When difference equals strength

By Joanne Roney | 24 September 2019

The benefits to organisations of having a diverse workforce are huge. As leaders, we have to create the right culture to enable them to be realised.

Local authorities are no longer in a space - either financially or culturally - where we can afford to do things to or for, rather than with, our residents. If we are going to have those contructive conversations about how we work together, it is essential that we don't just understand, but also reflect, our communities.

This is particularly important in a hugely diverse city such as Manchester. This is why a dialogue and, wherever possible, co-design of services with the people using them, is at the heart of the Our Manchester strategy which is guiding us and our partner organisations.

Not only does having a diverse workforce open up your workplace to a wider array of skills and knowledge, the potential for increased innovation and enhanced collaboration, internally and externally, is also boosted.

A diverse workforce also brings different outlooks and opinions that can create challenges, sometimes even conflict, but we should not be afraid of this. Instead, we should embrace the inspiration to listen, innovate and be open to new ideas and perspectives. In this way diverse teams often produce better outcomes.

But creating an environment where respectful and robust debate drives improvement does not just happen by chance. It is something which we as leaders need to consciously foster, setting the tones for our organisations and encouraging those open and honest conversations. That was a message transmitted at Solace’s inclusive workforce event, held at the beginning of September.

We must promote the need to think differently and be faithful to our identity. If we are to help people reach their true potential, they need to be true to themselves rather than fit some sort of consciously or unconsciously imposed template. That is why individuals should be encouraged to be themselves at work. In return you are likely to get more buy-in and loyalty.

People want to work for an organisation with values that reflect theirs. With society becoming ever-more inclusive, our organisations need to reflect that. You may have heard the popular phrase: ‘If diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.’

There was a time when standing out from the crowd could be seen as a weakness. We need to do away with this sort of thinking. Difference should be seen as a strength.

Joanne Roney OBE is Solace spokesperson for leadership and learning and the chief executive of Manchester City Council

The Solace Summit will take place at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole on 16-18 October

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