The workforce diversity findings come from Aldermore as part of the bank’s SME Future Attitudes report.
It was found that 26 per cent of SMEs do not plan on evolving workforce diversity over the next year, while 22 per cent said it was a low priority.
According to the research, the top reason for disregarding workforce diversity is that the team is “too small to be considered diverse” with 56 per cent.
Elsewhere, 24 per cent of respondents said they’re likely to employ someone like their existing recruits. Suggesting workforce diversity was an industry issue though, 19 per cent said applicants in the sector do not come from diverse backgrounds.
Despite this, the majority of SMEs have a positive outlook on workforce diversity – 55 per cent believe they have a diverse workplace and a third said improving workforce diversity is a priority over the next year.
Carl D’Ammassa, group MD, business finance at Aldermore, said: “It is heartening that so many UK small and medium-sized business owners describe their workforce as diverse.”
In terms of how leaders define workforce diversity, 53 per cent put it down to a wide age range, 48 per cent claimed a racially diverse employee base and 44 per cent believe a decent female to male ratio is the right way to go.
Some 41 per cent of SMEs have females in senior level roles, 36 per cent would adjust for disabled workers, while 35 per cent would make an environment welcoming for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff.
“However you define diversity, be it by age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability, promoting a diverse workforce should be a key consideration within any business, since employees from a range of backgrounds can offer different experiences to help drive the success of progressive businesses,” added D’Ammassa.
In addition to ethical benefits, being inclusive can also help improve brand reputation encourage business as 37 per cent of SMEs said they’re more likely to work with a supplier or partner known for workforce diversity and inclusivity.