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New diagnostic tool to help SMEs win £100bn worth of public sector contracts

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But for all his talk of incentivising start-ups and reducing red tape, quite the opposite has happened over previous years.

SMEs have found themselves submerged under a tidal wave of health-and-safety madness, ever-changing employment laws and most recently – the CGT debacle.

For SMEs, in particular, much of the perceptions about dealing with the public sector are true. The reams of red tape involved and the bias towards big companies mean that many small business owners either don’t try or have limited success in winning public sector contracts. Research released in 2006 by the Federation of Small Businesses showed that only a measly three per cent of small firms’ main customers are public authorities.

But with £100bn spent every year by local and national government on procuring goods and services, it’s about time that SMEs grabbed a slice of the pie.

Responding to the criticisms, in March 2006 the government launched www.supply2.gov.uk, a web-based portal to advertise lower-value contracts.

In recent times, proof that a company actively encourages diversity has become crucial to their success in winning public sector contracts. In recognition of this, Diversity Works for London (DWfl), an organisation set up to work with businesses to encourage workplace diversity, announced the launch last week of an online diagnostic tool to help SMEs check their diversity standards.

Below are excerpts from DWfl’s press release, explaining how the diagnostic tool works and its merits:

Why is it useful?

As well as being free, quick, practical and easy to use, the Diagnostic Tool enables businesses to assess their performance against comprehensive diversity criteria. It also helps participating businesses to put their organisations in a better position to compete for contracts.

This is effective because many of London’s large organisations, particularly in the public sector, understand the importance of equality and diversity, and increasingly engage suppliers who demonstrate that they have a diverse workforce.

What does the Diagnostic Tool assess?

Participating businesses using the online tool are assessed on how they can implement diversity practices across all six strands of diversity: age, disability, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and religion or belief.

How does it work? Participating businesses log on to DWfL’s interactive website and register as a user. Once registered, users click on the Diagnostic Tool link and begin an online questionnaire that is split into six sections:

1. Gaining buy-in2. Managing a diverse workforce3. Recruitment, promotion and development4. Promoting a productive and harmonious workplace5. Monitoring6. Running a diverse business

Once a section is complete, participating businesses will receive detailed feedback and comments, including links to guidance and help on the DWfL website, and related comprehensive case studies that highlight how other businesses have progressed.

Once all six of the sections are filled out, participating businesses will receive an overall rating, again using the red, amber, green and gold symbols. The process takes approximately half an hour to complete. Users can then revisit the Tool at any time when they feel they have made further progress and are ready to reassess their organisation.

The diagnostic tool can be accessed at: www.diversityworksforlondon.com/

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