Recently I was speaking with a colleague about problem-solving, creativity, and innovation. During our conversation, she said, “One of the problems that many companies face is they approach all of their challenges the same way, so they arrive at the same answers.” Concurring, we began to discuss different scenarios we have encountered and our differing perspectives as male and female.
It was a fascinating exercise and one that for me highlighted the importance and value of diversity in the workplace. Workplace diversity is not necessarily a new concept, but many companies are still failing to harness the value they can get from embracing diversity.
What I have found is they believe they have achieved diversity simply by hiring people with different backgrounds and ethnicities. This is akin to saying a company has a great culture because they put a ping-pong table in the break room. It goes far deeper than that, and when realised it will provide great value.
Before I get to listing some of the value that will be achieved with diversity, let me attempt to describe the difference between merely going through the motions versus truly embracing diversity and all the advantages it can bring.
I was once told a story of a woman who lived in Africa that had planned a dinner in her community. Upon arriving at the dinner, my friend, who was American, realised there were no utensils for eating. Of course, this was an unusual circumstance for him, but rather than resisting, he partook in the meal with the other villagers who had arrived. As the evening went on, my friend, who assumed the lack of utensils was due to the extreme poverty, asked the woman who was hosting about the lack of utensils. She replied by telling him, “If I had forks and spoons, that would limit the number of guests I could have served, and I wanted anyone who wanted to come to feel welcome.”
This is an illustration of an approach to diversity, a different way of thinking, a different perspective, a different approach to life which goes far beyond just having a workforce that looks and sounds different.
With this as the backdrop, let me describe a few benefits that you will receive from embracing diversity in your workplace.
Better business decisions
I was working for a manager who took issue with anyone who offered alternative ideas or solutions. I remember in one meeting he stated, “I have been doing this a very long time and have a good handle on what I am doing.” In essence, he was only interested in his team carrying out his orders, not in applying our collective experiences and knowledge to solve business problems.
It was no wonder that as a team we struggled to make real progress and often spent weeks and months trying to improve our performance. This is what happens when only one line of thinking is allowed to be applied.
According to research conducted by Cloverpop, teams that are diverse make better business decisions a whopping 87% of the time! This should come as no surprise. When you welcome various perspectives, you will most often come up with creative and practical solutions.
Larger talent pool
While many organisations may not currently be in hiring mode (some still are), the fact that a business embraces and promotes true diversity in their workforce will open up the door to a larger talent pool.
An article published by Thomson Reuters in October 2020 showed that 72% of workers in the UK say workplace diversity would influence which company they choose to work for. People within under-represented groups feel stronger about this:
- 86% Black
- 85% Asian
- 80% Mixed
- 77% LGBT+
If you want to gain access to the best and the brightest, a culture of full inclusion is a must.
All companies are continually looking to innovate, and in today’s corporate climate; you are innovating, or you’re dying. However, innovation is hard to come by when all you have in the room are those who think and look the same and have a common view of the world.
A study by Forbes demonstrates the value that diversity can bring to an organisation; specifically innovation. When asked if “a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation,” 85% of executives either strongly or somewhat agreed.
Companies that want to find success, be innovative, and be known as a great place to work (which only benefits your brand and customer experience), know that a culture of inclusion and diversity is paramount. Those who are closed off to this defining culture are on a slow road to irrelevance.
What else do leaders need to deliver in preparing their businesses for the new world of work?