Corporate Team

 

Chairman Speech

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 businesses.

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.

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