Supporting Talent, Developing Diversity

Simon Croxford, former Head of the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore’s Diversity Committee, reflects on why Diversity and Inclusion is now a driving force in shaping the workplace in a growing number of businesses, and what this recently created Committee has planned as it finds its voice.

By Simon Croxford, Managing Director and General Counsel, Barclays Asia Pacific

Published 17 September 2014


Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is widely recognised today as a key tool for the recruitment and retention of talent in the business world. However, diversity in the workplace means very different things to different groups, and is normally driven by wider societal attitudes. From the accession of women in business to accepting and respecting differences in age, culture, sexual orientation and ability in the office, the concept of diversity is one that is now being widely debated and, in many cases, fostered around the globe.
So what does diversity mean in a Singapore business context? As a starting point, cultural diversity is recognised as a founding principle of the Republic and a key tenet of the nation’s character. As the island nation approaches its 50th anniversary, the question of what diversity in the workplace means in Singapore today is one that is being looked at in detail by the recently established British Chamber of Commerce Diversity Committee.
The first task of the Committee, which is itself made up of a variety of institutions, from multinational corporations and professional services firms through to governmental and local education institutions, has been to decide on how to approach what can often be a sensitive area for business leaders and communities alike. Respecting those sensitivities, the Committee decided to primarily foster debate about diversity as a general concept, approaching it holistically and in relation to the workplace. Rather than breaking down into subcommittees to actively advocate on the specific components of diversity, such as age discrimination, the focus is more in encouraging a richer debate, raising awareness around issues and identifying and sharing best practices in diversity across the board.
Many businesses are getting better at capturing data around diversity and using this information to enable a greater understanding of how the levers of hiring, promotion and attrition materially change representation in a workforce, and the impact they can have. But introducing the concept of diversity is not just about new hires; it is also about rethinking behaviours in the workplace among existing employees. A crucial starting point is therefore the culture and values of an organisation and how diversity is viewed in this framework.
In keeping with this, one of the most widely subscribed events organised by the Committee thus far has been a session examining unconscious bias in the workplace, led by an expert in her field, Connie Wong. The session used role playing techniques to focus on real life examples of diversity situations, with the objective being to emphasise and explore the correlation between diversity and talent management. The Committee has also been working alongside the well established Women in Business group, which is a frontrunner in the Diversity & Inclusion space.
The Diversity Committee has brought energy and passion to the task of encouraging a wider diversity debate, and is looking to partner with businesses, diversity networks and other Commerce Chambers to generate greater awareness of Diversity & Inclusion concepts and issues. The goal is not to impose views on diversity, but rather to enable the wider business community to choose from and implement a variety of practical ideas in the workplace that will improve both their businesses and, in many cases, the lives of their employees.
In the end, this is the fundamental reason for championing diversity in business: improving the wellbeing of people and therefore bringing out their best in the workplace.
In terms of our own involvement in the Diversity Committee here at Barclays, as a business with diversity at the heart of its value structure, we are proud both to lead the Committee as well as to become the British Chamber’s first ever Diversity Sponsor in the region. It is a real privilege to be able to support the cause of diversity in this way, and we would very much encourage other members of the Chamber to participate in this valuable initiative. Watch this space for future events, information and ideas!
If you are interested in finding out more about the Diversity Committee or Women in Business Groups, please visit the BritCham Diversity Commitee Page.