Why All Businesses Should Support Diversity

03/06/2016 22:50

In my role, I'm often asked why inclusion is so important and my answer is always the same: the success of any business depends on it. You wouldn't be blamed for having a certain amount of cynicism about what motivates big corporations or financial institutions to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion but at RBS we have a sincerely-held belief that by putting the needs of our customers and colleagues at the heart of everything we do, we can create a bank where, as well as delivering high-quality service, everyone feels valued. It is something all leading businesses should do.

The theory is simple, but putting it into practice and bringing about real cultural change takes time. Businesses can't do that unless we understand what the diversity of companies and wider society looks like in 2016. Doing this helps develop better ways to serve customers and meet their diverse needs, as well as enable people within organisations to reach their potential at work, whatever their background.

Like many leading businesses, we've been reviewing our processes and policies to ensure that they're as inclusive as possible - for our customers we've introduced the option to choose Mx as their preferred title/prefix, for example, while - at the same time - we've developed a range of professional development programmes for our female colleagues as part of our positive action approach to bridging the gender gap. But, perhaps more importantly, we're also focussed on changing behaviours through raising visibility of our diverse communities. This has included sharing real stories of where our people have truly understood customers' needs and worked hard to meet them; or employees who have been through gender reassignment sharing their experiences with their colleagues through our intranet; or making sure examples of interactions with LGBT customers and colleagues are incorporated into all our training and development. It's only when we give people the opportunity to challenge their own and each other's assumptions and - sometimes - our biases, that we're able to work together more effectively and serve our customers better.

The British LGBT Awards which we sponsored and took place in London earlier this month shone a light on a variety of businesses, organisations and corporate leaders that are making a real difference in promoting inclusion. Supermarket ASDA won the Employer of the Year Award for its commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion throughout its workforce while Jacquie Gavin, transgender activist and senior civil servant at the DWP, was recognised for her work in championing diversity throughout Government departments

It is vitally important to recognise the people who are continually making the extraordinary ordinary - that's why sponsoring the British LGBT Awards is important to us. And it also sends a strong signal to the LGBT community that many leading UK organisations, are fundamentally opposed to prejudice based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. We want an environment where everyone feels welcome, valued and understood. That way, we will truly reap the benefits of being truly inclusive businesses, both in terms of our employee engagement and also outreaching to the wider community.