Diversity – part 3 – what are you missing out on?

Last week, we looked at how a narrow focus can put artificial limits on an organisation’s talent pool and affect employees’ engagement, and discussed the reality that of 24 million Australians, millions are members of at least one ‘minority’ group:

  • 7 million people were born overseas;
  • 3 million people have a disability;
  • 6 million people identify as LGBTI; and
  • nearly three-quarters of a million people are Indigenous.

Executive Coach Exchange diversity pixabay geraltIn February this year, the Australian Human Rights Commission and Deloitte released Missing Out: The business case for customer diversity.

Amongst the key findings of the report were these disconcerting results from the people surveyed:

  • customers from non Anglo-Celtic backgrounds, with a disability or identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual were significantly more likely to say that they had experienced discrimination by one or more of the organisations they interacted with in the last 12 months;
  • 1 in 3 customers from Indigenous or non-European backgrounds, 1 in 3 people with a disability, nearly 1 in 2 customers who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual and nearly 1 in 2 people who practice a noticeable faith, said their customer needs were often unmet over the past 12 months;
  • of these, 80% said they often do not provide feedback to organisations about how to better meet their needs;
  • customers from an Indigenous background, with a disability or identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual were 3 times as likely to avoid an organisation with a negative diversity reputation;
  • these customers were twice as likely to dissuade others from engaging with an organisation that they thought had a negative attitude to diversity.

On the positive side, the report also found that people from any of the groups surveyed were positively influenced by an organisation’s reputation for supporting equality, whether or not it specifically affected them:

  • 1 in 2 customers surveyed who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, and 1 in 2 who practice a noticeable faith, said that their buying choices were positively influenced in the last 12 months by an organisation’s reputation as supportive of gender equality, marriage equality, people with a disability, older people or cultural diversity;
  • customers who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual or who practice a noticeable faith, were about twice as likely to recommend an organisation based on its reputation as supportive of gender equality, marriage equality, people with a disability, older people or cultural diversity;
  • on average 1 in 3 were positively influenced by an organisation’s reputation as being supportive of older people;
  • that proportion was significantly higher for customers identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual (49%), practicing a noticeable faith (46%) or with a disability (41%).

These figures show the scale of the issue. If businesses ignore the real make-up of Australian society, and take an artificially narrow view of their customer and stakeholder base, they are ignoring a very large number of customers and stakeholders.

It seems to us to be a high-risk strategy: giving millions of people a reason to move their business from you to your competitor.

As Cindy Hook, the CEO of Deloitte Australia, said, “A big question for any organisation is can they afford to ignore their diverse customers and in doing so, is there a hidden impact which accumulates over time?”

How can organisations expect their customers to buy what they are selling, when they are not making an effort to say, mean and show that they understand their customer base? How much does a narrow focus cost businesses in Australia? What is your business missing out on?

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