By John Lightfoot, Head of Relationship Management At Ultimate Finance

Not so long ago I read a blog that highlighted the fact that there are more men named David who are FTSE 100 CEOs than there are women in the same role. What a ridiculous situation. However, it also got me thinking about how much more there is to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (“EDI”) than simple workforce demographics.

Diversity isn’t a ‘box ticking’ exercise and yet we all know lots and lots of businesses that pay lip service to it. You only must look at who is occupying the leadership or management roles within a business to get a strong indication of how seriously it takes EDI. When you look at these teams in organisations you realise that not many do.

But they should. And here’s why.

If you ignore EDI you starve yourself of talent. We all know how hard it is to recruit quality individuals so why do so many businesses limit the talent pool that they recruit from? Surely that pool should be as broad diverse as possible?  And when I write ‘diverse’ I don’t simply mean gender or race. I mean all different types of people, who stand for different things and represent different cultures, generations, ideas and thinking. By embracing ‘cognitive’ diversity the organisation gains different perspectives and that can give invaluable insight.

A different perspective can be hugely significant both from a creativity point of view and from a financial one. An organisation that is diverse and whose employee population reflects the wider population (ie its customer base) will gain a much better understanding of their customers (actual and potential). A better understanding of your customer base will help you to meet their needs more accurately, improving the service that you provide them with and making them happier. And, as we all know, happy customers buy more, stay longer and are great advocates of your business.

Moving forwards, in an increasingly diverse and fragmented marketplace, those businesses that embrace EDI will win. They will have a more diverse range of skills to draw on, have greater insight into their market and will use that insight to capture market share.

A recent EY report showed that businesses who rethink their EDI policy and truly embed it outperform their competitors. Such companies record a 66% higher return on invested capital, as well as a more diverse mix of people on their Board and in senior leadership roles.

This fact is reinforced by our collective experience of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has helped us to realise just how interconnected and reliant on each other we are and how much we miss human contact when it is taken away from us. This applies equally to the work and non-work environment. But when it is stripped back to its base element what we miss is interaction with people. And as we know, ‘people’ is a broad, diverse and inclusive term. As we emerge from the pandemic those businesses that have taken some time during this difficult period to reflect on and further embed a positive approach EDI will be those that continue to win – and their advantage will only have grown.

At Ultimate Finance EDI is a key element of our People Promise. This means that we commit fully to help all our team enhance their understanding of EDI. We do this through both formal structured training but also through more informal channels such as our Yammer feed, where our team can share their experiences. We’ve had great engagement too, and everyone has enhanced their knowledge of what EDI means and how everyone benefits from it.

EDI isn’t about ticking boxes. It’s about a sustainable change in culture that leads to improved business performance. EDI just makes sound business sense.