TL Writes: There is a lot of talk regarding increasing diversity in the workplace, but with diversity being such a wide topic, what does being diverse really mean and how can employers ensure they are meeting this? 

Diversity is a term which relates to the people who work for an organisation. It is often spoken about with reference to equal opportunities, and the two are intrinsically linked, however, have varying perspectives.

Providing equal opportunities means ensuring that no individual is treated less favourably on the basis of who they are – that all decisions taken in relation to them are based on fact and merit alone.

Diversity is a recognition and celebration of the fact that people are different but all have unique contributions that they can bring to an organisation. Managing diversity can start even before employment starts, and can include recruitment exercises; offers of training and benefits; promotion opportunities; celebration of different cultures etc.

An organisation with diversity at its core could include a workforce made up of employees with differences in relation to gender; ethnicity; age; disability; religion/belief; sexual orientation etc, which are defined by anti-discrimination legislation. However, other factors such as family background and economic status may also be considered.

If you want to create a more diverse workforce, you should give consideration to raising your own awareness of cultural differences, and that of your managers, and how they can be accommodated in the working day. Challenging social stereotypes/perceptions may also broaden your mind by encouraging you to thick twice again about how you may have managed with certain issues in the past. Being aware of individual needs and implementing flexible practices within the workplace to accommodate those needs will also increase the vision of diversity in your organisation.

There are many benefits from investment of time and money into diversity. Flexibility and open communication channels can lead to a happy workforce. A happy workforce can be a more productive workforce, therefore you may well see performance levels increase.

Your reputation as an employer is also likely to become more positive. People looking for a new job do their own research on prospective employers and are likely to be influenced by ‘an insider’s’ view of you as an employer. Additionally, other companies are likely to want to do business with others who have good reputations.

Lower recruitment costs through greater employee retention and fewer grievances and potential litigation are other benefits of a diverse workforce.