Skip to main content

Getting under the skin of diversity

Every quarter for the past decade or more Close Brothers Asset Finance has surveyed around 1,000 UK and Irish business owners across a range of sectors, regions and sizes.

By Anton Nebbe, Head of PR at Close Brothers Asset Finance

Each ‘wave’ returns a large amount of data on key topical issues of the time, some of which we use to turn into press releases and thought leadership pieces.

I manage the survey – what we call the Business Barometer - and decide which questions to ask. In this blog I delve deeper into the data, picking out key points of interest but without providing too much in the way of commentary – I let the stats speak for themselves for you to draw your own conclusions.

This time round I focus on diversity, getting under skin of whether business owners see the value in it – or not!

It’s true, diversity IS good for the bottom line

When we asked the question ‘do you believe having a diverse workforce is beneficial to a business's financial performance?’, the strong response came as a surprise, with more than seven in every 10 businesses believing diversity brings benefits to the bottom line. What we found is that the bigger the business, the more enthusiastic they are about it, but, that said, even the smaller firms (those employing less than 10 people) aren’t blind to the advantages.

This is clearly great news because while it’s been proven in various studies, the UK’s SMEs are well and truly on board and demonstrating this is a very material way.

The knowledge is out there…

The term ‘diversity in the workplace’ has been around for a long time and is gaining traction all the time but we wanted to test if business owners were comfortable with what it meant on a practical level.

Reassuringly, 82% of respondents said that ‘yes’, they knew and understood what it means not only theoretically but also practically.  Unsurprisingly, knowledge increases along with the scale of a business.

Diversity is good, but what is being done about it?

Nearly three quarters of respondents to our survey are actively working towards making their workforce more diverse, but for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Because it's the right thing to do
  • Because it reflects our customers
  • Because it reflects our community

Those who said they were not deliberately aiming for more diversity did so out of a sense of ‘fairness’, saying all that should matter is the ability to do the job done well.

Do you think I’m attractive?

Yes, this header is meant to raise a smile, but the positive message is that nearly two thirds (63%) of SMEs acknowledge that having a more diverse workforce makes a business more attractive to candidates. One in five don’t agree with a further 15% are ‘unsure’.

Challenges of becoming more diverse

It’s an easy assumption to make that you merely have to advertise a role and a whole host of diverse candidates will be knocking on your door, but for many firms that simply doesn’t ring true.

Many firms admit it’s a real struggle with a third of firms admit battling to fill existing vacancies as it is (rising to 65% in London), while a further quarter say they just don’t get enough interest from ‘minority’ candidates. The remaining 42% state they only recruit based on ability.

What this is telling us is that it’s a complex picture out there – the will is there but in many regions and sectors (engineering being just one example) across the UK just filling a vacancy is hard enough.

What is clearly; however, is that the more diversity is encouraged and actively promoted, the better it will become for both employers and candidates in future, with a level playing field for all.