Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is diversity good for business?

Diversity is a buzzword in corporate UK right now. In theory its valuing differences and supporting an inclusive working environment. In practice, it basically means having your firm's employee population reflect the wider society in terms of gender, colour, religion, lifestyle (actually sexual orientation but also employees who are parents, carers), disability, age etc. Some firms are now performance rating their managers in terms of how well they promote diversity (codeword for how diverse a employee population they have working under heir supervision). Apart from being seen to be  politically correct and not 
discriminate, when done well it makes business sense for the following  reasons:
  1. Staff expense tends to be the highest expense for most firms, so you need to ensure you are paying money for the best that you can get. You can only do that by widening your recruitment net as widely as possible.
  2. Most business ideas (i.e. new products, new markets,  distribution channels) tend to come from employees within a firm. Having a diverse group of employees a firm will in addition to generating many ideas, also generate diverse range of ideas.
  3. It makes good business sense that if the population you are targetting is made up of Asians, Africans, you also have their people serving them
And yet, many firms are failing miserably because of the inherent resistance to change, a fear of different people and also more importantly a backlash against what is seen as political correctness. Lately, this has been in cases of employees taking their firm to court for being compelled to act against for example their religious beliefs.

Despite these challenges, valuing diversity does make business sense. 
In Kenya especially, growing and national firms (not to mention the civil service) must make extra efforts 
to ensure their employment practices reflect the facts on the ground i.e. a nation of 42 tribes ( and more if you include
 other races). After all, the language of business is English (actually its money) and not Kikuyu, Luo, Sikh etc.


John Maina said...

this is an area that many of the kenyan family owned business and to an extent private ones have failed to embrace despite its huge opportunities
Even some UK industries are slow if not hesitant to adapt but then they will have to.

The UK government has done its bit via various specific legislations and i just wonder why the Kenyan one is that slow.

lmangoli said...

When it comes to diversity I think it depends on the nature of business and to some extent maybe the vision of the so called employees. Say in restaurant cuisines where the chefs represent the countries where they are from, or even where people apply for work permits from the source. Think it would be interesting if people from all over the world trained for skills from other parts of the world then probably the most native languages of the earth would be spoken internationally?

Ssembonge said...

Diversity fosters creativity. In today's ever changing world firms have to embrace diversity to succeed. That said, the level of diversity in the work places are still appalling. White males still dominate.