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Why it's important to get diversity right

January 9 2017 - Diversity is a cornerstone of a modern business. Creating a diverse workplace isn't just about adhering to the laws regarding discrimination, but going the extra mile in creating an environment where people from any ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, race, or political belief can feel safe and valued.

We spoke to Simon Altham, Managing Director of leading UK holiday provider Hoseasons and LGBT spokesperson, about how and why he supports workplace diversity.

What are the most common mistakes an organisation can make when implementing a diversity programme?

A common mistake made by organisations is to view diversity as a box-ticking exercise. Successful businesses don't simply implement diversity programmes, they embed them into the very heart of their business culture. This can only be achieved with support at board level, and establishing a worthwhile commitment from directors across every department.

It also means being transparent and open with all employees about what you are trying to achieve and why it is important for the success of the business. Some people are baffled as to why companies support LGBT employees, asking: ‘why should they be treated differently to anyone else?' Sharing information, videos, and statistics about the challenges LGBT people face in the workplace helps to highlight that discrimination is still active in 2017, even if it's less obvious than in previous generations.

Why should a human resources manager care about diversity?

People who can feel comfortable and express themselves freely at work will deliver better results. LGBT employees can spend energy hiding who they are for fear of discovery or harassment, making it more challenging to focus on their day-to-day roles.

Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion are perceived as innovative by fostering a culture of openness and ideas, resulting in higher rates of employee satisfaction.

How often are staff trained on LGBT subjects?

We speak openly about our commitment to diversity and inclusion when we bring on new starters - it's essentially a module in the induction process. It's important to ensure that our LGBT employees feel safe, comfortable, happy, and engaged in the workplace. So, part of the process involves introducing strong allies across all the departments to make it happen, which is why it is important to train and educate all staff.

Why is it important to show diversity?

Supporting diversity says something to the outside world about the type of company we are - a warm, friendly, fun, and engaging business - one that celebrates difference and champions everyone.

In a world where much of the progress around tolerance is being questioned, it's important that business leaders stand up for these values and highlight the benefits that they bring. Diverse teams think more creatively, undiscover innovations more frequently, and ultimately drive market growth in an increasingly competitive and uncertain economic climate.

Have you ever experienced a situation when an employer or company has been unaccepting of diversity?

One thing that surprises many people is that homophobia and racism are still rife within society. In my career, I took an early decision to be out in the workplace.

I have ensured that I have been subtly open about my sexuality in any interviews, even turning down roles where I have felt uncomfortable.

I have since been very fortunate to work for some amazing managers over the years, for whom my sexuality wasn't an issue. This allowed me to concentrate on building a successful career.

It hasn't all been plain sailing, however. I remember my first job after university in the manufacturing industry - heading to the factory floor I heard 'backs to the walls lads' being shouted as I walked in. It was hard to deal with, especially as I was young and naïve, but they soon tired of their jibes and accepted me for who I am.

Many LGBT people find it hard to be open about their sexuality in the workplace. In the 21st century, this saddens me a great deal. It is by no means a walk in the park being out at work, but it does allow me the freedom to concentrate on the job at hand - without the worry and stress of watching what I say or how I act.

What does Hoseasons actively do to demonstrate and promote diversity?

We have established an excellent culture of embracing diversity within the workplace. Whether that is working with recruitment agencies to ensure they deliver us a diverse mix of candidates, establishing employee network groups, or supporting local events such as Norwich Pride. We also regularly gather feedback to ensure we are listening to the needs of our employees and giving them enough information and advice.

We've signed up with Stonewall and established a great working partnership, with an aim to make the Top 100 Employers in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index. We have also signed an exclusive partnership with Gay Star News, one of the biggest digital publications in the LGBT space.

We were also recently shortlisted by TTG for the most LGBT friendly travel company of the year award, and we often include same-sex couples in our mainstream marketing campaigns to help promote our inclusive brand values.

How Diversity Aids Business

A diverse workforce can improve businesses of all sizes. A culture of acceptance and understanding breeds creativity and innovation. Diverse teams can also offer expansive insight into different customers, cultures, and beliefs, while creating an atmosphere of comfort and security.

If modern workplaces embrace the cultural richness of modern day society, eventually diversity will become the new normal.

Simon Altham
Simon Altham









 

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