The value of diversity is increasingly being recognised by businesses due to the competitive advantage that can be gained. With a diverse workforce, organisations will be better placed to attract and retain the best people from a wide talent pool, as well as understand their current and potential customer base.

We know that, as the world has become more interconnected with globalisation, companies are now able to operate internationally, giving them a much wider reach. But, in order to take full advantage of this, there is a need to make changes to the current workforce to meet the demands, aims and motivations of customers worldwide. This involves recruiting employees with the ability to adjust to different backgrounds, cultures and experiences across borders.

So it’s clear that diversity is something that businesses can’t afford to ignore anymore, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to achieving a truly diverse workforce. It’s an issue that many businesses are talking about, but there’s a difference between understanding its importance and actually making it a reality. Our maturity in this field is still at an early stage, and we could all do with developing further.

In order to address this, we will be holding a diversity think tank on 17th September. Hosted by Feilim Mackle, Sales and Service Director at Telefónica O2 UK, the session will look at why leveraging workplace diversity is increasingly seen as a vital strategic imperative for competitive advantage, and it will discuss how you can ensure that your own organisation can benefit.

Feilim leads a team of over 8,000 people working across retail stores, call centres and departments that support them all over the UK. Within his division, and the wider UK business, he feels that they go some way to reflecting the makeup of their two key audiences – the people who want to work with them and the people they want to provide a great service to – in all the key areas of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and background. However, he also recognises that diversity is an issue that needs to be constantly readdressed in a climate of change.

It’s important to acknowledge that the perception of how diverse a company is can often be just as important as the reality. This means that it’s fundamental to have the right mix of people interacting with customers or potential hires. For example, Feilim understands that many still hold the view that employees in Telefónica O2 UK stores are all really young, which can make older people feel uncomfortable about shopping there. As such, he recognises that a more diverse workforce will appeal to a wider audience, making all groups of people feel welcome.

However, for diversity to truly deliver, Feilim believes that it needs to be ingrained within the business. It can’t only be seen within the stores, for example, but everyone from the boardroom to the newest employee should be involved.

We don’t have all the answers, and in order to fully understand how to encourage diversity in the workplace, you can learn a lot by looking at those businesses that are getting it right. Tesco, for instance, has managed to create an environment where people can be themselves, and there are many more examples of positive progress. At Ochre House we are constantly looking to address this issue and, through our HR network and various think tanks, we hope to be able to share more examples of best practice in the near future.