It’s the business buzzword you’ve probably already heard a thousand times this year (or this week): diversity.
If you’re playing buzzword bingo, you’ve checked off this square more than its fair share. But have you actually done the hard work of integrating diversity as a business practice? If not, it might be time to think about doing so.
It turns out that diversity isn’t just another buzzword, but a sound business strategy that is showing more and more positive results upon closer inspection. And it has multiple meanings and applications: from hiring people from multiple backgrounds to instilling it as a concept in decision-making processes, diversity might be exactly what you need to give your business a shot in the arm.
If you’re finding that things are a little stagnant, need an additional boost to get over a big obstacle or just want to institute policies that will keep your company innovative, try some of these diversity strategies:
Build ethnically diverse teams
Managers shouldn’t shy away from hiring and building teams comprised of people from vastly different ethnic backgrounds. Even when it might seem like you’re putting together perspectives that are worlds apart, it’s a strategy that will actually build some of the strongest teams you’ll ever see.
In fact, it’s likely that putting together a team of diverse ethnic backgrounds will quite literally pay off: according to McKinsey & Company, ethnically diverse teams are 35 percent more likely to net financial returns above industry averages.
And it doesn’t stop there: As McKinsey & Company notes, “for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent.”
A strong team is one comprised of multiple viewpoints coming together, and building teams made up of people that look and talk differently has been proven to be a market differentiator in today’s business environment.
Give everyone a seat at the table
Researchers at MIT have shown that the best performing business teams share one key quality among others: giving one another equal time to talk. It’s not something that is forced or has to be managed, but a natural occurrence in these high-performing units. And this quality had much more of an affect on the success of business teams than individual qualities like IQ score.
Diversity means having multiple voices heard in equal measure. As a business practice, this means ensuring stakeholders — and maybe some non-stakeholders — from across the company are included in important meetings and given ample time to speak.
Ensure every meeting has representation from all levels of the company, from executives down to new hires that are just getting to know the business. When companies fail, it can often be attributed to too much like-mindedness. In other words, if everyone always agrees, it might make for a pleasant day at the office, but it hurts the overall business.
As proof, consider this statistic: A large percentage of companies on the Fortune 500 list just 20 years ago are no longer there. The companies that are thriving today have made diversity a business process.
And instill a culture of listening. While eventually you may get to a point where equal talking time is being given to everyone in the room, you might have to force it a bit at first. That starts at the executive level. Taking time to truly listen to others not only helps employees to feel valued but might just allow for the next big idea to make it to the surface.
Make diversity a decision-making practice
The best ideas bubble up when everyone is seated at the same table and every voice is given equal weight, no matter what level of the company or which department it’s coming from. We’ve learned this from multiple studies, like the ones cited in this post.
But how do you turn that into an actionable business strategy?
The first is to pick your moments: there’s no need to call a three-hour brainstorming session with 15 people to help you pick out which office supplies you need.
But when it comes to those critical decisions, creating a task force comprised of various voices and backgrounds will ensure that all viewpoints are considered and likely result in a decision that’s best for the company. That type of thinking doesn’t simply happen on its own, it takes discourse, disagreement and ultimately consensus from a wide swath of perspectives.
Diversity isn’t something that just happens overnight. It takes real work, but there are also real ways that you can implement it as a business strategy. It’s very possible that taking steps towards diversity as a strategy will give you a leg up on the competition in an ever-shifting landscape that can seem disruptive and unclear.
Mike Fitzgerald, President and CEO of the Denver South Economic Development Partnership, endorses this kind of thinking and encourages it a step further. “In a time of rapid change like now, it is not just good business, it may be a case of survival to bring diverse perspectives to the decision process,” he says.
The window of opportunity is open now for companies and business leaders to foster diversity as it’s very likely that these performance trends will continue in the coming years and decades. As McKinsey & Company puts it, “Given the higher returns that diversity is expected to bring, we believe it is better to invest now, since winners will pull further ahead and laggards will fall further behind.”
Related posts:
· Why women make excellent leaders
· Five companies that prove diversity is good business