Ignoring diversity can reduce productivity and performance, but badly managed efforts to introduce diversity run the risk of creating conflict and doing just as much to undermine business performance, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has warned.
The CIPD says that managers need to work to ensure diversity drives inclusiveness and cooperation, and is about more than just box ticking and employment quotas.
Dianah Worman, CIPD Diversity Adviser, said: "A diverse workforce bringing different people together, with different views, ideas experiences and perspectives can bring real benefits for business performance. But managed badly, efforts to improve diversity can have the opposite effect - creating conflict and tension in the workplace."
According to CIPD report, Managing diversity: linking theory and practice to business performance, the benefits of a diverse workforce include:
* Customer focus - matching internal employee diversity to population diversity can enhance awareness of consumer needs.
* Business process - recruiting diverse talent will help inject new ideas and challenge the organisational mindsets that can hinder change and progress.
* Innovation - the flexibility, creativity and ability to innovate are enhanced by the existence of dissimilar mindsets.
* Learning - employers have more choice from a greater skills base, improved employee satisfaction, reduced internal disputes, greater workplace harmony, improved retention and more effective and fairer promotion of talent. Knowledge is retained in the business and shared more effectively.
Managing diversity is about achieving a balance between different forces and challenges, the report says, so employers should also monitor areas that can prevent diversity generating benefits to the organisation.
It suggests using a diversity-balanced scorecard, to look at both the positive and negative impact of diversity, as a model for measuring the success of diversity within the workforce.
Worman said: "Measuring diversity will help employers to gain a genuine understanding of their staff, enabling them to understand the problems diversity can trigger, and look at ways to prevent problems from occurring. Measurement will allow employers to make full use of their assets and motivating them to apply their abilities in the interest of the business."
The CIPD's Annual Employment Law Conference takes place on 28-29 June 2005.