Equality and diversity in the workplace mean a lot of things. They're about respecting your staff for their individual age, gender, race, cultural background, career experience, skills, beliefs (religious and philosophical), sexual orientation, and more.

But when we ask, "What is diversity in the workplace?" is it simply a matter of ticking every box and then doing nothing more?

No, it's far more than that. In this guide, we're going to look at why promoting equality and diversity in the workplace can boost your business's chances of success.

Research on the importance of equality and diversity in the workplace

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination related to any protected characteristics—of which there are nine.

  1. Age.
  2. Disability.
  3. Gender reassignment.
  4. Marriage and civil partnership.
  5. Pregnancy and maternity.
  6. Race.
  7. Religion and belief.
  8. Sex.
  9. Sexual orientation.

Hiring people from all kinds of backgrounds widens the range of thinking that takes place in your office. When you put a bunch of very different people (but all of them talented) in a room, you're stimulating their creativity by allowing them to present their unique ideas.

In 2017, the Havard Business Review published this article about research that suggests that "cognitively diverse" teams solve problems faster than "cognitively similar" teams.

The researchers pointed out that creating a company culture where you inspire and encourage your staff to express their unique thoughts and ideas needs to go hand-in-hand with the diversity of your people. This is because, "When we have a strong, homogeneous culture, we stifle the natural cognitive diversity in groups through the pressure to conform."

In plain English? People can't access their creativity much when your workplace culture forces them to fit in.

Why else is diversity in the workplace important?

Let's go through some examples of why equality and diversity in the workplace are important and need your attention.

1 A diverse workforce will help you better understand your customers

Many companies now offer their products and services on a global scale.

If you want your business to appeal to customers all over the globe, and be inclusive of all protected characteristics, a diverse workforce will give you a competitive upper hand over many rival companies.

For example, in the UK, the combined disposable income—or "spending power"—of the country's 12 million-or-so disabled people was roughly £80 billion in 2014.

Given that a massive number of UK citizens have a disability, the benefit both to this large portion of society, and to businesses, surely comes in the form of integrating disabled workers into business. For any successful product or service, effective design involves knowing the user (the customer) as well as possible, and tailoring the design to the user—not the other way round.

The less a person has to do to adjust to your product, the better your design. This is the same whether you're designing a new smartphone or a legal services package.

2 A diverse workplace breaks down language barriers

Sure, English is a popular language. But it's not the only language your business needs fluency in if you're going to offer a global customer service.

With employees from different nationalities, as well as staff who have taken learning a foreign language to an advanced level, you can take your business to new shores.

If your company has employees from multiple nations, too, it's relatable to a greater audience around the world—this is even more important in today's Digital Age, now that it takes just a few seconds to send a message to, or video call with, someone 10,000 miles away.

By opening your organisation's recruitment up to racial diversity (and all other forms of diversity), you gift your hiring managers a larger talent pool to access. You may even find that hiring remote workers in different time zones could lead to new offices in countries you never thought your business would be active in.

3 Promoting equality and diversity can increase employee satisfaction

In the UK, many large businesses now have to disclose information about their gender pay gaps. This means talented workers can review your company's pay gap before they think about applying to your intriguing job ad.

If you can demonstrate that you're moving towards an equality of pay for men and women, you'll attract more skilled workers. The more skilled workers you have, the better your company's chance of success. And then, snowballing from this—the more you can reward your employees.

Need help?

You now know the importance of equality and diversity in the workplace—it's important that you ensure that your staff know your policies on inclusion, diversity, and discrimination.

With BrightHR's HR software, you can store your vital company policies in unlimited secure cloud storage, and make the most of our BrightAdvice employment law advice—all from as little as £3 per month.

Give us a call on 0800 783 2806 and book your free demo of BrightHR.