Diversity can become lower priority for companies during challenging times, yet it can be closely linked with employee engagement, better organizational performance and innovation. Brenda Trenowden, CBE, global chair of the 30% Club and head of Financial Institutions Group in Europe for ANZ, explains how placing emphasis on both diversity and inclusion can increase productivity and help build a supportive company culture.
BRENDA TRENOWDEN: Well, I think that in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex environment, as we seem to continually find ourselves in at the moment, the only way that we can come up with creative and more innovative solutions for our clients is to have a very diverse team.
And I think that, unfortunately, companies, when times are tough and when CEOs' bandwidth is constrained, it kind of falls down the list as a nice-to-have, when, actually, that is the most important time to focus on diversity to have the best possible team to solve those complex problems.
Firstly, and fairly obviously, women and other diverse candidates represent a very important part of economic potential. And actually, by limiting your pool and not taking these people into account, it becomes incredibly costly for business in terms of lost productivity and opportunity.
Secondly, in an era where the speed of innovation is important, heterogeneity has been shown to really increase the innovative potential of teams. With more effective teams and greater potential for innovation, of course, comes better business performance.
Often the emphasis seems to be on the diversity. And I think what everyone has to realize is you have to have inclusion together. Because if you throw a lot of diversity at an organization and there isn't an inclusive culture, it's not going to stick. So we really need to focus on both.
I think the other thing we have to think about—and Catalyst points this out—is that companies that have more inclusive cultures and more diverse teams have much better staff engagement and much lower turnover, which, of course, leads to better performance.