The Diversity Dividend: Inclusive Workplaces Pays Off

McKinsey’s report ‘Delivering through Diversity’ has caused many businesses to rethink their approach to diversity. The report shows that the most profitable companies are those with a larger diversity in gender. On average these companies show a 21% increase in profit. Even more surprising, companies with a larger ethnic diversity show the biggest increase in profit (33%). It is clear from this that diversity and success go hand in hand.

It may seem obvious, but having good ideas and input from a broad range of different viewpoints, backgrounds and attitudes, generate a more creative work environment. Static groupthink is more likely to occur where people have the same backgrounds, education, and culture. Similar backgrounds mean people having the same perspectives as one another, sharing similar ideas, and ending up with the same old results. The world is changing fast and diversity helps us to keep up.

If the company you are working for is experiencing a stagnant period in their profit accumulation it may be time to introduce some fresh blood. By drawing from a larger pool of diversity you are opening up the company to opportunities to increase profits and generate a more productive business. This does not mean you should rush out and hire people solely based on their background – that would not only be risky, it would also be unlawful in most jurisdictions. 

Diversity Matters

Diversity is a natural and productive phenomenon. We have come to appreciate it in nature and take steps to protect diversity of flora and fauna. Diversity of thought is a main contributor to innovation and the advancement of the human race. Just think of the technical and scientific advances made by different cultures worldwide and you begin to appreciate that no one group has a monopoly on great ideas. If you have trouble coming up with examples then you definitely need to widen your frame of reference. Societies divided along racial lines are prone to conflict and injustice. We have seen this in Germany, South Africa, and more recently in the USA. According to McKinsey companies operating in the global marketplace thrive when they are culturally agile and invest in understanding the diverse needs of their customers. Diversity matters and can be harnessed to ad value to your company

Make a plan.

Once you have decided to widen the diversity of your business, a robust plan should be enacted. The step to a more inclusive workplace requires leadership from the top and must be embedded in the organisation’s strategic plans. Avoid knee-jerk responses to litigation or external campaigns; the best way to right the ship is by making sure that your plans connect with your business objectives and have the support of women and minorities in the company. Focusing on legal compliance is the lowest common denominator and unlikely to yield the dividends diversity can bring. 

By looking at diversity as a strategic step, leaders are more likely to maintain long term commitment to diversity rather than seeing it as a forced obligation. Consider the types of skills, backgrounds and mindset that would be beneficial to the company and take steps to attract the best employees with those attributes. In most cases companies are already following this recruitment process, but their model of the ‘right person’ for the job is restricted to people who look like them. If you can easily spot your typical ‘company’s man’ in a crowd, it is likely you need a corporate makeover. 

Ensuring diversity in your workplace means hiring people from all backgrounds and it is the job of interviewers to make the potential employee feel that they will ‘fit in’ at the workplace. Commitment to an inclusive workplace means displaying diversity in all aspects of the company’s operations, including the values of the company, the leadership behaviours, and the public image of the company. It is advantageous to make a public statement that your company is scouting for diverse talent and set you sights high in attracting the best from the diverse pool of prospective employees. Resist criticism that you a hiring people solely  on the basis of their backgrounds – the truth is you are making a change because you have limited yourself to hiring from a narrow pool of  backgrounds and that needs to change. 

Unconscious bias

Although we like to think that we would not consciously make a decision on hiring an employee based of gender, race or religion or any other personal attributes – these factor play a part in the hiring decision. An inner voice whispers “he comes from the right school, good family, was in my fraternity, didn’t do a well as he could have at university probably because of high jinks, but he will fit right in”. That candidate gets the benefit of the doubt while a minority candidate is rejected purely on grades. This process takes place in nanoseconds because human beings operate on a kind of subconscious autopilot.  Biased opinions form over a lifetime and we are mostly unaware of them. Developing self-awareness of this process can help to overcome their pernicious effects in the hiring process. It is advisable to train everyone involved in the recruitment process to compensate for the influence of unconscious bias. Even better still subject your whole recruitment process to a Diversity Dividend root and branch audit to identify and remove any subtle impediments to achieving your desired diversity outcome.

The Diversity Dividend

The Diversity Dividend (DD) is a dynamic space where organisations can benchmark their ethical business practices against others in the global marketplace. Our diversity specialists can help you to support your recruiters recruit and retain diverse employees. You will find that as a DD member you are joining a fraternity of organisations who are competitive but willing to share their experiences with you. If you want to enjoy the dividends investing in diversity and ethical business practice can bring Join Us.

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