HR & Management

Diversity in the workplace: Why the changing face of giants such as Twitter is #AboutTime

6 min read

10 September 2015

Deputy Editor, Real Business

Nigel Dessau, CMO of Stratus Technologies, reflects on how increasing diversity is not only the right thing to do, but how it will also improve your workforce.

As previously outlined by David Craik in a recent Real Business article, the reverend Jesse Jackson urged tech firms to start asking serious questions about the lack of black and Asian faces found on boards and in offices.

Whether it be due to Jackson’s influence or not, the bosses at Google and Apple held their hands up and admitted that most of their employees were “male and white”.

The latter firm has now hired over 2,200 black employees globally, up 50 per cent on 12 months earlier, and 2,700 Hispanic workers – a 66 per cent increase. It further revealed that it had hired over 11,000 women and stated that 50 per cent of its new hires in the past year had either been female or “people of colour”.

Twitter is also going to look a lot different in 2016. The company unleashed a statement outlining its hiring goals for the coming year. Twitter plans to boost its representation for women to 35 per cent, and 11 per cent for minorities. And according to business expert Nigel Dessau, the shift is essential for future success.

He stressed that diversity was not just the “right thing to do,” but also the right thing to do for business.

“Diversity involves making sure your business reflects your target market,” said Dessau. “For Twitter, that involves men and women from all types of ethnic and racial backgrounds. Reflecting that will, in turn, create longevity and ensure respect from their users and business partners.”

If all customers come from a one-mile radius of your business, then you might be able to say that you shouldn’t have to argue for diversity, he claimed. Chances are that in this case you know all your customers by name. Even when you know them by name you also know their likes and dislikes. You try and cater to those differences with products and offers you know will attract them.

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“However, most businesses aren’t that lucky and are likely not to know customers directly,” Dessau explained. “In this case, how do you know what products to build, what features they should have or how to make them attractive to your market? One of the best ways is to ensure you meet the interests of your customers is to have the team making these decisions reflect the market you are trying to serve.”

Of course, you could always guess or spend money on market research. But while you might be lucky, a broader and more diverse workforce will help you make decisions that are more sensitive to cultural wants and needs.

Having a more diverse workforce will also naturally improve your business. Dessau is of the belief that when you have a diverse workforce, it changes the way people in the company think and work. 

You are more likely to be around people who can introduce new approaches at work, he claimed. Different people from different cultures and backgrounds bring different and often fresh perspectives to problem solving, design, and product development.

“Some people are more analytical while others are more creative,” he said. “People from different religious, political, and socioeconomic backgrounds possess different perspectives on the world and specific issues. Bring all of those different types of people together and you are likely to see more creativity, new and better ideas and more innovation.”

Too much cynicism exists around diversity, he explained. Much of this stems from stereotyping diversity as a way to be politically correct. The reality is that diversity involves making sure that your business reflects the markets you live in. It is about maintaining your employee base as diverse as your labor market and your customer base. It can also change the way your business thinks. 

“Having a diverse team means you can gain access to the broader set of skills and experiences,” he said. “And, by the year 2020, 50 per cent of the workforce will be made up of Millennials. This next generation has grown up in a diverse world and will expect it at work. At some point all businesses need new blood and making your environment appealing is important if you want to compete for the top talent.”