The benefits of promoting diversity

Equality and diversity are essential in modern business, and the safety and health profession is leading the way.

by Louise Hosking
Last Updated: 07 Sep 2018

At IOSH 2018, the UK’s leading conference for workplace safety, health and wellbeing, a panel debate will ask whether the profession is doing enough to tackle inequality and discrimination. IOSH vice-president Louise Hosking, who will be among the panellists, takes a look at the issues.

Organisations that promote equality and diversity (E&D) reap the benefits. Creating a diverse and equal culture comes from mutual respect and good management. Here are just three benefits to promoting E&D:

1. You’ll find and retain the best talent

First, you’re going to find the best people for the job if you widen your search. Also, a diverse organisation is more likely to have a culture of fairness and a healthy work-life balance, leading to staff loyalty. The brightest talent are now looking at whether an organisation has a positive work culture before they begin a new position, as IOSH has highlighted in The Healthy Profit.

2. It’ll lead to better communication

Proactive E&D policies encourage people with different approaches to collaborate more effectively, promoting information-sharing and problem-solving and making everyone better communicators in the process.

3. You’ll become more competitive

Healthy organisations are more likely to be productive, which in turn means increased profit margins. In addition, it’s becoming increasingly common for organisations to be asked about the diversity of project groups when they seek collaborations or tender for work, because stakeholders recognise that diverse enterprises tend to be more flexible and able to respond to environmental change.

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How well, then, does the safety and health profession promote E&D? What more can be done to create a level playing field at work, and highlight the impact unfair treatment can have on people’s health and wellbeing?

Earlier this year, IOSH published the findings of a study into workplace ill-treatment  in Ireland. Of the 1,500 people surveyed, 43% said they had experienced ill-treatment, 37% had experienced unreasonable management and 31.3% had experienced incivility or disrespect. Physical violence had been experienced by 2.6% of respondents.

Figures like this are clearly unacceptable and IOSH produced guidance, including a checklist tool, to assist employers and employees.

It’s essential for organisations to have a supportive culture and for people to know who they can talk to when confronted with unacceptable behaviour. There must be a process to raise concerns in a non-threatening manner, free from reprisal. Organisations may need to examine themselves to ensure they have such processes. Without them, diversity cannot be achieved, because people will leave before they are given the opportunity to make a difference.

True equality is not about taking opportunities away from one group to give them to another. It means having an equal voice, opportunities and rights. This isn’t easy. It’s possible for an organisation to aim for diversity but achieve the opposite. Employers must look constantly at their organisational make-up and keep it a mixing pot with the right amount of openness and inclusivity.

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IOSH 2018 is at the ICC, Birmingham on the 17th and 18th of September. The panel will be chaired by journalist and broadcaster Cathy Newman and, as well as Louise, other panellists include:

– Derran Williams, senior health and safety advisor, European Bank for Reconstruction and Developmen

– James Allan, managing director, head of corporate banking FX, Barclays International

– Jenny Garrett, trainer, author, speaker and coach, Jenny Garrett Global

Book your place for IOSH 2018 here. Use discount code IOSHMT10% when booking to get a 10% discount

Image credit: Getty Images

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