As business becomes more global, it increasingly encounters a more culturally diverse customer base. Hiring a varied workforce shows respect for customer diversity, may increase the extent to which customers identify with the company, and secures internal innovation.
Recruiting is one of the most difficult tasks an employer can face, and many can often be heard complaining that it is difficult to secure the right talent, particularly at the top end of the scale.
Could it be, that, for all the talk of diversity, recruiters are actually not drawing from a wide enough talent pool. How often do you hear it said about an individual that they are being hired because they are thought to be a "great fit" for the organisation, for instance?
While it's true that ideally, a candidate will be a great fit because they bring a key capacity to the business, "he'll be a great fit" can also mean "he thinks like we do." And therein lies the rub. If businesses are hiring on this basis, they are hiring people who are more likely to agree, less likely to challenge, and less likely to ask the difficult questions.
Employers could be forgiven for being risk averse in their recruitment. Not only is identifying the strengths and weaknesses of different candidates difficult, but the wrong hiring decision can set a business back a long way.
As a result, the safest decision often is the one which wins, and the candidate who gets hired is the one with the background which is most similar to that of the CEO. Eventually, much as no employer would want to admit it, they unintentionally end up with a team who have very similar capabilities and personalities.
This doesn't just come down to ethnicity and gender - the tick-boxes which populate the Equal Opportunities forms, and so which invariably generate the most attention. It can be more subtle, softer factors such as personality, sensibility, work focus, that can be the most important for driving a company's success.
It is crucial that UK business can effectively capitalise on a rebounding economy and grow. Businesses have the opportunity to awake from the slumber of recession and really move forward, but this will depend on the ability to have great ideas and to execute them.
"There is an abundant body of research which shows that innovation requires diversity," says Sharon Vosmek, CEO of Astia. "The best homogenous teams are outperformed by even average diverse teams when it comes to innovation."
Scott Page, a Professor at the University of Michigan is part of a growing body of academics who believe that diversity improves performance and decision making, arguing that "groups made up of intelligent people who are inwardly diverse - that is, who have different perspectives, mindsets or ways of solving problems - can make more accurate predictions and solve problems more effectively than groups of 'experts'"
Page's book, “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies” uses mathematical modelling and case studies to show how variety in staffing produces organizational strength.
In Britain, we can see the benefits of this in our diverse cities. Our cities are great examples of creative environments where individuals with varying backgrounds and life experiences come together to create innovation.
Of course, as an organisation, this isn't about going out of your way to hire people who you don't like, and who don't fit in either. While a certain measure of diversity, and even conflict within a business is healthy, a business can only sustain so much.
Diverse groups have more and better ways of solving problems, and faster and better ways of solving them. For the problems that employers face, and that Britain faces, we need to adopt a diverse approach to recruitment.This blog originally appeared on RReL.