The Future of Business Development – Diversity and Inclusion
Business Development, Diversity and Inclusion – Di Keller, strategic equality, diversity and inclusion lead at Karbon Homes
Karbon Homes’ strategic equality, diversity and inclusion lead, Di Keller, discusses the growing importance of people’s relationships with the businesses they work with or buy from. There’s a far sharper lens on how you conduct yourself, and businesses have standards to live up to in order to gain support and build a positive reputation. There’s therefore no doubt that equality, diversity and inclusion have become an essential part of business development, and they are poised to grow even more important in the future.
The past two years have seen dramatic changes in society, bringing into the spotlight some of the inequalities that have been in existence for decades. In particular, the murder of George Floyd and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests have advanced the conversation about ethnicity in the same way that the #MeToo movement raised the profile of sexual harassment. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new ways of working for many, while also highlighting the plight of inequalities. Those in lower-paid jobs have been more at risk of furlough or job loss, women have been impacted more than men regarding employment, and those already vulnerable or from our ethnically diverse communities have been disproportionately affected from a health perspective.
As a society, we are becoming more diverse and more aware of diversity. That includes our customers and our colleagues. If you haven’t got diversity and inclusion in your business strategy, then you are missing out on a golden opportunity, and it is those who embrace this opportunity that will see success in the future of business development.
The financial benefits of diversity and inclusion have been long discussed, since the publication of McKinseys ‘Diversity Matters’ in 2015, which showed that businesses that are more diverse have demonstrated improvements on the bottom line.
“Diversity brings discussion, challenge and ultimately innovation.”
So why does it make a difference? Diversity brings discussion, challenge, and ultimately from that, innovation. For example, people that think differently, have different cultural experiences, and different abilities, will all view a challenge in different ways, as opposed to a group of people that have had a similar path of education, live in a similar area, and are of the same gender. It’s not always easy to see when you’re in the situation, as those in homogenous groups will all agree with each other and therefore believe they have a great solution.
A report by Lord Davies in 2015 endorsed this approach to diverse thinking by calling for businesses to increase the number of women on boards. Having diversity in senior roles improves decision-making. In previous generations, the societal norms of men going out to work and women staying at home with the family have created a pattern of male leadership teams. When women become leaders and part of those teams, they provide a different set of skills, perspectives, and, importantly, structural and cultural differences that drive effective solutions.
The potential damage to the reputation of a business can also have a financial impact, whether that is from loss of business if your products or services are non-inclusive, or, when a business gets it really wrong, legal implications, costs of tribunals, and attentiongrabbing headlines where organisations have treated either a customer or colleague in the wrong way. Some of the leading names in fashion and beauty have suffered extreme fallout from their intercultural incompetence over recent years. Having more diverse teams involved in their marketing may have avoided or minimised the risks. This isn’t just about global companies – our own region is multicultural, so this needs to be a consideration.
A poor reputation often correlates with increased costs for hiring and retention, which impacts operating margins and prevents higher returns.
Looking after your reputation as a business isn’t about ticking boxes or being politically correct. As awareness is raised in society and knowledge increases throughout the generations, businesses have to be aware of the complexities that diversity can bring, and that doing the right thing makes good business sense.
Our communities and business users are becoming more diverse. If businesses continue to work in the way they always have, their products and services will become less relevant, and leave the door open for more future-focussed businesses to accelerate and develop. Understanding the profile of your customer will help you to develop your products and services and make you stand out from the competitors and win market share. Creating a product or service that is mindful of the customer will bring loyalty from your customer base, improve your reputation, and, ultimately, the bottom line. We are starting to see more organisations have a person-centric approach to their products and business development as opposed to chasing the sales revenue in isolation.
A great example of this is shared in the book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Design for Men. Some of the examples in the book demonstrate that not considering diversity actually costs lives. For example, the research in the book by Caroline Criado Perez argues that women are 17% more likely to die in car crashes than men. This is because the passenger seat is the only seat that is commonly tested with a female crash-test dummy, with the male crash-test dummy still being the standard for the driver’s seat.
This isn’t just limited to gender, there are as many examples for those who fall into the minority groups in some way.
And, last but not least, if you are successful as a business, demonstrating diversity in your leadership, improving your reputation, and being people-centric in your products and services, people will want to work for you and stay loyal.
Job site Glassdoor report that a diverse workforce is an important factor for 76% of job seekers and employees when evaluating companies and job offers.
The headlines of talent and skills shortages and the great resignation have been all too familiar since the pandemic. People are reviewing who they work for and are wanting more from their job in terms of flexibility, security, and worklife balance. We have new jobs and industries being created, for example, the Net Zero Strategy claims it will support up to 440,000 jobs by 2030, but achieving this depends on having a skilled green workforce in the economy to deliver these. MI5 are now looking to tech geniuses to help them with their cyber security. Businesses that are forward-thinking and using skills programmes to develop their future workforce are building skills from within rather than waiting for someone to be ready now. This isn’t the only talent we have been missing out on, however. For years, the biased approach to our recruitment, terms, conditions and working practices have excluded so many people, but the flexibility we have seen during the pandemic has highlighted how successful organisations can be with flexible approaches to working. People do not need to be based in an office or constantly on the road to do business; they can do good business from a place that works for them.
“A diverse workforce is an important factor for 76% of job seekers and employees.”
Diverse businesses are better places to work; they make better decisions, have a more positive profile in the community, and earn greater respect in the marketplace. These and other factors generally result in greater financial returns. Having a diverse and inclusive business makes good business sense.