Home Opinion Changing Perceptions Through Workforce Diversity

Changing Perceptions Through Workforce Diversity

by Brian Sims

The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce in the security guarding sector are becoming increasingly apparent. Here, Gemma Quirke explains how the business strategy devised by solutions provider Wilson James is creating positive change through nurturing skills and talent from a variety of sources.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is about so much more than placing a tick in the Corporate Social Responsibility box. Rather, it’s a real force for business improvement. Diverse teams are proven to develop more innovative ideas. When people of different ages, sexual orientations, genders, socio-economic classes, ethnicities, cultures, religions and physical and mental abilities work together, their unique perspectives can lead to far greater levels of creativity.

An effective diversity and inclusion strategy goes beyond the realms of legal compliance. It can also add value to an organisation by making a significant contribution to employee well-being and engagement, as well as enhancing a security company’s bottom line.

The business case for this approach is now overwhelming. A study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group looked at 1,700 companies across eight countries and found that ‘increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance’.

Encouragingly, a separate Deloitte study found that 69% of executives now rate diversity and inclusion an important issue and, while some do it for strategic reasons or to reflect their diversifying customer bases, others believe it’s simply the right thing to do.

Taking the lead

Wilson James recently became a member of The Valuable 500, joining companies including Sony, Citi, GSK, Orange, Sodexo, Coca-Cola European Partners and Santander. Launched by social entrepreneur and activist Caroline Casey at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2019, The Valuable 500 aims to put disability on the global business leadership agenda by persuading 500 multinational companies that have at least 1,000 employees to make a public commitment to advance disability inclusion.

By helping to create a tipping point that unlocks the business, social and economic value of the 1.3 billion people living with disabilities around the world, and the millions of us who will become disabled over time, The Valuable 500 is creating greater awareness of this issue. However, while initiatives like this are important, gaps can sometimes appear between rhetoric and action, so it’s also absolutely vital for organisations to put their positive sentiment into practice.

It’s not just about schemes such as the Valuable 500, important though they are. For Wilson James, it’s important that diversity and inclusion are on the Boardroom agenda.

Walking it like we talk it

Within its corporate structure, Wilson James has a diversity and inclusion Steering Group and designated ‘champions’ in three areas – physical and hidden disability, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and mental health. We’ve also developed new training tools for all employees to enhance their awareness and understanding of the value of an inclusive workforce that meets the needs of our customers.

We work closely with our customers to create programmes that help them to benefit from a more diverse workforce. This is exemplified in the security-based Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Placement Programme that we’ve devised and implemented for a world-leading provider of Internet-related services and products. This award-winning programme is based around a two-week unpaid secondment where individuals work five days per week and carry out tasks that best suit their personalities and capabilities in order to boost their confidence and self-esteem.

Although there’s no guarantee of a job at the end of this time period, individuals are given extensive guidance on CV development as well as a reference.

Similarly, our aviation division has looked at ways that it can address the needs of the disabled community, both within our own workforce and across the communities and stakeholder groups with whom we work. One simple, but highly effective initiative has seen Wilson James’ personnel work closely with those having disabilities that may not be immediately obvious, such as autism or dementia. Wearing a ‘sunflower lanyard’ at an airport highlights that a person has a hidden disability. Our employees are then able to assist these individuals, and their friends and families, by giving them more time to prepare at check-in, allowing them to remain together at all times and/or giving them a comprehensive briefing on what to expect as they travel through an airport.

The bigger picture

Although there has been a significant improvement in how organisations address diversity and inclusion, there’s still much more to do.

One of the main issues left to tackle is the common misconception that making adjustments to accommodate disabled people is expensive. In fact, according to the Disability Rights Commission, it averages just £75 per person.

Our own experience has proven beyond doubt that an investment in this area improves levels of service, increases innovation and productivity and produces better results. Moreover, we’re convinced that diverse and inclusive businesses can help build diverse and inclusive societies.

Gemma Quirke is Managing Director for Security and Aviation at Wilson James

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