In order to have a successful workforce, we need to be diverse. There’s no question about it. We need to have a mix of ideas, experiences and skillsets. And we need to reflect the experiences of the people we are helping. Anything less than that is counterproductive.
At its very core, it’s an issue of representation. You don’t just want to help your beneficiaries, you want to understand and support them. And having a diverse workforce ensures you have a variety of perspectives, increased innovation and, ultimately, better productivity for your charity.
How diversity benefits your organisation
Research conducted by McKinsey & Company found that organisations with more racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have higher returns than their competitors. Now, that’s from a business perspective, but let’s put it in a charity context. Mix a variety of views and experiences in a room and you’ll come out the other side with better campaign ideas. Your appeals will be more targeted and more authentic, ultimately leading to more volunteer engagement and higher donations.
But we also have to consider the impact inclusion has on recruitment and retention. The fact of the matter is, younger candidates care about working for a more culturally diverse workplace. And you don’t want to exclude the younger generations because they are the workforce of the future.
The research suggests that companies with a more diverse workforce are better positioned to attract and retain top talent and improve aspects of their operations such as donor communications, employee satisfaction and decision making, leading to a cycle of increased support.
So, not only is diversity’s impact well-established for almost every industry out there, it’s paramount for running an effective charity. But the question remains: Once you build a robust and diverse charity workforce, how do you effectively lead them?
First, you need to realise where diversity is needed
This article in the Harvard Business Review lays out the global impact of diversity in the workplace quite clearly. It states that socially inclusive teams tend to be more productive and actively produce more innovative ideas than homogenous teams would.
Cultural diversity also has a significant economic value for organisations. When well-directed, a diverse workforce can better understand donor behaviours and ways to engage volunteers. Consider how much you can widen your reach, not just appealing to your local community but to the whole of the UK (or even the world).
Of course, a culturally diverse workforce also has a positive impact on your charity’s operations. This manifests itself as an aspect of your organisation’s brand that encourages other culturally diverse candidates to apply for open positions.
But employers still need to tackle diversity in a result-driven approach. This means realising where culturally diverse employees are most needed depending on their unique knowledge and background (fundraising, volunteer management, marketing and communication, etc). That’s not to say you should only think about diversity for certain roles, but you should actively avoid hiring ‘like for like’ and be open to someone who brings new perspectives and ideas to the table.
Supporting diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Senior management are very often the only team members with a vision for long-term success, but the workforce must be aware of what the organisation is doing to enable cultural diversity and how that adds value.
It’s a commitment that needs to be managed sustainably. You want to continue supporting your current workforce while embedding cultural diversity in the organisation’s strategies. This requires clear goals and guidelines.
That’s where the management team comes in. They need to develop and oversee this strategy while monitoring it for successful implementation. Explore the limits of what the workforce can achieve through their unique backgrounds and skills and pinpoint where you’re falling short. Then you’ll have a better idea of what you need to do to improve.
Training your management team
Change on a charity-wide scale can’t happen without the direct involvement of the management team. It’s important to train managers so that they recognise the qualities and unique skills of culturally diverse employees and know how to use them well. This is also referred to as inclusive leadership.
According to research conducted by CMD Recruitment in 2019, The average cost-per-hire in the UK is about £3,000, with the average length of the job interview process standing at about 27.5 days. This shows just how important it is to prepare the existing workforce beforehand—especially the management team—given how expensive and time-consuming the process can be.
But training shouldn’t just be limited to the management team. Training all employees to be open to new viewpoints and ideas will help improve communication and ultimately help shape a more inclusive company culture.
The involvement of managers can set the pace for the workforce directly under their supervision. Their behaviour and activities play an important role, both in defining the charity’s need for cultural diversity and in actually achieving change within the organisation.
But managing a blend of cultures differs greatly from leading a homogeneous team. Managers need to be aware of the difference in background and behaviour and be able to recognise individual characteristics, employee commitment, exemplary performance and provide support when needed.
In a diverse charity workplace, specific leadership skills such as cultural empathy, having an open mind, being flexible and being able to simplify and support group processes within various teams are vital. It’s all about finding the things that ensure all your employees thrive.
Leading a blend of cultures
Once a sound strategy for diverse talent management has been established, it’s much easier for charities to be forward-thinking and inclusive. Over time, this becomes one of the brand’s key identifiers.
But remember, diversity does not end with the inclusion of different ethnicities and cultures; rather, it begins with the right management strategy.