In a nutshell: Looking for a way to make your business more creative, inventive, productive and profitable? The answer might be to encourage more diversity and inclusion.
For many years, researchers have been investigating the link between workforce diversity and business performance. The results are hard to deny. Scientific American puts it plainly in an article titled “Diversity Makes Us Smarter”:
“Decades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographics show that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogenous groups.”
Wondering how you can promote greater diversity and inclusion at your organization? Here are four tips to get you started.
Build a Business Case for Diversity
With any business initiative, it’s important to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what you’re going to do about it. The same is true for any diversity initiative — it needs to be embraced with a business case for change. There’s no doubt that it’s the right thing to do, but you need to link the initiative to your company’s mission and operations.
One of the strongest business cases for diversity is the fact that U.S. demographics are shifting. As a result, the workforce should reflect the population at large. In addition, more diverse voices on your staff mean greater understanding of a more diverse customer base.
Another way to build a business case is to point out the link between diversity and business performance. McKinsey & Company reports that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform homogenous companies. Even more impressive: Ethnically diverse companies outperform the competition by 35%.
Get Senior Leadership Involved
Messages are always best received when they’re reinforced at the top of the organization. This is especially true for diversity and inclusion. That means setting a good example for all employees, sending out diversity-positive messages, and getting personally involved in the organization’s diversity efforts. Senior leadership can also display their commitment by creating high-level positions to promote diversity.
You might need to hold up a mirror to convince senior leaders that they need to do more in terms of diversity efforts. “The fact is that the most well-intentioned and hard-working people believe they are doing the right thing, or they wouldn’t be doing it,” writes Scott Keller in theHarvard Business Review. “However, most people also have an unwarranted optimism in relation to your own behavior.”
As with the business case, using hard evidence is more likely to sway opinions than just appealing to emotion. Convince senior leaders to embrace diversity, and you’ll set the tone for the entire organization.
Promote Your Diversity Efforts
If you’re proud of your organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, don’t keep it to yourself. It’s important that prospective hires, current employees and the community at large know what you’re doing.
One of the best ways to broadcast your diversity and inclusion efforts is to create a page or mini-site on your website. Many large companies have done this, including organizations such as Home Depot, Apple, KPMG, Johnson & Johnson and NBCUniversal.
Social media is another effective way to promote your diversity efforts. Highlight events and employee voices.
Support Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
Employee resource groups, sometimes called affinity groups, are employee-led groups that work as a catalyst for understanding and change within the organization. They can also serve as a sounding board for employees to share their experiences with people. Membership is voluntary, and most companies will provide a small for ERGs to cover the cost of programming. Most large organizations will have separate ERGs for women, African-Americans, Asians and LGBT people, just to name a few. At a smaller organization with fewer employees, a single diversity ERG might suffice.
There are many sources on the internet with tips for starting and maintaining an ERG, including these guidelines from MIT’s human resources department.