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Are you getting diversity right in your business?

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An ageing workforce in the UK is a challenge that Britain will have to face and seek to effectively manage over the coming years. From lower paid workers right up to the highest earners, more people are staying in employment for longer, posing a myriad of issues. For example, new research published recently highlights frustration amongst UK professionals who feel that the opportunities to progress to board level positions are hindered by older colleagues staying on into their 60s and 70s (one in six directors are now over 65). Whilst it isn’t meant to be a substitute for experience, diversity is considered the life blood of many organisations and new ideas at the top are vital if businesses are to stay ahead of the competition.

There are various ways in which diversity can be incorporated into a business; most obviously by employing a broad mix of individuals of different ages, genders and backgrounds. However, by just focusing on ticking a box to reflect the objectives of those in charge of your diversity agenda you are potentially losing out on a significant opportunity. Those that leverage the unique experiences and perspectives of all employees to develop new ideas will ultimately reap the benefits of a diverse workforce over and above the competition.

How to get the right people in

Recruitment, of course, plays a vital role in bringing in new talent but it is also important to think about the staff already within your company and how they are best utilised to serve the business. Many organisations are held back because they do not provide the opportunities or training required to unlock the full potential of their employees.

Moreover the management of talent within businesses is often overlooked, allowing expertise to remain undiscovered. By supporting employees to up-skill into new areas, companies can advance their businesses and improve employee satisfaction through better engagement and new challenges to encourage staff to progress through the ranks of the business.

How to up-skill the next generation

The ‘skills gap’ has been widely reported of late, demonstrating the need to focus on equipping young people – both in education and recent graduates – with the right expertise to enter the workforce as a credible asset. Whilst conversations have largely focused on the understanding and appreciation of technology, there is also a requirement to up-skill future business leaders through instilling people management and client relationship skills.

On a more practical level, educating young people on the real opportunities and job functions currently in existence within businesses is something which also requires some attention. There are very tangible roles that require a specific level of knowledge but which aren’t necessarily known or understood. By making these functions clearer, entry-level employees will have a greater understanding of where they could potentially fit within the business and develop their aspirations accordingly.

How to balance gender inequality

Women are often misrepresented on company boards and management teams. Whilst there is no doubt that the men who sit in these senior positions are incredibly qualified, talented and deserving of their office, there is definitely a lack of diversity here and UK PLC is worse off for it. We have an ambitious plan to address gender imbalance within our own organisation and increase the number of females in management (18 per cent in sales by 2015, 25 per cent globally by 2017). We believe this will have a positive impact on our overall business and we are committed to achieving these targets.

Changing the attitudes towards the way in which different people within an organisation work, and the impact they can have on the successful running of the business, is the first step to improving diversity within your company. By being more transparent about all roles and job functions across the organisation, and equally mindful of the skills your business is currently lacking, you will be better placed to focus time and resource on filling any gaps. The end goal for any business should be to have a diverse workforce in which new ideas are encouraged, ultimately creating greater competitive advantage.

Read more about this topic: Why is diversity important

Tim Noble is Managing Director of the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands for enterprise software firm SAP. 

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