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Diversity, equity, and inclusion have always been important in the workplace, and recently we have been reminded of that importance through the events happening across the country. More and more companies, leaders, and people are participating in discussions, taking actions, and making commitments to building a diverse and inclusive workplace not only because it is the right thing to do, but it is essential to improve business outcomes.

Building a diverse and inclusive organization is shown to have a positive business impact. Organizations that create diverse teams are proven to:

  • Make better decisions, are more innovative, and show stronger financial performance;
  • Increase engagement, job satisfaction, talent attraction, and retention;
  • Have a better understanding of customer and client perspectives; and
  • Have a greater competitive advantage and reputation.

Many studies have been done over the years, and the evidence confirms that organizations with diverse and inclusive workplaces outperform their competitors.

  • Companies with diverse leadership are 45% more likely to improve market share, and 70% more likely to capture new markets.1
  • Diverse companies have 22% lower turnover, 22% greater productivity, 27% higher profitability, and 39% higher customer satisfaction.2
  • McKinsey finds companies in the top quartile for gender diversity in their executive teams are 21% more likely to achieve above average profitability, and those with racial and cultural diversity are 33% more likely to outperform their peers’ profitability.3
  • BCG finds there is a clear positive relationship between diversity and innovation: 4 types of diversity studied were found to bolster innovation: industry background, country of origin, career path, and gender; and innovation jumps greater than 25% if there are >20% women managers.4

Q: For a company that wants to begin prioritizing diversity and inclusion, where would you suggest they focus their efforts?

A: Start by defining why inclusion and diversity are important for your team, your company, your people, and assess how your organization is operating in terms of diversity and inclusion today. Some ways you can do this are through reviewing your data, surveying your employees about inclusion, reviewing policies and practices, or evaluating efforts and actions that have already been taken. Once you have a solid understanding of how you are doing today and why diversity and inclusion is critical to your organization, then begin to establish and prioritize initiatives, and put your commitment in writing. This may include updating your handbook with a diversity and inclusion section and sharing information with your employees. Make sure your policies support your commitment, everything from anti-harassment and anti-discrimination to equal opportunities.

Your HR team will play an important role in helping guide your company’s diversity and inclusion journey, but success depends on everyone in the organization being a part of the initiative. When you are ready to implement strategies and actions, it’s important that your leadership teams are aligned, but it is also critical to get your employees’ commitment and involvement in creating a culture of inclusion.

After your policies and initiatives are set in motion, continue to monitor your progress. You may want to survey employees and hear about how inclusive your company is from their perspective and continue to assess where you need to focus growing your culture in terms of inclusion and diversity. Keep in mind that diversity and inclusion does not come with a one size fits all solution, and that you will always be making strides to improve in one area or another. You need to start somewhere, and even taking baby steps will get you going in the right direction and can make a huge impact.

Q: What tips do you have for keeping diversity and inclusion in mind during the sourcing, interviewing, and hiring processes?

A: Recruiting the most qualified talent is a critical function to the success of an organization. When sourcing for talent, broaden your talent pool. This may include seeking out and developing relationships with organizations focused on networking and developing talent of diverse populations, color, background, gender, and sexual orientation, as well as those with disabilities. Look at sharing job postings on diversity and inclusion-based job boards.

When it comes to interviewing, one systematic change that can be implemented is to anonymize resumes when screening candidates. By removing names from the resume, it will reduce bias from the get-go, and allows every candidate to be considered regardless of gender or race. Read up on the impact of gender bias and racial stereotypes that prevent people from getting considered for positions simply for their names.

When it comes to interviewing and hiring, be sure to understand your biases. Implicit or unconscious bias may prevent us from pursuing qualified candidates. The story from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, illustrates an example of how bias impacted the selection of orchestra members and making what was a seemingly trivial environmental change controlled rapid cognition and eliminated troubling biases. Consider conducting training for your recruiters and those individuals involved in the hiring process to become more aware of any unconscious bias they may have and mitigate the potential for missing out on a highly qualified candidate.

Q: How can companies continue making strides towards diverse and inclusive work environments, now and in the future?

A: Keep in mind that diversity and inclusion does not come with a one size fits all solution, and that you will always be making strides to improve in one area or another. It is important to recognize we won’t get everything perfect, but don’t let the fear of making the mistake prevent you from making strides. Be sure to listen to employees, solicit ideas, and check biases. We need to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and work on taking steps, no matter how small, that will amount to building a more diverse and inclusive workplace.


Additional Sources:

  1. How Diversity Can Drive Innovation by Sylvian Ann Hewlett, Melinda Marshall, and Laura Sherbin, December 2013 Harvard Business Review
  2. Inclusive Mobility: How Mobilizing a Diverse Workforce Can Drive Business Performance, Deloitte 2018
  3. Delivering Through Diversity by Vivian Hunt, Lareina Yee, Sara Prince, and Sundiata Dixon-Fyle, McKinsey & Company January 2018 Report
  4. The Mix that Matters, Boston Consulting Group study by Rocio Lorenzo, Nicole, Voigt, Karin Schetelig, Annika Zawadzki, Isabell Welpe, and Prisca Brosi published February 2017.
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