Opting to work at a company that champions diversity and inclusion can benefit your career prospects, soft skills and more, according to Hays’ Yvonne Smyth.
Do you ever feel just that little bit anxious before going to a party? Thoughts run through your mind such as, ‘How will I feel when I get there? Will I know anyone? How will I fit in?’
In a recent podcast, Hays’ head of people and culture, Sandra Henke, referenced a turn of phrase that is commonly used to define diversity and inclusion and captures it well: “Think of diversity as being invited to a party, and inclusion as actually being asked to dance when you get there.”
A diverse and inclusive environment is one where you are confident that you can bring your whole self to work and be treated equally with your peers. It is an environment where you will feel included and respected regardless of any ‘differences’ you may have to those around you.
Joining a diverse and inclusive company could benefit you and your career. So, consider looking for an employer that champions and upholds strong practices in this area.
Your employer will be better prepared for the future
Everybody wants to work for an innovative organisation that is a leader in its field. Typically, these are the companies that can anticipate market trends, industry disruption and technological change, thrive in the face of this change and empower their employees to do the same. A diverse workforce and inclusive workplace has a bigger role to play in this than you might have originally thought.
As Katherine Phillips, who was professor of leadership and ethics at Columbia Business School, quite rightly stated in this article: “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.”
Research published in the Harvard Business Review found that diverse teams solve problems faster than those teams with more cognitively similar members. Another study found that diverse teams also make decisions 60pc quicker 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 experiences.
And 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. Therefore, an employer who is committed to diversity and inclusion is far more likely to drive innovation and stronger results.
You’ll hone your soft skills
In a rapidly evolving world of work, soft skills are becoming increasingly important. A balance of different soft skills is desired by employers, although recent research conducted by Hays UK and Ireland found that the ability to adapt to change is the soft skill that most employers are in need of.
You might not realise it, but working for an employer that values diversity and inclusion will help you develop your soft skills, particularly your adaptability and open-mindedness.
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, while allowing you to refine your interpersonal skills. You will also be more likely to learn new skills from your colleagues.
You’ll benefit from a sense of belonging
Lastly, have you ever worked somewhere where you felt like you simply didn’t fit in and couldn’t be yourself? 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.
By Yvonne Smyth
Yvonne Smyth is group head of diversity and inclusion at Hays. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint Blog.