Jobs and the Future of Work

The importance of a diverse workforce

Claudia Prado
Member of the Executive Committee, Baker & McKenzie International, Brazil
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Today’s global market is more dynamic than ever before. Start-up companies are emerging every day, social media can now connect a local small or medium-size enterprise to customers around the world, and mergers are so common that the business landscape is changing on an annual basis in some sectors.

To remain competitive, and in some cases relevant, businesses and organizations of all sizes are forced to constantly re-evaluate, update and sometimes reinvent all aspects of their operation, which can range from the technology they use and the markets they’re targeting, to the very idea at the core of their business plan. That’s just what it takes to stay ahead of the curve these days.

While a large number of enterprises may take the same approach to introspection, the availability of resources to make necessary changes or investments can vary greatly. But there is one strategy available to every organization in the market that offers the potential for increased innovation and growth, and that is diversity and inclusion.

The workforce behind every business and organization operating today continues to be the greatest asset available in carving out a competitive edge. In recent years, reports published by various editorial and consulting groups such as Forbes, Mercer and the Harvard Business Review have all pointed to the same conclusion: a diversified workforce drives greater innovation and ultimately business growth.

It is important to acknowledge, however, that the topic of diversity and inclusion varies from one region to the next, with some parts of the world progressing faster than others. In the case of Latin America, for example, the different workforces, marketplaces and cultures of each country have resulted in unique challenges, ranging from gender to generational conflicts, but the robust economic growth over the last decade has prompted many organizations across the region to develop inclusive environments.

By taking steps to create a workforce that includes women, different nationalities and ethnicities, LGBT community members, varying age groups and even socio-economic levels, a company garners the insights to address business challenges or market opportunities, and finds it can open doors it never knew existed.

And while today’s consumers are forcing organizations to match the market by structuring a workforce that mirrors the diversity of their end users, today’s professionals are also looking to take their talents to companies that foster a culture of equality.

In the case of the legal industry, where the hunt for top talent is a pillar of business strategy, more and more companies are promoting their diversity and inclusion programmes. They want to assure potential and existing employees that this is an environment where professionals are safe to be themselves, and opportunities for growth are made available regardless of gender, status or background.

The result of these efforts can be summarized in a word: value. The assembly of diverse teams translates into value for clients because the differences in perspectives, thought processes and mindsets allow for distinct approaches to the legal challenges businesses face today. And when clients see value in a product or service, the organization’s goal of growing and getting ahead of competitors becomes much more obtainable.

The World Economic Forum on Latin America 2015 takes place in Riviera Maya, Mexico, from 6-8 May.

Author: Claudia Prado, Member of the Executive Committee, Baker & McKenzie International, Brazil.

Image: A woman from the Amazon region weaves a textile during the “Ruraq Maki”, or handmade, artisan fair in Lima July 19, 2012. REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil

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Related topics:
Jobs and the Future of WorkEquity, Diversity and InclusionEconomic Growth
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