There is a change in the weather ahead
for all businesses. It is one being shaped and swirled
by the changing winds and tides of human demographics
and markets. It will affect every business - and will
threaten the very survival of many. We will, quite literally,
need all hands on deck if our businesses are to survive.
We've got to face the challenge of embracing diversity.
The figures, solid projection borne out by the last
few decades, are astounding. Any business hoping to
survive and thrive should be listening and acting now.
We have always taken great comfort
from the fact that good business should be like a well-designed
ship. The market is its ocean, with all the currents,
tides and swells and occasionally the Bermuda triangles.
A well designed ship will have everything on board fastened
and functioning to the best of its ability. It will
navigate well to take advantage of the winds and the
elements can offer it. Like a good business it will
sail, with the wind, its crew all knowing their function
and their duties.
Each individual crew member is an individual,
yet they will pull together knowing that their similarities
and goals are far more important than their differences.
Their pride in their voyage and their skill and their
destination and even their journey together is something
that they will tell with relish. They will listen to
and learn from each other. They know they are not here
through luck, but through skill and determination. They
understand that any ship not taking full advantage of
the winds will lag behind and even perish. The backers
know this too, they pick a wise experienced captain
who knows how to get the best from his or her team.
This will be a captain and officers who on a long voyage
are open to the new. They will be able to improvise
and appoint. That team will by its nature be diverse.
Its skills will be different yet complimentary. They
will understand and even look upon their voyage in different
ways. Yet no one doubts the value of such diversity.
It is what life is made of. We must act as facilitators
to allow this diversity to happen in our own particular
We are living in an age when flexibility
and creativity are the keys to competitiveness. We should
be seeking not just diversity but the values in our
differences. Yet too often we are operating from old
stereotypes and fears. It is part of the human condition
reflected in business is that fear or a sense of threat
is often met with a desire to cling to traditional and
safe patterns. We find some solace in those whose appearance
reflects our own as well as their outlook. In fact the
very thing that is needed is expansion and inclusiveness
to working with new ideas and new people who can help
us discover more for ourselves.
Many corporations establish businesses
in third world countries simply because lower costs
mean higher profits. In doing so they are missing out
on a great opportunity to embrace diversity. The people
who work in these corporations may not have the same
technical skills as those at home but perhaps they have
more imagination, more knowledge of local needs. They
have sometime more to offer than a cheap labour force.
Businesses have to realise this and seek out what they
have to offer.
Encouragement of workplace diversity
is no longer wishful thinking or a option. It is going
to be an essential facet of every business wishing to
succeed. In turn it will bring that business, greater
adaptability and flexibility. It will mean that a business
in a position to attract the best talent from a range
of groups. It will mean potentially vast savings in
turnover, absenteeism, and training. It will mean a
good return on investment on policies in these areas.
It will mean greater creativity, interest and dynamics.
It will mean an expanded market share of local and global
business. It will mean increased sales and profits.
It will mean a happier ship with its sails full of wind.
That in our businesses we've got to face. The fact
that diversity is here and now.