Can productivity be boosted through diversity and inclusion?

Diversity has been high on the agenda for many industries in the UK, however, few manufacturing businesses truly place diversity and inclusion (D&I) at the forefront of their business proposition. Procurement and supply chain, like every other business function, must endeavour to attract and retain the best talent available to drive success in today’s ever-evolving market. As with many other technical disciplines, the biggest difficulty is attracting women into certain roles, particularly in predominantly male-dominated SME manufacturing businesses that have historically hired males into senior procurement and supply chain positions.
A diverse workforce brings a unique set of experiences and perspectives. Many supply chains are on a journey to true inclusion and diversity, however, the reality of D&I being at the heart of each P&SC function is a further journey than most first thought. It needs to begin at the leadership level. Once we see a further shift in the gender balance at board level this will result in a more diversified and inclusive workplace.

Inclusion is the key to diversity

What does it mean to be inclusive and why should you strive to build an inclusive culture within your business? There are countless studies that have found a clear link between diversity and increased performance in the workplace. But why? A combination of inherent diversity such as age or gender when combined with acquired knowledge such as language skills, can be used to leverage business success in an ever complex and evolving marketplace. Without an inclusive culture, a diverse workforce will not thrive. 
In a workplace that promotes inclusion, meritocracy is a core foundation on which the best ideas are backed and the best people promoted. The employees working within these companies are empowered to voice their opinions and are given the support they need to excel in their roles. This sends a strong message to everyone within the business that they are valued and that hard work will be rewarded. This is also a positive benefit for future employees and brand reputation is now key in increasing a company’s chances of securing the best talent. Companies that promote a culture which supports its people and celebrates D&I will ultimately attract a more diverse pool of talent and lead to improved innovation.

Overcoming the challenge in procurement and supply chain

Procurement and supply chain is a continuously changing landscape, and with some positions more difficult to hire than others, it is crucial to diversify the talent pool. The lack of apprenticeships and training schemes over the last two decades has caused a decrease in the professionals available for technical roles. This has resulted in a shift in salary expectations, as there are fewer candidates with these skills. Companies can benefit from hiring for “cultural fit” and developing this talent into the future. 
When considering cultural fit, it is important to look at candidates that align with your values and understand your customers. Often during the interview process, these candidates are missed as too much emphasis is placed on their technical capability, rather than what else they can bring to the organisation. We can determine this better during an interview simply by asking candidates what they value most at work.
Considering the need for talent and the benefits that a more diverse workforce can bring, at supply chain networking events, for example, the lack of female representatives is still surprisingly low. What’s clear is that there is still a lot of work to be done. The ‘2018 women in supply chain research’ report from Gartner highlighted that respondents believe that ‘increasing the presence and visibility of senior women leaders’ is one of the most important actions companies should take to impact the ability to better recruit and retain women, and advance women to senior levels. 
Other important actions that businesses need to consider to recruit and retain more women include: changing cultural values, leadership orientation and behaviours as well as better visibility of current women leaders (and their success stories). 
In order to change these factors, D&I needs to be at the heart of everything you do. Leaders need to be willing to confront this and eliminate any unconscious biases that still exist in their businesses. Having more women in senior leadership positions can influence the culture and reputation, or the supply chain career brand of a company in ways that are critical to building more gender-diverse supply chain functions. By focusing on the diversity at the leadership level you can ensure that you are viewed as an attractive business to work for by a more diverse pool of talent. 
If you would like to discuss how we can help improve the diversity of your team, get in touch with your local Michael Page office today for a confidential discussion.
Jeanette Reilly
Manager, Michael Page Procurement & Supply Chain 
T: +44 121 230 9351