Diversity: A Framework for Business

Do we need to broaden our horizons to be more successful in business? Consider, people are living longer; a girl born in 2013 has a life expectancy of 105. More people are now expected to delay retirement until they are in the 80s, meaning that the workforce generational age gap will be greater than ever before, so what are we doing to prepare for this?

Many of us are used to working with three generations – Generation Y, Generation X and the Baby Boomers, add the Homelanders (those born after 9/11), and this will lead to some of us working with four generations. This means that employers are going to have to consider how best to harness their older workforce, and how they will manage the generation gap and associated working practices, as it is unlikely that Generation X and the Baby Boomers will be opting for early retirement.

However, there are also issues in respect of ethnic minorities and gender. A study by Green Park (an interim and executive search firm), shows that more than half FTSE 100 companies have no ethnic minority board members, and two-thirds have no non-white executive board members. The survey also found that of 289 top executives in these companies, only a dozen were women in roles of either chief executive or chief financial officer. Green Park found that, while women and ethnic minorities did hold board positions, these were more likely to be at non-executive level.

Whilst in some areas there have been improvements, such as the record number of women currently in work, according to the Office of National Statistics (67%, the highest since records began), there is clearly a disparity between the increased work rate and the level of position within organisations. There is also a need to further support cultural and ethnic diversity, and for a more global awareness in this time of greater international mobility.

Research shows that almost half of employers are dissatisfied with graduate’s international cultural awareness, which is no great surprise when you consider that less than 2% of UK students study abroad, compared to that of Germany, with more than 6%. The issue of international competitiveness is also a concern; research is currently being undertaken by the British Council and Born Global, exploring the UK’s lack of language skills and its impact on business.

For far too long, the British have been accused of failing to open their eyes to the world and what it has to offer. We need to cultivate a more open and progressive business ideology, moving towards a future of inclusion.