It should come as no surprise that diversity and inclusion have become popular buzz words over the last few years, especially in the talent space. Companies should reflect what our world looks like, which seems like a no brainer, but time and time again, we read about big companies in the media doing some really terrible things (Gucci’s most recent tone-deaf design, Dove’s soap advertisement, and H&M’s monkey business, just to name a few).
Hindsight is 20/20, but let’s be real: who was in the room making these decisions? Diversity in the workplace plays a key role in ensuring that companies aren’t being tone-deaf with the choices they make. What some leaders might not know is that diversity and inclusion can do more than just shed light on how things can be potentially perceived. Creating initiatives that effectively drive diversity and inclusion can actually help improve the bottom line and open up opportunities for new successes.
What is diversity, really?
Merriam-Webster defines diversity as the condition of having or being composed of differing elements, variety, or an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities.
There is a lot of information out there on diversity linking to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, tenure, and people with disabilities, which are all essential aspects that make up the broader concept of diversity. But in the talent space, we also have to recognize that diversity expands deeper than what we see. Diversity, in its truest form, also applies to thoughts, education levels, socioeconomic experiences, processes, functions, abilities, and languages. So really, when you think about diversity, think about diversity in life experiences.
Diversity, we get it, but why do we need it?
I bet you’re sick of hearing about diversity, tired of hearing about all of this affirmative action sense of process…so why are we still pushing conversations about this hot button topic? The data doesn’t lie – some extreme benefits come with diversifying your company! Here are a few real-life examples of how diversity can improve your bottom line, spark innovation and creativity, and increase your company’s competitive advantage in the marketplace.
- Avoid Homogeneous Thinking
We have come a long way since the days of assembly lines, so why would you want cookie cutter employees calling the shots for your business? Having employees who all have similar life experiences, especially in leadership positions, can create standardized thought processes that stifle adaptability. This uniform way of thinking can significantly hinder a company’s ability to pivot and break through the market, especially when a prime opportunity is presented. When people from diverse backgrounds, thought processes, and life experiences come together, they all bring different approaches to the job/task/project that could contribute to an out-of-the-box success story. This is a great way to problem solve quickly!
Which leads me to…
- Increase Creativity and Innovation
Similar to avoiding homogeneous thinking, increasing diversity in your company also opens new doors for fresh creativity and innovation! Having representations of various cultural backgrounds and life experiences gives companies the ability to create a more diverse set of solutions to everyday challenges (hello, productivity). In fact, approaching problems from diverse angles drives innovative thinking that can take a company’s vision to the next level. Some of the world’s greatest artists like Picasso, Handel, Hemingway and Stravinsky all created their most well-regarded work while living in foreign countries.
- Up your Game
Diversity doesn’t only support innovation, creativity, and productivity (yes, it gets better!) Diversity also increases your company’s competitive advantage! In the age of global marketing and advanced technology, having employees with various life experiences can give organizations key insight into what consumers are looking for, and how your company can connect with those potential audience members on a level that will improve brand recognition. Talent will notice your efforts too. Diversity at all levels, but especially in leadership, can increase employee retention and reduce costly turn-over, contributing to a better brand reputation overall.
We all want a seat at the table, preferably a diverse table, filled with people from different walks of life and unique life experiences. Diversity isn’t just some political ploy to boost brand reputation, it goes deeper than that. Having a seat at the table where you’re the only one standing out becomes more intimidating than exciting. Diversity across all levels, especially in leadership and management roles, opens up doors for others who don’t feel compelled to speak up in an organization because of differences in culture and experiences.
As leaders, managers, and team members let’s make diversity more than just a buzz word in our organizations and actively call for a more inclusive seating chart that will improve our capabilities and strengthen our brands.