Diversity. Companies claim to be all for it, and many have defined initiatives to promote it. Corporations score ego points with vanity metrics in touting their diversity, shouting to the world about how they are different.
Unfortunately, most companies aren’t as revolutionary as they think in regard to diversity in the workplace. For example, Fortune cross-referenced its 2017 Fortune 500 list with its list of the top 50 places for workplace diversity, and found that only 12 companies appeared on both.
When organizations get serious about diversity in the workplace and commit to innovative approaches to promoting inclusion, the benefits they can reap impact everyone, making the advantages go far beyond ego points. Here’s how.
Diversity and Creativity
The End of Diversity as We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed, written by Martin Davidson, tracks how Procter & Gamble Canada embedded diversity as a key workplace principle, moving the company effort beyond just a program and resulting in unprecedented innovation and creativity. Davidson writes, “In sum, this diversity story is really about how P&G Canada capitalizes on difference in the broadest terms. The company connects with globally diverse stakeholders, and it uses those stakeholders to create value in unique and powerful ways.”
Multiple studies have linked creativity and innovation to diversity and multicultural experiences. Contrary to what some might think, differing viewpoints don’t lead to competing knowledge, but rather a broader collection of ideas from which new ones spring. That being said, encouraging creativity supported by diversity is easier said than done. Supporting workplace diversity also means embracing the discomfort that inevitably accompanies change. As Davidson writes, “Driving … change requires creative thinking, careful planning, and a willingness to take risks. When creativity and risk aren’t valued … it’s no wonder that sustained change is difficult.” However, the results paint a picture of an optimistic and diverse future of workplaces.
Teams Crave Diversity
A study from Glassdoor a few years ago found that two-thirds of employees believe a diverse workforce is important, and that 57 percent think their organizations could be doing more to foster diversity and inclusion. Strikingly, only a third knew of any diversity activities at their companies. Businesses are either not doing enough to promote diversity in the workplace or not attempting it at all—and their employees are noticing.
Organizations that fail to engage in diversity and inclusion initiatives are also often seen as stagnant and incapable of adapting to changing demographics in the workplace, which is a repellent to young talent. Attracting new talent (particularly a diverse talent pool) becomes tougher if candidates aren’t impressed with a company’s inclusion efforts. Coupled with the reporting from Glassdoor, one thing is clear: in order for organizations to remain competitive both creatively and with regard to retention and attraction, diversity is a critical endeavor in today’s workplace.
In their book The Inclusion Breakthrough: Unleashing the Real Power of Diversity, authors Frederick Miller and Judith Katz write, “Capitalizing on diversity requires more than simply hiring a diverse workforce. Radical changes are needed also in both the structure and culture of most organizations—in their policies and practices, the skills and styles of their leaders, and the day-to-day interactions among all their people.” In other words, workers ideally want a company that strives for diversity in everything it does.
The Bottom Line
In a powerful statement, Miller and Katz also write in The Inclusion Breakthrough, “Organizations have been operating in a black-and-white TV world. They have been utilizing just one or, at most, a couple of the dimensions of humankind. They do not see or leverage the multidimensional diversity of humankind. They let only some people in the game and require most to conform to a very narrow bandwidth of behavior. People are more than that, and organizations need more than that, especially if they hope to be successful in the future.” This call to action underscores why companies should embrace diversity and inclusion: the bottom line.
As we’ve said, organizations that are more creative and innovative can be more profitable—and diversity can help with that. Companies attracting and keeping the best talent boost productivity and, subsequently, profitability—and diversity can help with that. Research has shown that diverse businesses drive diverse communities, which in turn benefits those businesses—and diversity can help with that, as well. Designated diversity and inclusions programs can be good PR, but once companies commit to something more, the bottom-line benefits are impossible to ignore.
The End of Diversity As We Know It might seem like a counterintuitive title to take a closer look at in this article, but it’s actually reframing the way we think about vanity diversity programs because it argues against the half-hearted approach so many well-intentioned organizations take. The book delves into how traditional diversity initiatives can fall flat without solutions or the will to figure out why—an enduring commitment to making diversity a central component of all that the organization does.
Author Martin Davidson proposes a way to make diversity a central component of an organizations: leveraging differences. He writes that this involves “taking action within an organization to use people’s differences to help the organization achieve its strategic goals” and providing “a different way of thinking about diversity, one that is necessary in today’s increasingly global and complex business environment.” Companies that are able to take this forward-thinking step will be better positioned to realize impressive benefits—and only then can they truly earn the right to promote their diversity efforts.