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The Advantages of Diversity in the Workplace

Making the Business Case for Implementing a Corporate D&I Strategy

As we adjust to working virtually during a pandemic, the daily news highlights protests against the racial inequities occurring in the United States and globally. Organizational leaders are forced to reflect and raise awareness of biased, systemic policies and practices that encourage fixed mindsets, dissuade creativity, restrict opinions and reduce healthy conflict. Business as usual as has been upended not only by a resounding cry for anti-racism in the streets but also the call for equitable and inclusive environments in the workplace. Leaders that remain silent and on the sidelines run the risk of appearing complicit in maintaining unjust systems. Their organizations risk losing revenue, customer loyalty, and brand trust.

Diversity and inclusion (DI) initiatives have the power to drive positive economic growth and business objectives. Implementing DI initiatives can disrupt biased cultural norms and create opportunities for hidden talent and innovative ideas to shine in the workplace. A substantial body of research on diversity and inclusion, backing the advantages of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace makes it more critical than ever to adopt a thoughtful strategy to enhance and support diversity in your organization.

Here are three data-backed advantages to make a case for building a workplace that reflects the unique diversity of today’s global marketplace:

  1. Increased Profitability

    Workforce studies document the relationship between diversity and business profitability. McKinsey & Company’s global study of more than 1,000 companies found that organizations with the most gender-diverse leadership teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to create value.

    Organizations with high percentages of ethnic/cultural diversity were more likely to achieve above-average profitability. Conversely, companies with lower percentages of both gender and ethnic/cultural diversity were 29% less likely to experience above-industry average profitability.

    A recent study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG)  supports the positive impact of expanded diversity on a company’s bottom line. The BCG study suggests that “increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance.” Companies that implement even small changes in the composition of their leadership teams will generate financial gains.

  2. Skilled Talent

    Workplace teams must continue to evolve to reflect the diverse, global marketplace. According to a Glassdoor survey, job seekers consider diversity an important criterion when evaluating companies. A focus on developing multicultural and inclusive work environments make organizations attractive to ambitious, global-minded candidates. Attracting and retaining culturally diverse talent offers organizations a broader range of skills and abilities, greater productivity and increased employee engagement.

    Recruitment and talent acquisition professionals are incorporating neutral, non-aggressive language into job postings, to grab the attention of high-potential candidates. Workplace policies are being created to appeal to diverse employees as part of a talent retention strategy. For example, research has found that one of the best workplace policies to retain diverse employees is work schedule flexibility. More importance is placed on a company culture that emphasizes flexible scheduling in order to achieve work/life balance. As a competitive advantage, the use of these talent acquisition and retention strategies allows organizations to be more adaptable, responsive and flexible in operational planning, development and execution.

  3. Decreased Bias

    Sondra Thiederman defines unconscious bias (also known as hidden bias or implicit bias) as “an inflexible, positive, or negative, often unconscious belief about a particular group of people.” Biases in the workplace create obstacles to effective interpersonal communication within work teams and destroy the team’s ability to develop creative and innovative ideas. In the SHRM article, Impact of Unconscious Bias on Diversity and Inclusion, Howard J. Ross of Cook Ross Inc. states that “our knowledge of unconscious bias makes things clear by limiting unconscious behavior patterns that are not restricted to members of any one group.”

    As individuals, Ross suggests we manage biases by telling ourselves the truth about our quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, plus holding one another accountable for biased thoughts, actions and behaviors. Within organizations, leaders must establish inclusion as a core value. This can be a first step in developing cultural norms that encourage safe team environments and open communication channels that allow diverse people to feel safe, speak up, be heard, be authentic and feel valued.

It’s not enough to include people at the table but to amplify everyone’s voices, clear barriers and appreciate each other for our unique backgrounds.
— Rebekah Bastian, Vice President of Culture and Community, Zillow Group

Cultural diversity in the workplace provides significant advantages to individual and organizational growth and learning. It’s become incredibly clear that bringing diverse employees together generates resourceful and inventive business solutions. Candid conversations and open dialogues help to dispel myths, misperceptions and miscommunications among colleagues in the workplace.

For additional information on how employers can take action against racial inequalities in the workplace, watch the on-demand advisory session, “Action in Times of Crisis: Facilitated Discussion About Racial Inequity.