Hoseasons MD: Why we need to get diversity right in the workplace
Guest blog by Simon Altham, Managing Director, Hoseasons
Many small and medium size companies shy away from the issue of diversity in the workplace – either through fear of alienating customers and employees, or through a lack of basic knowledge and understanding. What these people perhaps don’t realise, is that diversity is a key part of creating a productive, inclusive, and ultimately, successful workplace.
As the Managing Director of leading UK holiday provider Hoseasons and an LGBT executive, I manage over 280 amazing people. Hoseasons have worked hard to celebrate how every individual across our business is unique. Whether it’s their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies – respect, understanding and support are key parts of how modern brands can encourage diversity.
But how can your business do its part?
Why employers should care about diversity
There are many moral and practical reasons for encouraging diversity in the workplace. In my personal experience, diverse teams solve problems more creatively, unlock innovation quickly, and drive market growth – which has never been so important in an uncertain economic landscape.
In a wider sense, employers who promote diversity help to foster ethical practices that positively impact the lives of many young people. 62% of LGBT graduates go back in the closet when they start their first job, and 6% of LGBT 16-24 year olds still attempt suicide. These kinds of shocking statistics are part of the reason employers must be proactive in making their business an inclusive space for all people.
In a world where much of the progress around tolerance and diversity is being questioned, it’s important that business leaders stand up for these values and highlight the many significant benefits they bring.
How businesses can implement a successful diversity strategy
The most common mistake managers and employers make is treating diversity like a box ticking exercise. Successful businesses don’t implement diversity programmes with arbitrary quotas, they embed the sensibilities of diversity into the very heart of their business culture.
There are several practical actions that business owners and HR managers can employ:
- Work with recruitment agencies to ensure they deliver a diverse candidate mix,
- Establish employee network groups focused around minority issues,
- Publicly supporting local events focused on LGBT or race issues,
- Inform new starters at the induction stage about the values and expectations of the business.
Introducing diversity into advertising
At Hoseasons, we promote inclusive principles externally, by featuring same-sex couples in our mainstream marketing. Using different ethnicities and minority groups within advertising can help reflect the business culture that’s been cultivated within the workplace, while reflecting the diverse look and feel of modern day Britain.
That’s not the only benefit. Businesses that are known for embracing diversity and inclusion are generally perceived to be more innovative, open, and creative, which results in higher rates of employee satisfaction and retention of the best staff.
‘Why should they be treated differently to anyone else?’
To ensure that LGBT employees feel comfortable and engaged in the workplace, ensure you have strong allies across all departments. To facilitate this, it’s important to train and educate all staff on diversity issues.
Heterosexual employees may question why businesses need to give extra support to their LGBT employees, asking: ‘why should they be treated differently to anyone else?’ To counter this way of thinking, try sharing data and statistics about the real-life challenges facing LGBT people in the workplace, as well as videos and stories, to highlight that homophobia is still active in modern day life.
Making employees more aware of the struggles faced by peers of a different race or background can help them understand why a diversity policy is necessary. For example, there is currently a 23% gap in hourly pay between black and white university graduates, and despite consistently outperforming white Britons in terms of education in recent years, social mobility for ethnic minorities remains low.
Why diversity is important
Failing to introduce diversity initiatives correctly can have far-reaching consequences for businesses of all sizes. If you don’t create an atmosphere of acceptance where employees are free to express themselves, it can negatively affect creativity and innovation, not to mention damage a business’s reputation. Even executing a well-natured policy of diversity can cause confusion and if not done properly, can lead to conflicting messages across different areas of the business.
Getting it right, however, can be invaluable – broadening the knowledge of wider communities, offering insight into consumer behaviour, and creating a vast talent pool to build an exciting, forward-thinking workforce.