Firms should avoid ‘group think’ mentality.

Diversity in the workforce is a polarising issue at times. During the recent election there was a lot of comment about the extent to which women, Pasifika and Maori, among other groups, should have their voices guaranteed in legislation.

Others simply stated their belief that diversity didn't play a role and the job should go to the most qualified person. Despite the differing views, the benefits of a diverse workforce are underscored by research.

Workforce diversity isn't just a touchy-feely thing or a branch of political correctness. More and more it's being viewed as a valuable profit driver and a tool to make your organisation more effective.

Take this quote from Forbes magazine: "For global companies, diversity is no longer simply a matter of creating a heterogeneous workforce, but using that workforce to innovate and give it a competitive advantage in the marketplace. And as companies compete on a global scale, diversity and inclusion frequently have to shift as different markets and different cultures have varied definitions of what culture means."

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Consider another comment from international accountancy firm Deloitte, quoting UK professor Margaret Heffernan: "Diversity ... isn't a form of political correctness but an insurance policy against internally generated blindness that leaves institutions exposed and out of touch." So why should you care? Because there's a mounting body of evidence that employing diversity policies is good for profits.

According to the Centre for American Progress, every company on Fortune magazine's list of the 100 best companies to work for includes sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy.

GE Capital's experience is that, especially for mid-market companies, a diversity of experience and perspectives in the workforce will ensure there is better challenging - so you can harness the whole organisation to ensure your company doesn't make mistakes.

Every organisation needs different people with different perspectives. It is their background and experience that offer alternative views on projects or issues which create better decision-making and better organisational outcomes.

Companies should avoid "group think" - where there is no challenging or disagreement, as this is what helps people think outside the box. Different perspectives and a diversity of thought create this challenging element and help ensure your firm doesn't repeat mistakes.

GE Capital's experience in the mid-market company space is that many companies are struggling to find suitably qualified staff - particularly those companies in the smaller centres. We ask our clients: How are you facing this challenge? We share our experiences of firms that are doing it well.

Last words to Heffernan: "Imagine homogeneity of thought as leaders talking within an ideological echo chamber. While there may be debate and discussion, it has a limited range.

"What are the forces at work that make us deny the big threats that stare us in the face? What stops us from seeing that burying knowledge makes it more powerful, and us so much more vulnerable?"

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