Belfast Telegraph

A culture of diversity is right for business


Diversity can be key to unlocking the potential of your workforce
Diversity can be key to unlocking the potential of your workforce

By Paul Gillen, employment partner at law firm Pinsent Masons and LGBTQ business commentator

With a quarter of all jobs (direct and supported) created through manufacturing, a GVA representing nearly a third of the economy, the importance of the sector to our regional economy is difficult to overstate.

Not only is the industry important today, but it is pivotal to future generations and the job opportunities available to them.

Collaboration with education providers is key in order that the future skillsets are available, but the manufacturing industry is also having its own conversation on how to compete for future talent.

Today at Lough Erne Resort, Pinsent Masons is pleased to be part of that discussion, as we are participating in the Manufacturing NI 'Anchor High Summit' in conjunction with KPMG and Barclays.

At Pinsent Masons we hold diversity as key to our success. In January 2019 we were proud to ranked number one on the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index as the top employer organisation in the UK for LGBT people to work.

At a Northern Ireland level, we engage across a number of diversity initiatives across gender, faith and sexuality, such as Stonewall Diversity Champions (previously co-ordinated by The Rainbow Project), the Legal Island Equality & Diversity Awards and Business in the Community.

Recently, we have engaged with Working With Pride to voice the importance for full equality; not only as a social, moral and human right but as essential for the attraction and retention of investment and talent.

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It is through that local work that we noticed some sectors such as professional services, IT and the public sector are very active, but in comparison with its size and importance, manufacturing seemed to be under-represented in this space.

When we engaged with Manufacturing NI, the sector body, they were keen to spark a conversation and showcase how manufacturers could employ diversity to create business advantage.

Pinsent Masons, and our diversity and inclusion consultancy BrookGraham have helped many organisations start and continue towards a truly diverse and inclusive workplace.

So this afternoon, David Isaac, our head of advanced manufacturing and technology sector, will outline how diversity can be key to "unlocking the potential of your workforce".

David is a prominent LGBT business figure, and currently serves as the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in England and Wales.

Diversity and inclusion is not simply the right thing to do but it also brings a wealth of commercial benefits. Fishing in a small pool narrows the catch.

A wider pool gives access to diversity in skills, knowledge, culture and ideas. Diversity and inclusion is not simply having a policy gathering dust on an office shelf. It takes vision and a commitment to start the conversation and following through on actions.

Ultimately, a culture of diversity and inclusion creates a workforce at ease, and is shown to lead to higher productivity, reduced absence, increased retention and increased innovation.

This can only be positive for the business, its workforce and customers and, more widely, the economy. A win-win for all. Given current economic challenges, this cannot be overlooked.

Is it easy? No, sometimes it can take people outside their comfort zone. Is it worth it? Absolutely. The short-term gains and longer term benefits mean it is worth having the conversation.

Today that will be manufacturers. Tomorrow, will it be your sector?

Belfast Telegraph