One of the impacts of globalisation is the rapidly changing diversity of our workplaces, as global talent becomes more mobile and technology allows us to work from anywhere with an internet connection. Robinson & Dechant (1997) argued that in order to make diversity and inclusion a strategic priority, it was necessary to demonstrate a robust business case to obtain leadership buy-in and assemble the appropriate resources required to develop diversity programmes and initiatives.
However, according to a recent WEF (2020) report, whilst it is strategically important that an organisation’s employees represent the varying demographics of its geographical consumer base, the priorities for implementing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives should be led by the moral imperative, then the legal imperative and lastly the economic imperative, firmly suggesting that the business case does not carry the strategic weight it used to.
HBR (2020) recognises that whilst there is sound evidence to support the business case for diversity, merely increasing the volume of underrepresented people within an organisation does not guarantee improvements in financial performance or garner a competitive advantage, suggesting that to implement diversity programmes based on purely commercial benefits undermines the agency and dignity of basic human rights.
The Department for Business Information & Skills (2013) suggests that if there is no strategic planning as to how diversity is managed within an organisation, businesses can actually increase their costs through increased employee dissatisfaction, litigation and attrition.
Forbes (2020) also questions whether a business case is still relevant, stating that academic evidence does little to explain why diversity initiatives fail, laying the blame squarely at the feet of organisational leadership power and priorities, further suggesting that effective action to promote diversity comes from organisations like AXA and BlackRock who announced that they would only invest in businesses with gender-balanced leadership teams.
O’Leary and Weathington (2006) suggest that the business case approach to diversity is embedded in organisational management psyche, distracting leaders from the ethical and moral obligations of building a diverse and inclusive workplace, and is neither quantifiable, nor reliable.
Do you think that the business case approach still holds any relevance in the workplace of today?
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