The business case for diversity

By Tim Glister on Monday, 21 March 2016

Earlier this month we went to the Economist’s inaugural diversity in business conference, Pride & Prejudice. The 24-hour global event, spanning Hong Kong, London and New York, brought together leaders in politics, human rights and industry to discuss how to make a business case for promoting diversity at work and in the market.

Financial services has been ahead of the game when it comes to embracing diversity in-house for a while now. From JP Morgan to Goldman Sachs, FS brands know a diverse workforce is a happier, more productive one, and that, to quote the Lord Mayor of London opening the conference, success is driven by “enterprise, hard work, and talent – from every possible source.”

You’d think that agencies would be even further ahead than FS. But are they? Diversity has only just become a performance metric for agencies in the Campaign School Reports, and research from the Economist quantifying the workplace benefits of diversity suggests other sectors are actually only now starting to catch up with FS.

The Economist found that 33% of executives think diversity enhances productivity and innovation, and 55% said it improves access to talent. A whopping 67% of respondents said a diverse workforce enhances financial performance, and one in six even said it directly improves the bottom line.

This is backed up by further research that shows that LGBT workers in particular are 30% more productive when they feel comfortable being out at work, and over 70% of LGBT allies see diversity and inclusion as deciding factors when accepting a job.

So much for diversity in the workplace, but what about in the market?

FS brands and agencies alike are realising the potential financial benefits that come with celebrating their internal diversity credentials through their advertising and services.

The global LGBT market is worth over $3.7 trillion, and financial services in particular are already tapping into it with smart, sympathetic and tactical positioning.

This doesn’t mean cynically renaming an old product, or pushing so hard into one market that you lose another. It simply means letting people know that you value and welcome them. As Shauna Olney of the International Labour Organization says, “If you’re a mirror to your customers, they’ll buy from you.”

Take Lloyds Bank’s new campaign, ‘For Your Next Step’, which features a truly diverse cast of people and life stories, all with equal focus. It celebrates Lloyd’s key values of working together and putting customers first, and sends a clear message that the bank is open for everyone’s business.

In financial services and beyond, championing diversity lets brands and agencies bring their values to life in-house and in the market. It improves collaboration, innovation and productivity, and – because this is business, after all – has the potential to drive impressive profits.

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