The UK’s SMEs strongly believe that having a diverse workforce is both beneficial to their bottom line and makes it easier to attract candidates; however, a third are having difficulty making their labour force more diverse because of a lack of candidates to fill existing vacancies, according to the latest independent research* from Close Brothers Asset Finance.

Nearly seven in ten respondents (67.3%) agreed that diversity is good for their financial performance, contrasted to 21% who did not agree; the remaining 12% were ‘unsure’.

The benefits of having a diverse workforce is also well understood, with 63% of the opinion it makes their business more attractive to candidates; however, while this may be recognised by employers, many are having difficulties increasing diversity because of issues filling existing vacancies.

“It’s encouraging the pandemic hasn’t caused the dial to move since we asked these questions in 2019, and that firms are continuing to take active steps to increase diversity in their businesses,” said Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance. “While this is positive, our research confirms barriers to encouraging more diversity remain and not everyone is convinced having a diverse workforce is necessarily the right thing for their business.

“Interestingly, two-thirds of respondents – most notably in both North West and North East England – agreed the statement ‘diversity is the mix, and inclusion is getting the mix to work’ reflects their firm’s definition of Diversity and Inclusion.”

Close Brothers

Promoting diversity

Many SMEs are proactively working to improve diversity in their firm, with reasons ranging from a feeling it’s the ‘right thing to do’ to wanting to reflect their customer base.

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from a Kantar survey conducted in later August / September 2021. The survey canvassed the opinion of over 900 SME owners across the UK and Ireland and across several industries on a range of issues affecting their businesses.

Q: You said you are actively working to make your workforce more diverse. What is the main reason?

Because it’s the right thing to do: 59.60%
Because it reflects our customers: 26.30%
Because it reflects our community: 13.00%
Unsure: 1.10%

Q: You said you are NOT actively working to make your workforce more diverse. What is the main reason?

Because it doesn’t matter – the ability to do the job well matters most: 75.20%
Because it does not reflect our customers: 8.80%
Because it does not reflect our community: 5.80%
Unsure: 7.30%
Prefer not to say: 2.90%

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