The value of diversity in the workplace

A diverse workforce is a valuable asset to any employer that wants to create resourceful, versatile and creative teams. In this post, we’re going to explain why diversity is important for innovation, and look at some ways to encourage diverse recruitment.

Enhancing innovation with diverse teams

When we talk about diversity in organisations, we’re talking about organisations employing people with a wide range of identities and experiences. An organisation that solely employed men would lack gender diversity, for example, but so would an organisation that solely employed women. It’s variety that enables innovation to thrive.

If your organisation includes people from various backgrounds, with various identities, trained in various areas, they’ll have different knowledge and different strengths. When one employee lacks the knowledge for a particular situation, another will be able to compensate for it.

This is why organisations form teams to work on projects. A group of people working together, pooling their different knowledge and skills, can see and achieve things that no one member of the team could manage alone. The creation of teams is, in itself, a recognition of the importance of diversity.

However, if all your employees have had similar experiences, they may all look at a problem from the same angle, diluting the benefits of having a team. In a diverse organisation, your employees will be able to look at it from different angles and may see different things.

An example: designing a public bathroom

For a simple illustration, imagine a team designing a set of unisex bathroom stalls for a shopping centre. There are crucial elements that some people would think of immediately and some might overlook.

For example, if nobody on the team has ever menstruated, there’s a chance the stalls might be designed without a bin: something that would be essential for many users. It’s also essential to have step-free toilets, outfitted for accessibility, for the benefit of wheelchair users or other people who might benefit from a grab rail. A team with varied knowledge and experiences is more likely to think of every requirement than a team that lacks that diversity.

To use an analogy, if your employees all have the same knowledge and experiences, it’s a bit like gathering your entire football team into one small section of the pitch. If everyone’s around your goal, it’s going to be great for defence, but it’s going to be difficult to pass the ball down the pitch or to score. To do well, you need your players to be spread out.

Respecting privacy

Of course, it’s also important for employers to recognise that their employees have a right to privacy. There’s a balance that needs to be found, so we can encourage a diverse workforce without making people reveal information they’d prefer to keep to themselves.

At Darwin, we send new members of our team a diversity questionnaire, which helps us identify problems such as, for example, whether there’s a gender pay gap, whether people are paid differently based on age and whether groups are underrepresented in our workforce. However, this questionnaire is optional, and employees are free to leave it blank or opt out of any of the individual questions.

This lets Darwin gather a broad view of the company without putting individual employees in a difficult position. Incomplete data is still valuable, and it’s important not to lose sight of the individuals we’re working with, who may be uncomfortable exposing certain information about themselves, in our pursuit of the benefits that diversity brings.

How to encourage diversity in recruitment

You can harness the benefits of diversity by making your company attractive and accessible to a broad range of potential employees. One way you can do this is simply by being open about your company’s positive attitude to diversity, and by making sure your existing employees understand your values. If prospective employees feel that the culture in your company is a welcoming one, they’ll be more likely to apply.

You can also widen your recruitment pool by offering remote working and flexible hours, as some companies may have discovered since early 2020.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Darwin allowed home working, which meant we could employ a larger range of people than organisations that required people to come in to the office every day. For example, it might be difficult or impossible for single parents, carers, people with certain disabilities or people living outside the UK to reach the Darwin offices, but remote working means we can still harness their expertise.

Now that the pandemic has tested the remote working capabilities of many organisations, perhaps we’ll see more varied employment opportunities for people who can’t necessarily come in to the office, and more organisations benefitting from their knowledge and experience. When you remove these physical barriers, all that matters is that a person is good at what they do.

Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based company that provides services related to autonomous vehicles and communications. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page. If you’d like to know how we can help your organisation make use of autonomous vehicles, contact us. You can also follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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