Why You Should Improve Diversity And Inclusion In Your Organization

The issue of diversity and inclusion in the workforce is seeing positive action like never before. Meanwhile, many companies are trying to keep up with the changing business landscape brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. After a year in which communities were roiled by social unrest and businesses were impacted by a once-in-a-century pandemic, I predict the year 2021 will experience further transformations in the way we work and with whom we work.

I believe this will be especially true in regard to diversity-and-inclusion initiatives. While many job seekers actively look for companies that espouse diversity and inclusion, only 55% of people feel that their companies actively do so.

The moral and ethical imperatives are clear, but they are not the only reasons for having a workforce that mirrors the makeup of customers. A Development Dimensions International survey of more than 2,000 human resource executives and nearly 16,000 global leaders found that organizations with above-average diversity are eight times more likely to be in the top 10% for financial performance.

Research by McKinsey has also found that companies with greater representation are more likely to outperform less-diverse competitors. Furthermore, a Boston Consulting Group study found that a major benefit of enhanced diversity was in the area of innovation, with companies seeing EBIT margins that were 9% higher than their competitors with below-average diversity.

Of course, many companies have talked a good game promoting the virtues of diversity and inclusion, yet they do not deliver. But increasingly, I've observed a few major organizations that are making public commitments to enact real change.

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, for example, recently unveiled its 25x25 initiative, in which 20 companies, including Facebook, Twitter, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines and the San Francisco 49ers, pledged that by 2025, at least 25% of their leadership will be composed of underrepresented groups. Around the same time, McDonald’s upped the ante and said it will raise minority representation among senior executives from 29% to 35% within four years and, by 2030, will have an equal number of men and women holding leadership positions.

Many executives with whom I work recognize the business benefits of diversity: People with different backgrounds can analyze problems differently and arrive at different solutions, for instance, which could increase the chances of a positive outcome.

I've also seen these executives acknowledge that you can’t hire someone from a company with a stellar cultural reputation and expect them to inject your company with a shot of culture. The right culture for your organization comes from within and needs to be promoted and lived from the very top. As with any business strategy, leaders have to map out the road to success, set specific measurable goals and establish accountability.

In some ways, the pandemic — and the forced world of remote work — has opened up opportunities. Companies are not limited to recruiting talent from a geographic area; they can search further afield into communities and cities with a higher representation of minorities.

When you’re building your organization and defining or refining your culture, it’s essential to keep pace with the needs of your employees and customers and increase workforce diversity in a genuinely inclusive way.

For example, one way to be inclusive is to recognize different religious and cultural holidays. Be respectful of these occasions when planning meetings and events, and make a point of honoring these holidays in all-hands meetings. You can also analyze your recruiting process. Many organizations hire new employees from employee referrals; however, if your workforce is not as diverse as you want it to be, you are probably reinforcing those numbers. Make investments in employee well-being, including flexible work options. These support employees with young children as well as those who need to take care of aging parents.

When organizations strengthen employees’ connections and foster a sense of belonging, they create cohesion. And in my experience, cohesiveness can drive better performance because teams are better able to collaborate. They see how each individual and the team as a whole contribute toward a shared purpose. Such unity reduces potential conflict around differing opinions because when we are working well together, such disagreements become fuel for brainstorming and creative problem solving rather than a source of divisiveness.

The bottom line is that any organization needs to embrace diversity throughout its ranks if it wants to attract and retain new talent that will help provide long-term success. Diversity might be the right thing to do morally and politically, but it’s also the right thing to do from a smart business perspective.