If you ever require a dose of positivity, jump off the Luas at Grand Canal Dock – ideally on a fine summer’s evening – and take a stroll through Dublin’s ‘Silicon Docks’.
Here, against a backdrop of pop-up cafés and continental-cool eateries, you’ll discover the tech-inspired tower of babel that is helping to drive Ireland’s economic resurgence. It’s hard not to be uplifted by the sight of hundreds of young, multi-lingual, multi-national workers all finding their feet, and their voice, in downtown Dublin.
If a visit to the docklands teaches us anything, it’s that diversity is at the heart of Ireland’s booming tech sector. The headquarters of Google, Facebook, Twitter etc all dance to a very eclectic rhythm and everyone – men and women of all nationalities – are invited to the party.
If that sounds just a little airy-fairy, it isn’t. Diversity is not a ‘nice to have’ for these tech giants but a serious, hard-edged business strategy they are implementing in the pursuit of progress and profitability. At the highest level, global brands have recognised that diversity really works.
If it works for the big boys, why doesn’t it work for more Irish employers? To put it another way, why is workplace diversity not more of a priority or a talking point in our business community? Whatever the reasons – force of habit, fear of change – the time has come to reappraise.
The first argument in favour of diversity is the most obvious one – look around you! Walk the streets of any town in Ireland and you’ll see people from all different backgrounds, speaking all different languages – diversity in action. Smart companies realise that it makes good business sense to reflect and resemble the community in which they operate.
Ideas and innovation
As businesses, we are all looking for ways to do things better. Big things or small things, improvement invariably comes from innovation, which in turn stems from the ‘eureka’ moment of a good idea.
If only it were that simple! Those eureka moments are notoriously hard to come by, but they often emanate from a kind of creative abrasion that happens when differing – even opposing – opinions and ideas get crunched together.
This is why creative agencies make sure their brainstorming sessions include not only the ‘creative’ people but the account people, the tech people, the front-of-house people, even the financial people –the more diversity you have in a room, the more ideas you are going to get out of it. In this way, diversity across gender, ethnicity and other social categories can enhance innovation in all sorts of workplaces and not just the obvious ones either.
Recruitment and retention
As Ireland’s unemployment rate continues to plummet, the competition for talent is getting fiercer by the day. Here is another area where diversity can give employers a competitive edge in the marketplace.
Most people – younger people in particular – want to work for employers that embrace, promote and prioritise diversity. A recruitment policy that’s geared towards a wide variety of candidates will therefore give you a better chance of snapping up the best available talent.
As the jobs market accelerates, meanwhile, having a happy, inclusive and diverse workplace can help safeguard companies from the ever-present danger of their employees walking out that door – either tempted by a better offer or simply unhappy in their current position.
We all know that finding – and hiring – replacements for departing employees can be a troublesome and expensive business. By helping you retain your precious workforce, diversity can not only save you time and money, it can also sustain the recruitment/retention cycle, thereby contributing to your bottom line.
Foreign direct investment
Just as diversity works on an organisational level, it can also play a part in ensuring that Ireland continues to attract foreign direct investment – a pillar of our national economic policy.
Here, the reality is that we are competing for investment against countries that have a better track record and a significant advantage when it comes to workplace diversity. For example, only around 1 in 10 directors of Irish publicly-listed companies are women: well behind our European counterparts are significantly below our nearest neighbours in the UK (22%).
The more Irish companies that embrace diversity, the better it will play at international level – and the more the Googles of this world will look at Ireland as a possible new base.
Diversity makes sense
Different people have different skills, qualities and characteristics. By mixing them together, you can get the ‘best of both worlds’ in the shape of a workforce that offers a wider range of talents and a greater degree of flexibility. In today’s fast-moving world, diversity makes perfect sense.