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The importance of diversity in the workforce

This Friday, 24 November, sees the start of Rainbow Laces Week, a movement started by equality charity Stonewall to fight homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sport, promoting diversity.

The campaign will see football and rugby come together over the next seven days, with players, supporters and officials wearing vibrant rainbow laces as a powerful symbol of unity and inclusion.

As the proud sponsor of England Rugby, O2 will be supporting the team wearing their Rainbow Laces at Twickenham on Saturday for the international fixture against Samoa.

The campaign follows research commissioned by Stonewall, and conducted by ICM, into the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that remain a problem at all levels of sport.

Their research found that 72 per cent of football fans have heard or witnessed homophobic abuse at a live sports event, and that one in five 18 to 24-year-olds say they would be embarrassed if their favourite player came out.

“At O2 we recognise the importance of having a diverse, 
balanced and inclusive workforce, where everyone is free 
to be themselves. To serve our 25 million customers best, it’s vital 
that our workforce reflects and understands them. 
That’s why we’re proud to be part of TeamPride and the 
Rainbow Laces campaign to not just change attitudes 
on the sports field, but off it too.”
 Ian Cafferky, Head of Marcomms at O2

For O2, we have long believed that celebrating our people’s diversity, and embracing individuality, has helped to drive creativity within the organisation. Diversity hasn’t only made O2 a more innovative company, it has also enabled us to understand more fully who our customers are, and what they want from us.

Diversity is not a ‘new’ thing, and we all know instinctively that it matters. More than this, the business case for diversity and inclusion is compelling, with organisations who have established a diverse workforce reporting a number of measurable business benefits including:

  • Improved staff retention rates.
  • Fewer grievances and discipline issues.
  • Increased productivity.
  • Improved communication with customers.
  • A positive effect on the organisation’s external reputation.

So what are you doing to embrace diversity in your organisation?

Is your business diversity fit?

Whatever the size of your business, here are four steps you can take to embrace and celebrate diversity at work:

1. It starts with recruitment

Establishing a diverse workforce begins with making sure that your recruitment process reaches candidates regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability.

You should consider:

  • Securing external validation of your recruitment advertisements, job titles, job descriptions and person specifications.
  • Using technology to screen and assess candidates on their qualifications, competencies and experience only.
  • Broadening the range of networks and agencies with whom you work so that you reach the widest possible audience for the position that you are trying to fill.

The aim should be to remove all bias from your recruitment process.

2. Creating an inclusive culture

While recruitment clearly plays a fundamental role in driving diversity, it is just as important that you include and support your existing employees.

Employee network groups represent a good place to start. Here at O2, employees have the support of the Proud at O2 Network, Telefonica’s LGBT Employee group, which aims to be more inclusive, more diverse and continue to support everyone to be proud of who they are and how they choose to identify.

Our ethos is to be more diverse, more inclusive and continue to support our ‘everyone to bring their whole selves to work’ strategy.  

In smaller organisations, a diversity network may not be feasible, but there are other ways to establish an inclusive culture. You could:

  • Introduce a zero-tolerance policy for instances of unacceptable or anti-social behaviour.
  • Implement and promote a company diversity policy.
  • Look for ways to improve communication within teams to encourage openness and involvement of all team members.
  • Be flexible to your people’s needs, and celebrate difference.

The important thing to remember is that diversity is not about treating everyone equally, it is about treating everyone as individuals.

3. Education and training

Workforce wide diversity training is worth considering, and can have a positive effect on collaboration and inclusion. Your staff will learn to:

  • Understand the difference between diversity and equality.
  • Recognise unconscious prejudices and discrimination.
  • Shortlist, interview and select appropriately and without bias.
  • See business processes and challenges from other people’s perspective.

4. Legislation

Whilst diversity has never been just a compliance issue, there is legislation to enforce it.

In the UK, for example, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or transgender status. LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) employees are protected under the Equality Act 2010 and the Employment Rights Act 1996.

And from 2017, all companies with more than 250 employees will be required to publish their gender pay gap data annually. This new legislation is designed to force transparency and to encourage a more gender-diverse workplace.

Back to the sporting arena, look out for the Rainbow Laces tomorrow. With the support of English Rugby, the Premier League, cricket and hockey, amongst others, it is bound to be a colourful weekend.

Why not get involved yourself by ordering a pair here? Next Wednesday, 29 November, is Wear Your Rainbow Laces Day. Maybe simply wearing a lace is an opportunity to start the conversation in your workplace?



We're proud to back @stonewalluk’s #RainbowLaces ? and support the LGBT community, making sport everyone's game. #WearTheRose ?

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