Understanding the big benefits that diversity brings will do more for workplace inclusion than any number of appeals to the principles of social justice, says Nick Mansell.
Diversity is a management buzzword that has been buzzing for so long that I sometimes think we are in danger of losing the real meaning under all the noise.
It is understandable that cynicism creeps in when words like this are thrown around by so many people with so many different agendas and I am as suspicious as anyone of box-ticking exercises masquerading as social justice, but in this case, I think the social engineers are on to something that we would profit from taking a lot more seriously.
The focus is generally - and for good reasons - on the benefits that diverse recruitment can offer to individuals from marginalised groups, but the benefits to business are enormous too and this is an aspect that is too often neglected in the conversation.
I experience the advantages of working with a diverse team every day. At CPC we are actively inclusive, and not just in the usual sense of being open to people of all sexes, sexualities religions and races - which we are - but in the much broader sense of encouraging viewpoint diversity, that is the inclusion of people from professional and educational backgrounds that would not usually expect to be employed in the project management, transport or engineering sectors.
People of different sexes, sexualities and races often see things differently from each other in unexpected ways, and that is a good thing, but we can and should go far beyond that. My boss, an ex-professional footballer - not the conventional route into project management - is someone who knows plenty about motivation, teamwork and delivering results.
Our team’s average age is 30 and is drawn from as wide a range of interests and backgrounds, including a PhD in chemistry, a chess champion, a shipbuilder and an international politics graduate. Together we are taking on established wisdom and redefining how things can be done. Our energetic, ambitious team looks at the world with different sets of eyes and that means they can see solutions and opportunities that might be invisible to conventional ways of seeing. That’s what diversity means.
Understanding the powerful benefits that diversity brings will do more for workplace inclusion than any number of appeals to the principles of social justice - while taking care of social justice at the same time. More inclusive teams give better results and are more attractive to the best of the young people considering future careers.
It’s a virtuous circle and we should embrace it. Less of a buzzword, more of a buzz.
Nick Mansell is a project manager at CPC Project Services.