. Added to that, the increasing demand for flexibility rather than the standard working pattern: a recent survey by the job site Timewise found that 14.1 million people, almost half the UK workforce, would like flexibility in their working hours or location, yet only 6.2% of job adverts offer it (The Guardian: British Workers want Flexible Working, 9th June 2015). For all these reasons, and many more, building a diverse workforce has to be central to employers’ business strategies.

Where do I start?
There is no one size fits all approach to managing diversity. Diversity is about valuing the differences between people, the individual quirks and characteristics that make us who we are. It’s also about building a culture of fairness, dignity and respect. This can seem an overwhelming task so, as with any large project, it’s important to break it down into manageable chunks, the most crucial of all being the very beginning. Below are some tips for businesses on how to get started on or improve your diversity strategy.

• Use an audit tool like great {with} diversity’s Diversity Audit. This can help identify where you are doing well and where you need to make some improvements. It will also give you some priority listings and help with how to address things.
• Listen to your staff/customers: ask them what you are doing well or what they would like to change.
• Look at industry experts in Diversity or Diversity Champions. What have they done that really appeals to you and that would work for your business?
• Analyse your workplace and working practices. Is your business accessible to everyone? For example, could someone with a physical disability perform well in your workplace? Is your building wheelchair accessible? If the answers are no, are there adjustments that you could be making to achieve this?
• Where can you add value quickly? Look for some quick wins to help build momentum and interest in Diversity as a topic.
• Set a date: choose your starting month and write a realistic list of what you would like to achieve in Diversity terms during that month.