The Importance of Diversity in the Workplace
In today’s marketplace, one of the most relevant factors in gaining a competitive advantage is probably not listed among the business-success factors you learned years ago. That key factor is diversity, and it’s too-often overlooked. Leaders in the most competitive organizations today know that having a diverse workforce is critical to long-term success and profitability. Here’s what the statistics show:
- Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity outperformed their competitors by 36% in profitability.
- Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than their competition.
- For every 1% increase in gender diversity, company revenue increases by 3%.
Additionally, organizations that intentionally seek diversity in their leadership and workforce also enjoy an improved reputation, employee inclusion, and a competitive hiring advantage. According to Glassdoor, 67% of active and passive job seekers say that when evaluating companies and job offers, it is important to them that the company has a diverse workforce.
How to Incorporate Diversity into Your Workplace Culture
Is it possible that despite your best efforts at embracing diversity, building equity, and maximizing inclusivity, there are unrecognized obstacles limiting your organization’s competitive edge? Do you have a diversity and inclusion strategy? Is your organization doing enough around DEI?
Creating an inclusive workplace culture is about all of us. It relates to the big things and the little things that occur in organizations day in and day out. Most people understand the basic meaning of diversity, equity, and inclusion but don’t know what it means in the context of the workplace and how they think and act. People need to realize that the lack of these important elements can occur in situations we are totally unaware of like
- How a person feels when they walk into a room and they look different from everyone else.
- How a woman feels when she is constantly interrupted or talked over in meetings.
- When a more senior person or junior person’s opinion is not taken seriously because of their age.
- When a person feels uncomfortable sharing information about their personal life because they have a different sexual preference from everyone else in the room.
Many leaders recognize the revolving door through which members of diverse groups come and go, but they are at a loss when it comes to changing the organizational culture and improving retention. Here are four obstacles to diversity, equity, and inclusion that must be overcome if your organization is to maintain the trust of team members and other stakeholders and make DEI a competitive advantage.
The most effective organizations today help leaders and team members recognize unconscious biases and their effects on the organization. Do people in your organization know how to recognize bias? Do they know how to break down bias? In today’s world, employee engagement and the public’s trust in your organization is built largely on their belief in your commitment to diversity—and it starts with breaking down bias. Organizations can’t afford to look the other way.
How are subtle, unintentional slights undermining team-member productivity and performance? Are almost-imperceptible biases creating pernicious behaviors that negatively impact your organization? Strong leaders and team members at all levels need to know how to prevent these microaggressions and how to build an organizational culture where muted insults don’t damage the organization’s competitive edge.
- Mishandling Differences
How do people handle differences between themselves and others in your organization? Organizational leaders must know how to avoid the common ways differences are mishandled, and then they must lead by example in respecting the differences that exist among races, genders, cultures, abilities, religions, and sexual and gender orientations. Leaders set the tone for the rest of the organization.
Sexism, Racism, Ableism, Heterosexism, Ageism, Religiocentrism, and other discriminatory isms occur at multiple levels. Capable leaders know how to recognize the way isms are hidden and expressed at every level of the organization. Their organizations develop cultural sensitivity that translates into respect for all humanity, higher profitability, improved employee morale, greater creativity, and a competitive advantage.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training has never been more important, and the time to make it a competitive advantage for your organization is now. For organizations to thrive in today’s diverse work environment, they must provide learning and development experiences to improve awareness around DEI as well as tools and skills for the workforce and members of the leadership team. This effort will support the ability of every team member to become a powerful advocate and put action behind DEI statements and policies in your organization.
Hope Cheeks, MS
Laverne Hanes Collins, PhD, LPC
Stephanie Mead, MBA