Published on in Responsible Business

When businesses talk about transformation, they’re usually talking about “digital” (whatever that means to you).

Reimagining business models, unlocking the power of data, repeatable innovation enabled by technology, addressing significant business challenges through co-creation – these are the projects we usually consider bring the most value.

Workplace change doesn’t make as many headlines, but it’s still widely recognised as a key part of the “digital” transformation puzzle. And while remote working and flexible hours are often cited as staples of a Digital Workplace, there’s another element that’s even more important:

Diversity and inclusion.

D&I is still primarily seen as an ethical nice-to-have. Businesses recognise that it’s important, but only within the context of what they should do – not need to do.

Perhaps that’s why businesses have been so slow embracing it.

But that’s all changing. Increasingly, D&I is proving to be a value driver in its own right – something we recently explored in our Tech for Good report.

So, in this article, I want to explore the key business benefits that accompany diversity in the workplace and explore why inclusivity isn’t just a moral imperative – it’s also a strategic one.

Mind the skills gap

Let’s start with most basic reason for inclusivity:  businesses need more workers.

Studies have found 68% of employers struggle to find workers with the right skills. As a result, UK organisations spend £4.4 billion annually on increased hiring costs, inflated salaries, and the costs of contractors when full-time posts could not be filled.

The inflated costs of hiring talent are no longer sustainable. Businesses have little choice: they need to widen their talent pools.

Take disability as an example. The UK Government’s statistics show that 18% of working-age adults have a disability. It’s therefore worrying that a third (32%) of people think those with disabilities are less productive than non-disabled people.

Clearly, this bias is prejudicing employers against a huge segment of potential candidates thus missing out on brilliantly talented people, as well as risking alienating those same people too.

Furthermore, 70% of disabled people have a non-visible disability. If an employer (knowingly or unknowingly) hires one of these individuals and fails to make the necessary workplace adjustments, the employee may not work to their full potential – or may even leave.

The message is simple: if business exclude certain groups, especially for easily addressable misconceptions , their pool of talent simply won’t be large enough to compete in the digital age.

The monoculture monopoly

Even if employers do manage to plug the skills gap without D&I measures in place, they face another problem – the risk of creating a monoculture.

This doesn’t always occur due to malicious intent. When a company experiences success, they naturally want to hire like-minded people to continue growing their capabilities. And while this can be an efficient way of building cohesive teams, it’s ultimately detrimental.

The importance of innovation cannot be underestimated. And a key part of innovation is creativity through different perspectives – something which often lacks when teams are too similar.

Diverse, heterogeneous teams bring new perspectives, new mental models, and new approaches to problem solving. They also bring fresh modes of thinking, enabling businesses to be more dynamic, and overcome challenges with greater efficiency.

Furthermore, inclusive teams are often more representative of the customers they serve.

Business that do not reflect their customer base are more likely to misunderstand their customers’ needs, wrongly anticipate consumer trends, and make PR and communication mishaps.

By embracing D&I, businesses can widen their perspectives, and really put customers at the heart of everything that they do – no matter who they are.

Top-down transformation

The ethical argument for D&I and doing the right thing should be enough. But now the benefits can clearly be seen, there’s no excuse. Change has to happen. And it has to start at the top.

This means setting an example. Leaders need to raise the issue to boardroom level, setting diversity targets that should be rigorously adhered to. A culture of inclusion needs to be fostered, with project owners assigned and all stakeholders playing their part. Proof of this for example is that I am so proud Fujitsu is one of the first organisations to sign up to the Valuable 500, so acting on these principles and not just talking about them.

Ultimately, D&I is a vital part of any transformation strategy. And now that the business case is clear, it’s up to organisations to fully embrace it now, before it’s too late.

Discover how technology is the key to driving your workplace success – download and read our Tech4Good report here.

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