Are you considering a new job? If so, what are you hoping a new role with a different employer will offer you? A more attractive salary and benefits package? Improved career progression? Challenging and exciting work? Better work-life balance? These are all obvious and reasonable criteria of course – but have you considered the importance of working for an employer who places significant value on the creation of a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace? Possibly not.
So, in this blog, I’d like to explain to you why working for an employer who values diversity and inclusion could have a significant positive influence on your career and why you should include this as part of the criteria you look for in a potential new employer. But before I do, let me explain what ‘diversity and inclusion’ (D&I) means in real terms.
Do you ever feel just that little bit anxious before going to a party? Thoughts run through your mind like, “How will I feel when I get there?” “Will I know anyone?” “How will I fit in?”
Our Head of People and Culture Sandra Henke referenced a turn of phrase which is commonly used to define D&I in our recent podcast, and it captures it so very well: “Think of diversity as being invited to a party, and inclusion as actually being asked to dance when you get there.”
To elaborate – a diverse and inclusive environment is one where you are confident that you can bring all your whole self to work and be treated equally with your peers. An environment where you will feel included and respected regardless of any “differences” you may have to those around you. These “differences” could be visible demographics like gender, race, age, a visible disability, but also, and less visible traits such as sexual orientation, personality type, background and education (I’ve discussed this in greater detail here).
Now we’ve determined what a diverse and inclusive workplace looks and feels like in real terms, I want to explain some of the benefits this could bring to you and your career, and thus why you should be looking to work for an employer that champions and upholds strong practices in this area.
Everybody wants to work for an innovative organisation that is a leader in their field. Typically, these are the companies who can a. anticipate market trends, industry disruption and technological change, b. thrive in the face of this change and c. empower their employees to do the same. A diverse workforce and inclusive workplace has a bigger role to play in this that you might have originally thought.
As Katherine Phillips, Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Columbia Business School, quite rightly states in her article, ‘How diversity makes us smarter’ : “Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving. Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations.” Also, research published in the Harvard Business Review also found that diverse teams solve problems faster than those teams with more cognitively similar members, whilst another study found that diverse teams also make decisions 60% more quickly than non-diverse teams.
The reason for this is that diverse teams and inclusive workplaces encourage and allow for perspectives and ideas to be heard and adopted from a wider range of people and experience. A wider range of people with a wider range of perspectives are far more likely to be reflective of the company’s customer base and their changing needs, and 70% more likely to report that they’ve captured a new market. Therefore, an employer who is committed to diversity and inclusion is far more likely to drive innovation and thus stronger results.
In a fast changing world of work, soft skills are becoming increasingly important to employers. In fact, LinkedIn surveyed over 2,000 business leaders in 2018, and 57% identified soft skills as the most important to them. You might not realise it, but working for an employer which values diversity and inclusion will help you develop your soft skills, particularly your curiosity, adaptability and interpersonal skills.
Why? Because if you are working in a diverse and inclusive environment, you will automatically be exposed to a wider range of different opinions, ideas and skills far more regularly, and you will also be actively encouraged to share your own. This, in turn, will allow you to open your mind and become more curious about different ways of thinking, whilst allowing you to refine your interpersonal and skills. You will also be more likely to learn new skills from your colleagues.
Lastly, have you ever worked somewhere where you felt like you simply didn’t fit in and couldn’t be yourself? Psychological studies have found that feeling like an outsider at work can cause you to disengage from your job and “emotionally withdraw” from the business. Inevitably, this would cause you to feel isolated and unhappy – impacting your mental wellbeing. Furthermore, this will likely negatively impact the quality of your work and ultimately, your career progression.
An employer who values diversity and inclusion will actively create a culture that is open and welcoming to all. As a result, employees don’t feel they have to “fake it” to fit in or hide material aspects of who they are or what is important to them to feel included, allowing them to flourish as their authentic selves.
Hopefully you can now appreciate the ways in which choosing to work in a more diverse and inclusive environment will enhance your progression and employability. The next question is: how can you spot an inclusive manager during the job search and interview process?
Yvonne is Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Hays, working with our clients to ensure their recruitment strategies are aligned with the latest equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) policies and initiatives. She is responsible for creating and implementing diverse recruitment strategies that effectively support the representation of more diverse staff profiles within their business.
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