Here’s Why Inclusion & Diversity in the Workplace is a Big Deal

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There has been much discussion recently around inclusion and diversity in the workforce with high-profile campaigns such as the gender pay gap really driving the issue forward. The result has been a genuine effort and momentum to move towards a more inclusive and diverse workforce which is truly representative of a wider society. Here Sian Fisher, CEO of the Chartered Insurance Institute, talks to CEO Today about why this is such an important stretch of progress.

However, greater diversity in the workplace is not simply a moral or legal issue. Having a diverse and inclusive workforce contributes to a company’s bottom line enhancing the financial well-being of the business. According to McKinsey, the global management consulting firm, there is a direct correlation between diversity and company financial performance. In their 2017 report, ‘Why Diversity Matters’, McKinsey discovered that companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. For ethnic / cultural diversity, top-quartile companies were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability. The message here – if you want your business to grow, CEOs need to put diversity and inclusion on the agenda and galvanise their business to look at what they do through a diversity and inclusion lens.

A diverse workforce enables a culture of innovation and creativity through the richness of diverse thinking. Workplaces that are supportive of diversity, where employees feel included, report better business performance in terms of ability to innovate (83% uplift), responsiveness to changing customer needs (31% uplift) and team collaboration (42% uplift) (source: Deloitte).

A diverse and inclusive workforce has the edge over a more homogenous team. Where is the questioning voice of difference, the one who is willing to put their head above the parapet and swim against the tide? A CEO who is supportive of diversity and inclusion is encouraging a culture of curiosity. Diverse thinking and innovation not conformity and stagnation.

The pace at which digitalisation is taking hold is astonishing and we are seeing greater numbers of companies turn to automation in the workplace. Yet, CEOs realise that automation cannot replace human talent – there needs to be a harmonious balance between the best of automation and the digital skills of human beings. According to PwC, 80% of CEOs are concerned about the lack of digital skills in their own workforce (source: PwC’s 21st CEO survey, May 2018) with 50% of CEOs stating that they find it difficult to attract and retain talented, skilled employees. In order to tackle this, CEOs need to create the right working environment for their employees. Employees want to affiliate themselves with their company’s vision, purpose and culture and this includes diversity and inclusion. In order to attract from the widest talent pool and retain talented colleagues, CEOs must harness and cultivate a culture of inclusion and diversity. It’s not just enough to say that you are looking to recruit a diverse workforce but you must be living proof of this statement.

As the CEO of the Chartered Insurance Institute, the professional body for insurance and financial planning, I am aware that there is much work to be done in bringing about change in our profession. We have a variety of initiatives in play; for example, we were the first profession to sign up to the United Nation’s HeForShe campaign, building on UN Women’s global campaign to give men and women a platform to promote positive change on behalf of women by making simple achievable personal commitments that can drive more inclusive behaviour. We support national Pride events and have developed thought leadership papers to help the profession be more inclusive of all groups and we have made diversity and inclusion a top priority of our senior management team’s agenda. We were the first to publish our gender pay gap despite being an organisation of less than 250, and we recently signed the ‘Time to change’ campaign to remove the stigma of mental health in the workplace. I want the CII and all insurance professionals to take pride in the sector we work in but in order to do this we must work collectively to ensure we have a talented, inclusive workforce that truly reflects society and addresses the varied needs of our customers.

This is an exciting time to be the CEO of a distinguished organisation such as the CII and I am optimistic about the future. I am proud to be part of the incredibly talented senior team, steering our organisation through this new phase in our evolution. But, I am also realistic in knowing that there is no quick fix. Changing attitudes, behaviours and transforming workplace cultures will take time but the business case is truly compelling. If we get this right, a diverse and inclusive workforce will have a massively positive effect on the economy, on business and on society as a whole; a truly attractive prospect for all.

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