The Importance of Workplace Diversity

By Desiree Yang

As a multi-racial, cosmopolitan business hub, Singapore has only seen its diverse workforce become even more diverse. As of 2013, 66 per cent of the 1.46 million non-resident population was employed in lower/semi-skilled, mid-level skilled or higher-skilled positions.

With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of S$69,050 in 2013 – one of the highest in the world – such diversity has clearly positioned Singapore for global success. But while it’s important for companies to know how to go about increasing diversity in the workplace, it is equally important for them to know exactly why it’s encouraged.

Diversity Drives Growth

Diversity can take many forms. Whether employees differ in age, gender, race or ethnicity, the fact remains that by opening up their doors to potential employees from all walks of life, companies are more likely to attract some of the finest talent that the labour market has to offer. This will help companies set themselves apart from their competitors on the global platform and improve their net earnings – especially with the fast-growing economy and the demands that come with living in a culturally diverse world. Workplace diversity also maximises productivity and fosters creativity and innovation as each individual brings different qualifications, backgrounds and experiences to the table. These differences can prove valuable when it comes to problem-solving and other work-related tasks. Companies will also be able to better position themselves to fit the needs of their consumer market.

According to a Deloitte Review, a diverse workforce provides companies with a competitive advantage over other industry players. Companies will be able to tap on the pool of knowledge and experience of their diverse workforce – whose demographic reflects that of the consumer market – to identify customers’ unmet needs and available opportunities in new markets, introduce new products and gain a more holistic view of their business. However, a workforce can’t just be diverse – it needs to be inclusive as well. This means that all employees are hired based on their qualifications, experience and merit, and are given equal opportunity to advance their careers in the company.

Companies can go about communicating this to its employees by highlighting it in the company’s policies or sending out email memos whenever a new employee joins the company. By highlighting his or her accolades and relevant qualifications, a company leaves no room for speculation as to whether the new employee was hired because of preferences in age, gender, race or ethnicity. This will help employees build trust in their employer, which in turn helps companies retain their talent pool and create a virtuous cycle of growing diversity.

Diversity Drives the Nation’s Economy

As a nation with an ageing population – an estimated one in six Singaporeans will be above the age of 65 by 2020 – Singapore’s economy could come to a standstill by 2030. In light of that, the government has long advocated for diversity in the workplace by introducing various measures to attract and retain foreign talent to help the country maintain its reputation and standing as a leading financial centre and trading hub. And while managing a culturally diverse workforce is no easy feat, the rich cornucopia of benefits to be had for companies and the nation certainly outweigh the difficulties and challenges. Looking forward, companies should embrace the tide of globalisation and embrace the fact that a diverse, global workforce is the way into a prosperous future.

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