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In August 2017, a software engineer at Google distributed a memo called, “Google’s ideological Echo Chamber.” In it, he criticized Google’s approach to diversity and inclusion, saying that “discriminating just to increase representation” was unfair. He went on to say that biological differences between men and women in part explain why there is not a 50-50 balance in tech and leadership.
The Google memo confirms that diversity and inclusion remain a challenge, even for the world’s most successful companies. Diversity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords; they are critical instruments for building a better, more sustainable business. To successfully disrupt their industries and remain competitive, enterprises need to generate the best ideas to develop a solid vision, tech strategy, and customer and employee engagement plan. Smart business leaders embrace, and proactively leverage diversity and inclusion as a means of competitive advantage.
So how do you build a culture of diversity in your business? How do you practice inclusion across your organization?
In this article, Tim Morton, Managing Partner of Prompta Consulting Group shares some approaches and strategies for building a profitable and effective workplace.
The Value of Diversity
While employees have different beliefs about the value of diversity and inclusion, an organization can focus on the value of leveraging diversity as a business asset. This approach acknowledges the North American workplace has changed. It is inherently diverse in terms of employees’ age, race, gender, disability, family makeup, sexual orientation and income level. Valuing diversity helps employees of all backgrounds feel included and committed to the organization’s business strategy. This contributes to an organization’s ability to attract, recruit, and ultimately retain the best talent as an employer of choice.
Evidence of the power of an inclusive and diverse workplace has been noted in a recent McKinsey report titled Why Diversity Matters. The research states that companies in the top quartile for diversity are 35% more likely to outperform those in the bottom quartile.
Beyond financial results, diversity has a positive impact on innovation – provided you make your people feel included regardless of their backgrounds. A Deloitte study found that:
“When employees think their organization is committed to, and supportive of diversity and they feel included, employees report better business performance in terms of ability to innovate, (83% uplift), responsiveness to changing customer needs (31% uplift) and team collaboration (42% uplift).”
Qualitatively speaking, a more diverse team is better at fusing ideas from multiple perspectives, which is the root of all creativity. A paper published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin concluded that:
“Multicultural learning experience: (a) facilitates idea flexibility (e.g., the ability to solve problems in multiple ways), (b) increases awareness of underlying connections and associations, and (c) helps overcome functional fixedness… functional learning in a multicultural context is particularly important for facilitating creativity.”
The research clearly indicates that diversity and inclusion make businesses better at innovative thinking, creativity, and collaboration, all of which are critical for organizations to not only survive, but to thrive in the twenty-first century. They also make happier workers, more innovative teams, and better financial performance.
However, creating a diverse workplace is a big undertaking. Embracing it doesn’t just mean embracing a few tactics; it means changing the very way your business works.
Strategies for Adopting an Inclusive and Diverse Workplace: 4 Lessons from Leading Companie
1 - Recognize there are no quick fixes
One reason why so many diversity programs fail is that they misunderstand the very nature of diversity. Diversity is not a quick-fix solution. It isn’t a weekend-long training program that can be done once and forgotten the next week.
Diversity is a long-term endeavor and it’s a cultural transformational journey. It bears results over years, not months.
Back in the mid-nineties TD Bank Financial Group voluntarily extended benefits to full-time employees and their same-sex partners. In the first years after enacting the policy change, and much to the dismay of many internal leaders and the HR team, very few of TD’s LGBT employees took advantage of the opportunity. Although TD may have changed a policy around diversity and inclusion (a great first step), they had not changed the mindsets, acceptable code of conduct, ways of working, or the DNA and culture of the company.
The policy may have changed but many LGBT employees still believed it would be career limiting, even possibly career ending, if they self-identified. TD’ LGBT employees were still experiencing homophobic people managers, peers and customers.
Today TD Bank is a leader in diversity and inclusion; it is part the fabric of the company. But it took time for the transformational journey to become truly meaningful - from that initial policy change to get them to be a global diversity and inclusion leader.
2 - Make diversity a core part of your leadership
If there’s one thing most experts agree with, it’s this: for diversity programs to work, leaders need to be front-line advocates. Leaders need to be consistent, active and visible. They must walk the walk; everything they say and do matters. Employees, customers, suppliers, and shareholders look to corporate leaders to set the vision to provide clear direction.
“Successful diversity-focused transformations require an all-in holistic readiness approach, with solid unwavering leadership support,” says Tim Morton, Managing Partner of Prompta. It’s often unwisely assumed that leaders naturally know how to successfully support their people through diversity-focused transformations. That’s just not reality; leaders need support to effectively sponsor and drive forward diversity initiatives. Quite often leaders can be best intentioned, but without coaching and support they just don’t know how to avoid diversity minefields.
3 - Diversity without inclusion is useless
Diversity, by itself, simply means equal representation. But if equal representation isn’t followed by equal inclusion, you won’t bear the fruits of diversity.
Don’t just focus on diversity; focus on inclusion as well; they go hand-in-hand. Many companies believe they are set when their diversity programs are in place and they’re successfully measuring diversity related targets. The reality though is that diversity programs need policies to help shape a corporate culture that is inclusive –an environment in which all people feel valued and respected.
Diverse employees -that is, employees whom are not in the majority - long to achieve the same sense of belonging, respect and welcoming as majority employees. Diverse employees don’t want to be excluded or deemed second class employees because of the makeup of their families, or a perceived disability, or because they celebrate different feasts or observe different traditions.
Effective inclusion provides many business benefits including increased empathy and understanding, teamwork, employee engagement and a more stress-free work environment and healthier corporate cultures. It also provides for reduced turnover, increased collaboration, less siloed thinking and better problem solved and more effective decision making.
4 - Diversity should not be in isolation
A common mistake organizations make when implementing diversity and inclusion programs is to set it apart from the rest of the business. Your company may have a VP of Diversity & Inclusion, but if diversity and inclusion is not a core part of your organization’s culture, few meaningful changes can be made.
Diversity and inclusion cannot just be owned by one leader, or team. It needs to be a corporate strategic imperative with a stated mission statement that clearly lays out the scope of a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. It becomes the ‘north star’ towards building a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace. It provides a roadmap for all leaders, managers, and employees to understand their role to do their part in building diversity and inclusion organizational culture and capabilities.
Diversity and inclusion requires targets. They are essential for making sure your transformational program is moving forward and real progress is being made. Also, measurement will prioritize diversity and inclusion at the same level of importance as other business priorities. Setting and measuring diversity and inclusion targets signals importance and establishes them as a real corporate priority. What gets measured gets actioned.
Tactics for Promoting Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are two great change management challenges of our time. They’re also two of the biggest opportunities – the successful organizations of the future will invariably be the most diverse and inclusive ones.
Diversity and inclusion has a profound impact on innovation and creativity. It also leads to happier workplaces and better financial performance.
To learn more, or to schedule a brief discussion or assessment about implementing diversity and inclusion, please contact Tim Morton from Prompta Consulting Group.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only. Prompta Inc. in no way intends for this document to be used for standalone strategic advice of any kind. Those reading this document accept that they will not rely on this document to make any business decisions. Neither Prompta Inc., nor any of its affiliates, accepts any liability or responsibility with respect to any loss or damage caused, or alleged to have been caused, directly or indirectly to any person, organization, or entity, by the information contained in this document. The information contained in this document reflects the author’s opinion on the date at which it was published. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in this document. This document is the property of Prompta Inc. and may not be copied or reproduced in any form without proper attribution to Prompta Inc.
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