For many businesses, the #BlackLivesMatter movement looks set to be a watershed moment. Businesses recognise the need for more than just token gestures, understanding they share society’s responsibility to celebrate diversity and inclusion. This will mean building more diverse workforces, including at leadership levels.
Santander’s own research suggests embracing change is entirely in businesses’ interests. Our Traiblazers study, published earlier this year, revealed that one important attribute of the UK’s fastest growing businesses is that they have more diverse leadership teams and workforces – and reaping the rewards of their inclusivity. So, we’re sharing some further insight based on research we did earlier in the year on diversity and inclusion in high growth businesses.
The second edition of our Trailblazers study demonstrates a clear link between a business’s attitude to diversity and inclusion and its ability to outperform its rivals.
At leadership level, the research shows Britain’s high-growth businesses are considerably more likely to have management teams that consist of individuals from a broader range of backgrounds. 37% of Trailblazers say their leadership group has a diverse ethnic make-up (25% among lower-growth businesses), 60% report management diversity in terms of social background (51%) and 36% say they are diverse with regards to sexuality (23%).
In addition, some 80% of Trailblazers employ at least one woman in their senior leadership team while, 62% say their management team is diverse on gender – compared with 70% and 56% of lower-growth businesses respectively.
A more diverse workforce too
Diversity in high-growth businesses is not limited to senior staff. Our research shows that Trailblazers are more likely to promote diverse workforces: 53% of these businesses say they are successfully managing to increase diversity through their recruitment practices, against just 37% of lower-growth businesses.
Moreover, a quarter (25%) of high-growth businesses ‘strongly agree’ that they recognise the importance of recruiting staff from a broad range of backgrounds – among lower-growth companies this rate is just 13%.
Trailblazers are also more likely to have the formal family-friendly employment policies that can play such an important role in increasing workforce diversity: for example, 50% have a formal commitment to offering flexible working (28% among low-growth businesses), 43% have a home-working policy (21%), 39% provide support with childcare or other caring responsibilities (21%) and 39% offer parental leave policies that go beyond the statutory minimum (22%).
Recognising the benefits
So what is the thinking that underpins these attitudes to increasing diversity and inclusion? The short answer is that the Trailblazers believe more diverse businesses are stronger.
Trailblazers are much more likely to see higher levels of diversity as something that can drive future performance: for example, 38% agree that a culture of diversity is an important element of their strategy for growth, against 27% of lower-growth firms.
Equally, 32% of Trailblazers take the view that more diverse companies tend to outperform in areas such as productivity and growth (against 27% of lower-growth businesses), while 39% believe their attitude to diversity plays a significant role in helping them attract and retain staff (25%).
Crucially, around two in every five high-growth businesses (39%) say their commitment to diversity and inclusion is already delivering tangible benefits – compared with just 26% of lower-growth businesses.
Among this group of Trailblazers, 56% say that their approach has resulted in an increased ability to attract new talent, while 52% have found that it has led to greater levels of productivity and commitment from their staff.
Just under half (48%) say that diversity has enabled them to provide improved levels of customer support and a similar proportion (45%) report that they have been able to access new or untapped markets thanks to their more inclusive attitude.
As other strands of our Trailblazers research have shown, the UK’s high-growth businesses are constantly searching for new approaches and strategies that can give them the edge over their competition. Our latest findings suggest that greater diversity is already proving critical in this regard. From resolving skills shortages and improving productivity to driving growth, organisations that have made decisive efforts to become more diverse and inclusive are reaping the rewards.