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UK SMEs: 'Diversity good for business'

UK SMEs strongly believe that having a diverse workforce is both beneficial to their bottom line and makes it easier to attract candidates, according to the latest independent research from Close Brothers Asset Finance. 

  • 71% of SMEs believe having a diverse workforce improves financial performance
  • 64% believe a diverse workforce makes a business more attractive to candidates
  • 58% have had difficulties in making their workforce more diverse

The figures were obtained from the latest independent research of over 900 UK and Irish SMEs commissioned by Close Brothers Asset Finance and conducted by Lightspeed, a specialist research firm, in August and September 2019.

Over 70% of respondents agreed that diversity is good for their financial performance, contrasted to only 18% who did not agree; the remaining 11% were ‘unsure’.

The benefits of having a diverse workforce is also well understood, with 64% of the opinion it makes their business more attractive to candidates; however, while this may be recognised by employers, many are having difficulties increasing diversity with 33% finding it difficult to fill existing vacancies while a further 25% don’t get enough interest from ‘minority’ candidates.

“The benefits of diversity is well understood and it’s encouraging that firms are taking active steps to increase diversity in their businesses - we know from our own experience that a diverse workforce is more dynamic,” said Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance“While this is positive, our research confirms that there are a number of barriers to encouraging more diversity, including a lack of applications from ‘minority’ candidates.

“It appears that the first steps towards more diversity can be the most difficult, but over time it does become easier to attract talent from diverse backgrounds.” 

Promoting diversity

Many SMEs are proactively working to improve diversity in their firm, with reasons ranging from a feeling it’s the ‘right thing to do’ to wanting to reflect their customer base. 

Q: Is your business actively working to make the workforce more diverse?

  • Yes, because it's the right thing to do = 44%
  • Yes, because it reflects our customers = 17%
  • Yes, because it reflects our community = 11%
  • No, because it doesn't matter - the ability to do the job well matters most = 21%
  • No, because it does not reflect our customers = 5%
  • No, because it does not reflect our community = 3%