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Hideously diverse Britain: variety is good for business

Employers may say that diversity in the workforce is great, but they’re not doing much about it. Can that be changed?

First the good news. Pollsters asked employers throughout the country whether they thought diversity had a role to play in the contemporary workforce. Oh yes, said 69%. Companies with diverse workforces are best placed to succeed in the years to come, they said. Do you think diversity improves your company culture, they were asked. Yes we do, replied 70%.

Now the bad. More than a quarter, quizzed about the value of campaigns to promote diversity, said more are undertaken in the name of good PR than with any intention to actually change the company culture. Cynicism about this whole area seems rife. Almost half of the 1,000 workers polled thought the same.

The hope was that employers would broaden the search for employees and become a bit more innovative. Nothing doing. A third said they look for “a certain type” and that’s it.

We are talking the talk, not walking the walk. And that’s a shame, this year of all years, because in July we’ll stage the Olympics – a global celebration of sport, to be sure, but also a momentous commercial contract that largely came to us because we made a song and dance about our embrace of diversity in the UK. If ever a contract should have been an exemplar, that was it. Instead we have employers saying diversity is great but then doing nothing much about it. The diversity deficit.

I mull it over with Chris Moore, director of the Unlocking Britain’s Potential campaign, and Steve Girdler, the Adecco Group’s director of London 2012. Adecco is the recruitment sponsor for London 2012 and was responsible for the survey. What happened? “It’s easy to have a policy,” says Moore. But most employers see anything else as a little too difficult.” If in doubt, they recruit someone who reminds them of themselves. London 2012 has worked hard to do better in terms of hiring minorities and the disabled, says Girdler. “There is a huge talent out there.”

It’s not altruism, they say. Diverse markets are best served by a diverse workforce. But many employees are wary of seeking out minorities and many minorities – mindful of the way decisions have always been made – think twice before applying to firms that don’t seem welcoming. As ever, the only way forward is a leap of faith. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds