Diversity in the business environment is not just about gender, race, and ethnicity. It now encompasses diverse religious and political beliefs, education, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, cultures, and disabilities.
Companies are discovering that, by supporting and promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace, they are gaining benefits that go beyond the norm.
Organisations that seek to achieve inclusive workspaces and are intentional on moulding and encouraging culturally-sensitive leaders, who then influence and attract the best candidates, are reaping in terms of productivity and profit gains. It is an asset for both businesses and their employees, an epitome of creating and providing capacity to foster innovation and creativity.
McKinsey’s Delivering Through Diversity Report (2017) indicated that corporations that embraced gender diversity on their executive teams were more competitive and 21 per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability.
The report further indicates that organisations that encourage diversity have a 27 percent likelihood of outperforming their peers on longer-term value creation, as they are able to provide different perspectives on customer needs and product improvements.
Additionally, the Social Talent E-Book on How to Increase Diversity indicates that most studies surrounding diversity at the workplace have found that, for every one percent increase in gender diversity, company revenue increases by three percent. It also highlights that higher levels of ethnic diversity increase revenue by 15 percent.
Therefore, it is critical that we encourage businesses to adopt diversity and inclusivity initiatives that will directly influence performance. Some of the best organisations to emulate include the British American Tobacco (BAT), Coca Cola Beverages Africa, Safaricom, Bamburi Cement and BOC Kenya.
BAT has made great strides in embracing a range of nationalities, cultures and perspectives.
Some of its initiatives that create a welcoming culture to all employees include Parents@BAT, Women in STEM, Women in Leadership and B-United.
Because of these, the company has also been able to harness diverse perspectives and ways of thinking, which positively influences the understanding of the preferences of adult consumers in diverse markets.
If it is anything to go by, no wonder, BAT was awarded Employer of the Year by the Federation of Kenya Employers in 2017 and 2018 as well as recognised internationally by the Top Employers Institute as being among the best companies to work for.
Coca Cola has also not been left behind in its drive to be more inclusive and diverse. Just through their initiative “5 by 20”, the firm has been able to offer over 150,000 women business owners and managers access to business opportunities, educational courses, financial products and mentorship.
This initiative aims to help five million women entrepreneurs within the Coca-Cola value chain overcome barriers as they grow by the end of 2020.
Locally, Safaricom takes one of the top spots on diversity and inclusion. Not only are they focused on hiring people with disabilities, but they have also provided lucrative benefits to women on maternity, including providing crèche facilities with professional nurses to look after babies when mothers are working.
The profits and progressive growth of these organisations are not questionable, and not just locally, but regionally. And as businesses continue to seek futuristic inclusive and diverse programmes for their workspaces, it is important to note that there will be increased participation in the job market by millennials.
The Deloitte Millennial Survey (2018) shows that 74 percent of millennials believe that an organisation is more innovative when it has a culture of inclusion.
Therefore, the success and excellence of businesses in the future is dependent on their ability to expand the scope of diversity and inclusion to provide a supportive environment.
PHYLLIS WAKIAGA , is Chief Executive Officer, Kenya Association of Manufacturers