Businesses throughout the world face the challenge of attracting and retaining the best possible team of employees. Effectively harnessing the best possible mix of experience, skills, perspectives and strengths is critical to competitiveness, productivity and profitability, and is actively pursued by businesses throughout the world.
It is now increasingly recognised that:
- Discrimination based on grounds such as gender, race, or disability robs businesses of the people they need to be competitive and adaptable to changing market demands.
- The best possible mix of employee experience, skills, perspectives and strengths will come from suitably qualified persons from across the community.
- Business is enriched operationally and financially by extending opportunities.
An initial focus on anti-discrimination law (encouraged and supported by international initiatives such as the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the ILO’s Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention), has broadened. Contemporary efforts in this area are increasingly centred on a fundamentally different, and more sophisticated, concept.
Business is broadening its focus from narrow legal compliance, or targeted programmes for particular groups (women, workers with a disability etc) to the more holistic concept of Diversity.
There are a myriad of individual definitions of diversity, which nevertheless share the following:
- Valuing human qualities different from our own, that are manifested in other individuals and groups.
- Focusing on a broader set of qualities than race and gender.
- Fostering workplaces that respect and include differences.
- Recognising the unique contributions that different individuals can make.
Businesses increasingly seek to value diversity, not just in words, but also in their actions as employers, customers and community leaders. Successful workplace diversity is increasingly viewed as a critical part of organisational performance, and is an indicator of business leadership performance.
There is considerable global discussion on the business case for diversity, and for better harnessing the contributions of previously excluded or undervalued groups. This is strongest when it transcends public relations or legal compliance and clearly makes a business case for new ways of operating and approaching employment.
This does not mean abandoning performance or measuring the success of work, it means recognising business will be most effective when it draws on the maximum pool of talent and experience.
In policy terms, businesses are working towards empowering businesses to make their workplaces more diverse. Employers are also actively working to ensure that the law keeps pace with changing attitudes and expectations, is practical, navigable and proportionate, and is no longer seen as the only avenue for advancing social change.
IOE members are also engaged in supporting their business communities in harnessing diversity in the workplace, and in drafting diversity policies and practices that are not only legally compliant, but fully realise the operational and productivity benefits.
The IOE works to support its members in all countries, at all stages of development, to promote a wider understanding of the benefits of workplace diversity and to equip them to engage with domestic law and regulation linked to this concept.
The IOE is available to provide policy guidance on diversity issues. Please see IOE Fact Sheet for Business on Diversity for further information.