Diversity matters to a 21st century workforce

They say that variety is the spice of life. And as a growing number of progressive businesses are now realizing, diversity can also provide the cornerstone to a high-performing workforce.

Diversity is a term that has become increasingly ubiquitous in the business lexicon in recent years – so much so that there is sometimes the temptation to dismiss it as little more than a checklist item, a piece of corporate window dressing. However, this would be a mistake, according to executives at some of the world’s biggest companies.

Demographics in 21st century business have been flipped. Women and minority groups are now recognized as a critical part of the workforce mix. Personal empowerment and a greater acceptance of difference have meant a rise in recognition for LGBT employees. In addition, today’s workforce is made up of four different generations – traditionalists, boomers, gen Xers and millennials – all with their own ways of working, living and looking at the world.

Keeping such a varied workforce actively engaged is key to ensuring high levels of productivity, innovation and service. And as a result, companies are holistically involving their HR departments to secure a future that has diversity embedded into the culture.

Kellie Chapman, Microsoft’s Director of Diversity Recruiting, describes the process of nurturing diversity as being centered around three key pillars. “The first pillar is representation, and that’s about increasing the diversity pipeline,” she explains. “Next is inclusion, which is all about supporting the cultivation of an inclusive workforce, ensuring that everyone’s ideas are valued and included. And the last piece is market innovation – understanding that the marketplace is changing and we have to be prepared as a company to sell to and represent the global communities that we serve.

“By focusing on innovation and having diversity,” she continues, “we’re able to build diverse products that meet the needs of very diverse customers, and that in turn helps us grow our business. Ultimately, it’s going to spur creativity.”

Indeed, the business proposition for diversity and inclusion is that it really impacts the bottom line. If a company’s talent base is reflective of the marketplace itself, it can better understand and sell products and services to a more diverse customer base – which explains why so many firms are placing diversity at the heart of their people management efforts.

Creating, nurturing and managing a diverse workforce is just one of the topics due to be discussed at the upcoming HR Summit US 2011 being held from 12-14 September at the Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas.

For info visit http://www.hrsummitus.com

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