Combatting the challenge of equality and diversity for SMEs

With big personnel issues such as the gender pay gap so prevalent in the press, diversity, equality and fair representation in the workplace have never been more important. More and more companies in the UK are pledging to be more inclusive and less biased through recruitment and HR, both for the well-being of their staff and the success of their business.

With approximately 5.4 million registered SMEs in the UK, and the nation becoming increasingly multicultural, there has never been a better time for smaller, growing businesses to utilise the benefits of diversity in a cohesive workforce. 

Here, Jeff Michon, director at full service creative agency Michon looks at the challenges and opportunities that this progressive approach to working brings, particularly for businesses in the creative industry.

The key challenge for small businesses that are looking to cover an equality and diversity agenda is to ensure you continue to employ the right individuals with the required skill set, experience and business-cultural fit. This is particularly key in certain industries, including the creative sector where agency-client relations are at the forefront of operations.

Instilling a corporate culture that facilitates the productivity of a diverse workforce will ensure retention levels remain high, with a growing base of other individuals keen to bring their skills into the business. At Michon, flexible working practices have been at the forefront of this.

For staff with young families, a ‘grown-up’ approach to work has allowed individuals to continue working effectively and to maintain a work-life balance. Instilling flexible working hours means that staff members know what they have to achieve, and by when, allowing all individuals to manage their time and workload effectively.

The creative sector can be demanding, particularly for those working in an agency environment that often have multiple impending deadlines and multiple clients. A diverse workforce encompassing people of different race, age, ethnicity, personality and educational background allows individuals to approach projects with varying perspectives, a tremendous asset in terms of idea generation and creativity.

Diversity in the workplace is increasing all the time and successful businesses of all shapes and sizes should be investing in their working practices to maximise productivity for its growing teams.

There are a number of key benefits to developing a diverse workforce and are universal across the majority of industries, where the aim is to improve productivity and achieve business growth.

Increased adaptability

Workers from different backgrounds can often provide a greater variety of solutions when it comes to approaching problem solving. From a full-service creative agency’s perspective, these skills are essential to providing fresh and effective ideas to a varied client portfolio.

Increased service range

Employees coming from different background may also bring additional skills to the team such as a second language, or cultural and business knowledge about new and unfamiliar markets that could provide opportunities for company growth.

Better execution

Businesses that encourage diversity in the workplace create a sense of well-being that is achieved through forward thinking management teams. This will encourage members of staff to feel proud of the company they work for, increasing productivity, camaraderie and positivity in the workplace. Ultimately, this will lead to better quality work, more recommendations and increased sales.

Whilst implementing these changes, the makeup of the workforce will naturally change, and will present a number of challenges that need to be addressed and overcome to ensure companies feel the full benefits of a diverse team.

Communication, in terms of language and cultural barriers, need to be addressed to make certain all members of the team are focused towards a common goal. Regular training should be instilled to encourage team cohesion, ensure key objectives are met, and that workers aren’t left feeling confused or demotivated.

For most businesses, there will be some workers who are resistant to change. It is important to educate these individuals in the benefits of equality and diversity in the workplace.

It will be interesting to observe the shift in recruiting trends within the sector in the coming years as creative agencies begin to realise the benefits of a diverse workforce.

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