02/09/2017 Molly Moseley

Diversity fuels innovation and without it, we all suffer

President Trump’s executive order on immigration continues to make headlines. With so much uncertainty about the future, many businesses are starting to have new discussions about diversity in the workplace and how it affects culture and the bottom line.

Racial and gender inequality have obvious social impacts on any business, but it’s so much more than that. Without a diverse and inclusive workforce, we all suffer. Innovation flounders, brand reputations bomb and profits plateau.

McKinsey & Company analysis found companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. The companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to be over those medians.

This diversity has a snowball effect that in turn has a massive impact on the global economy. Let’s look at gender equality, for example. A McKinsey Global Institute report found that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. That’s a whopping 11 percent increase!

But you can’t simply will workplace diversity to happen. One common pitfall for companies exploring diversity initiatives is to focus too heavily on the numbers. If you hit certain numbers, you have a proportionately diverse workplace, right? It’s not that easy.

Diversity and inclusion are two different things, and both are required for a company to see true success. Diversity numbers may indicate representation of different groups across departments, but without inclusiveness, you won’t get the value you’re seeking, and in fact, there may be backlash.

Workplace diversity advocate Verna Myers says it best: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

So what can you do to transform your company into a diverse, inclusive workplace that benefits employees and the bottom line?

Admit there is a problem: The first step to solving any problem is to admit there is a problem. It’s a sensitive topic, and one some people are bound to get defensive about. However, without honesty you can’t make any changes that have lasting impact.

Start at the top: In order for diversity and inclusion to be part of a company’s culture, it must happen from the top down. Company leaders need to send a clear and consistent message to employees, plus show they embrace these values by taking action in their own position.

Remove hiring bias: Hiring biases are prevalent at many companies. It’s difficult to pinpoint because many are unintentional and happen subconsciously. That’s why it’s important to take an in-depth look at hiring from start to finish. A specialty consultant can help with this.

Compensate equally: There are countless studies that have found women and minorities often make less than their white male counterparts. Is this true at your organization? There are many influential factors that go into determining someone’s wage, but make sure race, gender, religion and sexual orientation aren’t one of them.

Provide career opportunities: To boost inclusiveness, it’s essential to provide clear career paths so employees can be empowered. This can include internal career development documents, educational classes to boost skills, mentorship programs and the willingness to promote from within.

Go beyond numbers: Understand what people think and how it’s affecting their job. Quantifying emotion and analyzing inclusion can be difficult, but the more insight you have, the more likely you are to make a lasting impact.