According to a 2018 McKinsey study called “Delivering Through Diversity," there are many benefits of diversity in the workplace:
“Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
"For ethnic/cultural diversity," the study continued, "top-quartile companies were 33 percent more likely to outperform on profitability." (The study was "based on publicly available data from 1,007 companies across 12 countries globally.")
The business case for diversity is so great, it is the foundation of my agency Tote + Pears. We take an intersectional approach to helping businesses and brands connect meaningfully with the women who make up the market because focusing on diverse perspectives is proven to increase profitability.
However, managing diversity in the workplace does not come naturally to everyone. It is common for people to associate closely with those from similar backgrounds and feel uncomfortable or even lost when branching out. Learning to attract, lead and retain people from all walks of life helps companies remain competitive, relevant and profitable.
I spoke to three business leaders who build diverse teams for a living. They're sharing how to increase diversity in the workplace and why doing so is of such great value to businesses.
1. Start with well-trained leadership.
Kimberly L. Strong is the founder and CEO of Strong Connexion, a human resources consulting firm that has helped businesses and brands understand the importance of diversity in the workplace for nearly three decades. (The company directs plans and training programs for thousands of teams across the country.)
According to Strong, creating diverse teams starts with well-trained leadership.
“Basic leadership principles are so important. When you're a good leader, you are a good leader to all. And leading someone who is different from you takes training," she says.
When it comes to managing diversity in the workplace, “know the team that you're leading: understand the individuals and how they are motivated," Strong says. "Respect the information your team gives you—be mindful of cultural and personal boundaries. Ensure everyone feels like they are a part of the company culture: create connections, foster inclusion and eliminate barriers to promotion."
Leadership sets the standard, Strong says. And her work is proof of it. By building an integrated approach to diversity and inclusion training into the culture of Fortune 500 companies, those companies have seen increased growth, remained leaders in a competitive market and won distinctions for inclusion, proving the immense benefits of diversity in the workplace.
2. Create an inclusive recruitment process.
Katherine Johnson is general counsel and vice president of compliance and people ops for Storj, a provider of distributed cloud object storage. At Storj, the importance of diversity in the workplace is paramount. In order to build teams that boost business, diversity must play an active role from the start, Johnson says.
“Building a diverse team starts with the recruiting process. If all your inputs yield cis, white, male candidates, those you hire will ultimately be candidates with the same background," she says. "You must go beyond telling underrepresented candidates that they should apply. You need to actively seek out these candidates."
Johnson admits that recruiting candidates from underrepresented groups often takes more effort. However, her experiences show that doing so is critical.
“One of the biggest fallacies is that when a company takes steps to build a diverse team, they lower the bar," she says.
"By striving to build a diverse team," Johnson continues, "we've actually been able to raise the bar and make our company more successful. By making sure all people feel included, we broaden perspectives—as well as our candidate pool—to ensure we have a top-notch team that also represents our community."
The teams at Storj are building a global platform across 10 countries. Hiring individuals with different perspectives and insights is crucial to success.
3. Amplify their voices.
One of the biggest challenges of diversity in the workplace is retention. Companies may get candidates from underrepresented groups through the door, but they may struggle to keep them.
“Inclusion and belonging are equally important as diversity," Johnson says. "Without these, efforts to build a diverse team can't succeed because of your risk of attrition."
Max Masure is an inclusion strategist and co-founder of Argo Collective, a consulting firm that equips teams with tools to build inclusive cultures and products. (Masure’s pronouns are they/them.)
Noting a gap in the market when it comes to recognizing those who identify as trans and gender non-conforming, Masure set out to help teams recognize the importance of diversity in the workplace.
To address the challenge of retaining diversity in the workplace, they emphasize that leaders must “amplify minority voices." They recommend providing support to new employees through mentorship with senior leaders, allyship within the company culture and a commitment to empowering the quietest.
“Encourage meeting spaces where everyone has the opportunity to share thoughts," they suggest. "Many people who seem quiet are very observant. It's in your interest to hear what they have to say."
Masure also notes that inclusive language, like using correct pronouns, is key, offering this suggestion:
''At the start of a meeting or during casual introduction, ask everyone for their pronouns. This establishes inclusion from the start."
Building a diverse team starts with the recruiting process. If all your inputs yield cis, white, male candidates, those you hire will ultimately be candidates with the same background.
—Katherine Johnson, general counsel and vice president of compliance and people ops, Storj
Managing diversity in the workplace requires leaders to look at their teams through a different lens than their own. Successfully creating inclusive environments and a sense of belonging attracts the kind of diverse teams that can improve business.
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