How a diverse workforce can be your competitive advantage

by Debbie Rigger13 Mar 2018

Is your company investing more in diversity? It should be. An investment in diversity is an investment in top talent, new ideas and better connections. In short: Profit. More CEOs and executive leaders are realising this and investing accordingly. If you’re not investing in diversity, here’s why you should be.

Diversity attracts more talent. The fact is, professionals must feel accepted by a company before they can consider working for them. This acceptance - of different identities, orientations, ages, and abilities - is reflected in your workforce. If professionals see people like themselves working happily in your organisation, they’ll be happy to work with you too.

The more professionals who’d be happy to work with you, the more choice you’ll have in hiring the best. More broadly, many forward-thinking professionals associate diverse workforces with forward-thinking organisations. If you want to attract forward-thinkers, and you should, invest in the best sign of a forward-thinking company.

A diverse workforce also generates diverse ideas, and diverse ideas help your company outthink the competition. In fact, the next billion dollar idea may come from a background none of your employees have yet. Homogenous employees often cross-fertilise the same tired ideas, giving you the same results. As well as bringing in better ideas, a culture of diversity enhances creative thinking by encouraging employees to express themselves.

Wondering how diverse you need to be? Your organisation should be as diverse as your customer-base. The important inverse of this is that your customer-base can only be as diverse as your organisation. Winning customer minds comes from understanding customer mind-sets.

Having those mind-sets already working for you will put you at an enormous advantage. Not only does diversity bring in customers, it can also bring in business partners. Imagine your company wants to expand into another country. Having staff who already understand the country’s language, customs and culture can ease that expansion.

Of course, diversity isn’t just about who you hire and where you hire them from. It can also be about the position you’re hiring for. Think of the ideal position for applicants with experience in IT. Conventional wisdom might place them in the IT department, but why not in HR? It sounds like a strange choice, until you consider how innovations like machine learning could optimise the HR process.

But how do you access these benefits? What steps does your company need to take to increase diversity? To begin, implement change from the top down. Unless your CEO, executives and managers are engaging in discussions on diversity, no one will think your effort is authentic. Also, don’t look at diversity as a single initiative. Break it down into a series of small initiatives implemented across every department. Speak with managers at every level to see how they could increase diversity, and stay in contact to monitor progress.

I’m proud to say that SAP is already reaping the many benefits of a diverse workplace. We were the first multinational technology company to receive the Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) Certification, reflecting our growth through gender diversity initiatives. Our Autism at Work program employs nearly 120 colleagues on the autism spectrum across 9 countries, allowing us to access their unique skills and insights. I hope that by advancing such diversity initiatives across the tech world, we as an industry can grow for everybody’s benefit.

By Debbie Rigger, head of human resources, Australia/NZ at SAP


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