Why should inclusion and diversity still be a priority in 2021?

Diversity in the workplace isn’t a new issue, but there’s still a huge amount of work to do to achieve equal representation within the tech industry. Just look at its gender diversity, for example, only 16 per cent of the job applicant pool in tech are women. And, unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has pushed inclusion and diversity to the side lines in many organisations, with keeping the lights on and people in work taking priority.

As we move into 2021, the roll out of vaccines will create new priorities, such as balancing remote working with a return to the office. These new challenges could further marginalise inclusion and diversity efforts. And actions taken in response to our new reality could fundamentally change how we work and live, so it will be crucial to account for the specific needs of women and other groups.

Now more than ever, inclusion and diversity, and the benefits they bring, are crucial. They unlock people’s ingenuity, helping organisations find better ways to move forward in our new world. So, it’s vital for leaders to have an inclusion and diversity strategy at the top of their agenda.

Inclusion and diversity drive a culture of innovation

There’s significant research that shows having diverse teams helps companies to innovate more. When teams are made up of different people with multiple perspectives, life experiences and backgrounds, they are more likely to develop creative ideas and robust solutions.

To benefit from this, organisations must recognise the importance of diversifying thought in driving success. Leaders should amplify a variety of voices, which they can do through initiatives like innovation days and Hackathons that empower employees to experiment with new ideas outside their daily work. In 2021, this will be increasingly important as finding new ways to innovate through diverse teams will help companies adapt to disruption faster and excel.

Inclusion and diversity attract new talent

Workplace diversity enhances reputation among potential employees. To compete for the best talent, organisations must get serious about diversity. Research has shown that when deciding where to work, 67 per cent of job seekers look at the diversity of the company’s leadership team when considering an offer. A diverse workforce is attractive for talented individuals, so can drive success and be a strong competitive differentiator.

Companies can attract diverse talent in several innovative ways. At PA, for example, our Women in Tech team are running regular coding and web development courses for young women, recruiting talented individuals as a result. One key way for organisations to show their commitment to building a diverse workforce is by creating career sites with clear goals and strategic ambitions, complemented by diverse interview panels. Attracting new and diverse talent in 2021 will be key to continued growth in the business community as the market becomes more diverse. A diverse set of employees will help to identify new opportunities and address unmet needs while providing a more holistic view of target markets.

Inclusion and diversity empower people to perform at their best

When an organisation focuses on inclusion and diversity, its people feel comfortable being themselves at work. That reduces stress and sparks creativity, empowering people to perform at their best. Diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets compared to others. Not only does support for diversity help to unlock this potential, failing to do so can have a knock on effect on retention and productivity.

Organisations can deliver this empowerment by celebrating difference, encouraging debate and creating an environment where employees are trusted and given the opportunity to grow. Leaders must act to remove obstacles and biases that stand in the way of a team’s performance, be receptive to honest feedback and commit to change. This is essential going into 2021 as a diverse, empowered workforce will build a dynamic, resilient culture ready for change.

Organisations with more diversity achieve greater performance as they build a stronger culture of innovation, attract new talent and empower people to be themselves. 2020 brought uncertainty and disruption, changing the future of the workplace. As we move into 2021, organisations must continue to prioritise diversity to realise the benefits it brings to profitability, resilience and innovation.

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