Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace
Francisca Burtenshaw
Francisca Burtenshaw
Director – Human Resources Western Europe and Nordic Region

Living in a globally connected world means we have countless opportunities to connect with other cultures, both in our personal lives and at work. In celebration of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development 2019 (May 21), our Francisca Burtenshaw explores the benefits of diversity in the workplace, along with sharing her personal experience.

It reflects positively on reputation
Organizations that welcome individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and are seen as a desirable place to work by employees also typically earn a positive reputation in the community as a good employer and good neighbor.

When you employ a diverse workforce, the workers represent the community where you are located and the people that you serve, so diversity connects you to and helps build and strengthen relationships with the surrounding communities, themselves comprised of diverse populations.

Globally, a diverse collection of skills and experiences allows a company to better serve customers because the company is able to relate to and understand clients around the globe better. By having employees who speak other languages, have a connection to other cultures or have an insight into their constituents’ wants and needs, an organization is more likely to develop the business and succeed in the global market.

A local, national and international reputation for inclusion can go a long way toward building strong, long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.

It attracts and retains qualified employees
A company that embraces diversity and promotes an inclusive environment will attract a wider range of top talent from diverse talent pools to their vacancies. The organization will be viewed as a more desirable place to work and appeal to individuals from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life. These candidates will bring different talents, skills and experiences that will ultimately be of benefit to the organization.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace results in employees feeling accepted and valued. When employees are provided a working environment in which they feel welcome and appreciated, job satisfaction will naturally be higher, they will be happier in the workplace overall and will stay longer with the company. As a result, companies with greater diversity in the workplace have lower turnover rates and cultivate an environment ripe for developing enthusiastic employees and promoting from within.

It creates creativity and innovation
If an organization employs only individuals with similar cultures, backgrounds and perspectives – even if they have relevant skills and qualifications – it will be hurting itself by limiting creativity and innovation. Employees from diverse backgrounds will bring diverse solutions and informed decision making to achieve a common goal. Building a team that sees the same thing in different ways naturally results in fresh, new ideas and inherently breeds creativity within the workplace when diverse minds come together and work to develop innovative ideas and novel solutions, oftentimes to complex problems.

Creating an inclusive, welcoming environment where people thrive working alongside people of different backgrounds, viewpoints and working styles will inspire creativity and innovation; and just as importantly, it will simultaneously create a culture in which employees feel safe sharing those ideas.

It leads to increased productivity
Diversity is a distinct competitive advantage. A variety of different perspectives, ideologies and worldviews is hugely beneficial when it comes to planning and executing a business strategy. Further, companies that encourage diversity in the workplace inspire employees to perform to their highest ability and strive to achieve their best. Having a more diverse set of employees with different backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints means you have a team with a virtually endless array of diverse skills. This can result in a work environment that functions more effectively and tangible bottom-line benefits.

The array of knowledge, abilities and skills among a team creates a culture in which everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and means employees can learn from each other. Diversity in leadership allows managers to bring new and unique strategies and methods for achieving unity within their teams. The more united a team is in working to achieve a common goal, the more effectively it will perform.

Francisca's story

As an HR Professional, my views, opinion and even passion for Cultural Diversity may be obvious material to celebrate at PRAHS the Day of Cultural Diversity.

I am a Spanish and British citizen. I am Spanish by birth, from South Spain, Andalucía, from a seaside town called Cádiz and completed my University studies in Sevilla. Culturally and historically speaking then, I have been influenced by many different cultures: Phoenicians, Romans, Muslins, Corsairs, South America, Dutch, Irish and French and English, and not only because the English Corsair Francis Drake raided Cádiz in 1587.

Italy has had a great impact in me as well: I lived in Bari, Italy, for 6 months, as I was fortunate to be granted and Erasmus grant. I fully immersed my self in the Italian way of life: not only learning a new language, I did not speak any Italian then, but also lived in flat with other 6 Italian girls: I did make a conscious decision to immerse myself in their culture and way of living rather than cluster with other Erasmus Spanish students. I did learn the most important things from the beginning: how to use all sort of hand signs to express any particular views or opinions with suitable swear words to make sure I was making my point and to make and drink good quality coffee.

Then shortly after, I moved to London. Again, I did not know enough English to be able to contribute to a conversation, before they moved on to next point, when I was able to articulate a reasonable sentence in my head. What cultural shock was for my younger self and my friends as well, when bars were closing at 11.00 pm right and we were just about to get ready to enjoy the social scene. I believe the landscape has greatly improved since then though.

Even back then the beauty of the cultural diversity that London was offering to me was amazing: I have had many professional opportunities to develop my career as I wanted and also the people, different accents, beliefs and the fantastic cultural offers of museums, theatres, exhibitions, activities was a constant source of continuous learning to the point that never was enough money and time to absorber it all. I have even managed to have flamenco lessons for more than 10 years near the town where I live and attended workshops by well-known Flamenco dancers that I would have not had the opportunity to enjoy if I was still on my birth town.

After living in the UK for more than 20 years, I also obtained my British citizenship. I have kept my Spanish nationality, I would not have done it if it wasn’t the case and I did not only did it because of Brexit: coincidentally I sworn my new nationality in front of a photo of the Queen of England, in May just before UK voted to leave the UK. Brexit may have been the trigger to ensure that I get on with the lengthy, onerous and expensive process and I obtained it because I felt that UK was as well my country where I belong, grown a family and developed my career. My Spanish identity has grown stronger precisely because I am part of a diverse cultural community.

UK was always and I believe still is, despite the perception that we may be getting, an incredible multicultural diverse society. I have been very lucky to always find many opportunities to learn, develop and grow not only as an HR professional but as person. The cultural context I have always moved in, was always diverse enough, where it never mattered where you were from, what where your beliefs and opinions and your cultural background. Your passion to contribute to the society and the community you live in and work for, as in PRA now, and the value you add as an individual is what always matters and for that reason I have always felt very welcomed and able to express my identity. We all, the great diverse population that shapes this big community now, hope that this does not change moving forward.

I have worked for many different organisations during these years in UK and I have always said that PRA is one of the most diverse organisations I have worked for, indeed it is more than 13 years now that I am employee at PRA: this goes beyond nationalities. We have an incredible talented diverse workforce: just within the Southern Western Europe and Nordic Regions for which I am responsible for as Senior HR Director, we have more than 2,500 employees based in more than 10 different locations and to my own count, we have about 23 different nationalities ; let’s not forget all the diverse cultural profiles that we can have for each of these nationalities: regional, local, beliefs, languages, religions, socials groups, their own personal experiences, ways of working and thinking etc… Even in my own team: I have a diversity of nationalities (Italian, Belgian, Hong Kong, Indian, Romanian, Spanish, French and British) beliefs, religions, personalities and ways of working that don’t give them just the label of being ‘diverse’ or ‘different’ : It is about how much they contribute and add value as a talented team to PRA. Ultimately our employees benefit for it and I am what I am thanks to them.