Diversity in the workplace is the key to being more innovative

James Tyler
- Leadership - Aug 07, 2019

The notion that diversity in the workforce is about brand reputation or simply a compliance issue, rather than a massive business asset is a mistake. Last year, the Harvard Business Review published the results of its survey of more than 1,700 companies, of various industries and sizes, across eight countries (Austria, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Switzerland, and the U.S.). It looked at diversity in management positions, in respect to six dimensions – gender, age, national origin, career path, industry background, and education.

The research found “a statistically significant relationship between diversity and innovation outcomes in all countries examined”. The more diverse an organisation, the stronger that relationship proved to be, although patterns of diversity and performance varied in different cultures. Unsurprisingly, the most diverse enterprises were also the most innovative and profitable. Those with above average scores on the six dimensions of diversity scored 19% higher for innovation revenues and 9% better average EBIT margins. All six dimensions of diversity had statistically significant correlations with innovation. The research concluded that multiple aspects of diversity are the most beneficial regarding innovation-driven outcomes.

Companies that have a diverse workforce foster creativity – but it is the melting pot of ideas that people from different backgrounds bring, that helps make a company unique. Indeed, our success over the last 21 years has been driven by our company culture – The Magic of Equinix as we call it – an uncompromising set of values that has always been one of inclusion and ambition.   

Bridging the gap

Diversity is nothing without inclusivity, which is why we are investing time in supporting diversity across multiple dimensions: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, generation, disability, personality type and style of thinking. We also believe this will improve our recruitment and retention of talent, and that it is essential our workforce mirrors the real world – the one our customers operate in.

Equinix has created several initiatives to ensure we have a balanced workforce where all people feel at home – one of which is The Equinix Women Leaders Network (EWLN). Set up to promote gender diversity and female leadership across Equinix’s global workforce, the EWLN is centred around the aim of promoting, connecting and empowering the community of Equinix women around the world. The EWLN is currently at 1,730 members worldwide and is run almost exclusively by volunteers, demonstrating the importance of this initiative to our staff.

Since its inception in 2011, the EWLN has developed programmes that promote gender inclusion and empowerment both inside and outside of Equinix. This has been achieved through hosting large office events to promote, connect and empower our employees, with meaningful engagement and impact. We also train our local EWLN ambassadors with the skills and tools to facilitate in-person workshops, networking webinars and impact events at local sites around the world. Annual initiatives such as “Belonging in Technology” also drive organisational change that is increasingly focussed on diversity.

Better together

Research from Out Now and Vodafone, suggests 83% of LGBTQ people would prefer to work for an employer that has visible LGBTQ+ leaders, friends, allies and supporters. One in five LGBTQ+ people have stated that being out or open about their sexuality at work is the hardest thing they have ever done. These alarming statistics make it difficult for companies that don’t challenge these issues every day, to attract, recruit and retain LGBTQ+ employees.

We have developed a LGBTQ+ employee connection network to further promote a culture where all employees can be confident they will be safe and respected in the workplace. The aim of this network is to develop a safe space for LGBTQ+ employees and allies across the network, to provide an atmosphere of openness, understanding and trust, fostered by increased visibility of LGBTQ+ leaders who are open and honest about their sexuality. It is being built to accommodate the diverse comfort levels, confidentiality preferences and participation interests of everyone involved.

Family first

Another difficulty many companies face in recruiting and retaining the best talent, is from a work-life balance perspective. Over the last five or so years, there has been a noticeable change in the aspirations of employees around flexible working. People want a job that fits with their lifestyle and family priorities. The last thing any company wants is for its employees to feel their work is negatively impacting other aspects of their life, so it’s important to provide opportunities for flexible working.

At Equinix we foster an environment that supports flexible working, allowing our employees to balance their work with family and life commitments. We provide a comprehensive package for return-to-work mothers including “keep in touch” days, job sharing and the ability to work from home. We also have policies in place to support shared parental leave and maternity, paternity and adoption leave, and employees (whether parents or not) may work from home on a regular basis.

Aside from the everyday work environment, we also bring families together for charitable initiatives such as a sleep-out in one of our data centre car parks (more fun than it perhaps sounds), and a BBQ fete day, to raise money for local homeless charities.

Building from a strong foundation

Equinix firmly believes in the power of people. Our employees are what set us apart from the rest – they help our clients navigate complex digital landscapes and allow us to pioneer industry best practice, paving the way for the innovation of tomorrow.

Diverse teams bring different skills, ideas and experiences, which ultimately translates into a greater understanding of different point of views, more informed decisions and better customer service.

A fundamental tenet of diversity and inclusivity is that anyone should be able to find opportunities to progress and succeed, regardless of who they are. This is something that has been, and always will be, at the core of our company ethos.

James Tyler is Vice President of Human Resources EMEA at Equinix

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