Ashley Roberts, general manager of Omanexpo, discusses diversity and inclusion within the exhibition and tradeshow world
The restart of our events is front and centre of mind for exhibition organisers across the world and it would be prudent to re-evaluate how we operate as businesses coming out of this life-changing experience and into the ‘next’ normal.
We cannot ignore one of the most prominent questions of our time – how diverse our workforce and leadership team is and what are we doing as businesses to ensure we curate inclusive cultures for the future.
In Oman the decision comes from the very top down with the government advocating private sector businesses to employ a larger proportion of talent from the local Omani region. I find it a refreshing approach and as a result we have a team – across all levels – made up of employees from the local communities as well as with ex-pats from the UK, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Bangladesh and beyond. Our current work force is 60% Omani, well ahead of the likely quotas that will be introduced in the coming years.
Having the combination of our Omani team members with their extensive knowledge of the local industry gives us a strong culture connection for Omanis and the Middle East for all of our events.
It’s more than simply working to fill a government quota – a diverse workforce can lead to effective results for the business. In a report which assessed the IT industry released by Gartner in 2019, the difference in employee performance between non-diverse and diverse organisations is 12% and the decisions executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results.
For Omanexpo, we’ve certainly seen the benefit of having a both local and international talent working together.
But to have a diverse workforce is not enough, businesses must also take a proactive approach to creating an inclusive working environment. Over the past couple of years, as a company we have worked hard to harness what I believe to be one of the most diverse workforces in the tradeshow industry focusing on curating a happy and productive workforce at Omanexpo.
We have refreshed the outlook on our company culture that has got us there – from our open-door approach, through to our company Town Hall meetings which are attended by all team members to discuss a wide variety of issues. That’s not to say its plain sailing; we have to all work together and communicate often and never lose sight of our goals as a company.
Ensuring we prioritise staff wellbeing and creating a strong and more inclusive work-place has demonstrated some incredibly positive results on our bottom line and we are incredibly proud to be shortlisted as Best Employer of the Year for the Middle East Event Awards 2020.
Our journey to D&I utopia is not over and requires constant review. Feedback from our staff is essential to this process and it is up to us as leaders to listen and make those positive changes now to strengthen our industry for the future.