A Diverse Workforce Spurs Innovation & Higher Performance: Dr Ian Williamson

A Diverse Workforce Spurs Innovation & Higher Performance: Dr Ian Williamson
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Dr Ian Williamson (pictured), with an uncanny resemblance to Obama, delivered a compelling talk last week at the World Business Forum that far exceeded the presentations of the international keynotes.

A North American expat, now firmly ensconced in Melbourne and leading the social change unit within Melbourne Business School, Williamson convinced the 2,000-plus strong group of executives at The Star in Sydney to start solving their business problems through the lens of social impact.

Changes in technology, customer preferences, demographic changes, competitive action and changes in regulations require specific and detectable moves beyond just awareness. Firms must develop competitive actions to address social challenges just like they do with economic challenges.

Here are the two key takeaways from Williamson’s research regarding diversity and inclusion:

  1. Diversity is an economic imperative due to skills shortages in Australia

Awareness of changes and choosing to ignore them is not good enough and will render organisations irrelevant. The Costa Concordia – the ship carrying 4,252 people that sank off the Italian coast in 2012 because Captain Schettino, despite having done the trip many times and knowing where to turn, turned too late. He was found guilty of manslaughter of 32 passengers and sentenced to 16 years in prison. How many organisations see the impeding change or challenge and just choose to ignore it? The list is endless, Williamson said. Many rendered irrelevant as a result.

In Australia, an aging population and increasing demands for skills in the next 10 years, will result in a serious skills shortage that only migrants will be able to fill. In Australia, an aging population and increasing demands for skills in the next 10 years, will result in a serious skills shortage that only migrants will be able to fill. In 2020, there will be more 65-year-olds than one-year-olds, and there will be fewer births than today. In 2007, there were 265,900 births. In 2020, there will be just 261,847 births, even though the population base will be over 12 per cent larger than today, according to ABS data.

Yet, in Australia, skilled migrants have significantly higher levels of unemployment than their skilled counterparts.

  1. Gender and diversity have a direct link to innovation and higher performance of the organisation if they reflect the demographic they are serving

What is well known from Williamson’s research is that where organisations consciously built their diversity staffing, performance rose. He used Aldi as an example in North America, where the German-owned grocery store had 20 per cent-plus more sales in a short period of time with the stores that consciously employed a diverse workforce to reflect the demographic against the non-diverse workforce located in diverse communities.

Buy early bird tickets now to the 3% Conference Australasia to discover the latest trends, data and practical strategies around diversity and inclusion for your organisation.

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