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3 powerful benefits of diversity in the workplace

Written by: the Officevibe Content Team
Updated on: Published on: September 5, 2018 |  Reading time: 9m

There may be no better way for your company or team to live the values of a people-first mindset than through a commitment to diversity and inclusion. And as usual, what’s good for your people is good for your business too. Here’s why.

In our article Diversity in the Workplace 101, we broke down some surprising numbers behind the current state of diversity and inclusion in the workforce and why there’s never been a better time to buy into D&I as a key to your company’s future. Today, we’ll turn our lens towards some of the most unique and tangible benefits you can look forward to when seeking out and embracing differences (of all kinds) within your organization, or your team.

Keep reading to learn:

  • How a good retention strategy is the best recruitment strategy
  • Ways to create faster, more creative, higher performing teams
  • Why diversity creates better connections to your customers.

Benefits of Diversity:

different birds in a nest taking care of each other

1. Make recruitment easier / reduce employee turnover

These two benefits are often listed separately but in reality, they’re one and the same. They’re also a prime example of why diversity without inclusion can’t exist.

We already know that your success as a business hinges on your people, and these days competition for talent is fiercer than ever. As many countries around the world continue to become increasingly multicultural, it’s natural that more and more people are also listing diversity as a major factor in deciding where to work.

According to a 2017 survey by PwC, 54% of women and 45% of men researched a company’s D&I policies before accepting an employment offer. Additionally, 61% of women and 48% of men also specifically considered the diversity of those same companies’ leadership teams. Unsurprisingly, those numbers shoot up even higher when speaking to minorities.

Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance,’ and belonging is dancing like no one’s watching.

Linkedin’s Global Recruiting Trends 2018 Report, referencing Verna Myers

Being able to prove that diversity is embedded in the grain of your organization clearly goes a long way towards helping you find the best candidates for a role. But once those candidates have been recruited, it’s an inclusive company culture that will actually allow you to retain them – which let’s be honest, is really the part that matters in this equation.

It’s on every member of an organization to bring an inclusive culture to life, and while HR and leadership are often responsible for kickstarting that mindset, it’s the day-to-day managers who have the power to make belonging a reality for members of their team. Truly, this is an area where the little things are what matter most. While company diversity initiatives are great, it’s managers who authentically champion equity, build trust within their group, develop opportunities for advancement, and celebrate the value each employee’s differences bring to team objectives that make people want to stay.

And that’s huge – in terms of both optics and resources when you consider the cost of hiring and training a new employee is typically 20% or more of a person’s annual salary.

Genuinely inclusive workplaces create positive internal and external word of mouth for and from the people you’re looking to hire and develop. You gain the benefit of avoiding turnover, which in itself delivers a powerful message about your culture, all while affirming the truth that a good retention strategy is really the best recruitment strategy you can bring to the table.

Tips for managers:

  1. Don’t only talk about work! Get to know your people on personal level. Start your 1-on-1s this way or kick off meetings with a quick round-table of what people did over the weekend to help them connect with each other too.
  2. Show that respect and acceptance are core team values by living them at all times. Create an environment where others are always expected to do the same and facilitate conversations to make sure everyone has an equal share of the voice.
  3. Understand the diverse needs of your employees, based on age, culture, religion, disability, etc. and make sure you accommodate them as much as possible.

2. Build faster, more creative, and higher performing teams

Now that you’ve built up your employer brand and put together a diverse team, what can you as a manager expect from them? As long as you create an environment for them to thrive in, some pretty amazing results, it turns out.

Spark creativity

2 birds on a branch

While it might seem that a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds would automatically bring different creative perspectives to your team, a few studies exist that more directly explore the links between diversity and creativity.

One common theme that emerged is that people with greater intercultural exposure and deeper intercultural relationships become more creative as a result. That creativity stems from the mental flexibility that regular, meaningful interactions with someone from a different culture often necessitate.

The key to getting these results, however, is the depth of those relationships within your team. Surface relationships likely won’t enjoy the same benefits, and that’s just another reason that cultivating inclusivity, belonging, and genuine collaborative connections matters so much for managers at a team level. As the authors of one study published by the Journal of Applied Psychology wisely suggest:

Having ensured an adequate level of cultural diversity for intercultural interactions, the second step for organizations is to nurture close relationships among employees from different cultures.

Solve problems faster

3 birds working together

Not all diversity is as easy to identify as gender, ethnicity, or age. Diversity of thought, or cognitive diversity, is all about getting the most out of different perspectives or information processing styles – and it’s incredibly valuable in terms of the speed and proficiency at which your team works.

The truth is that while you can have a diverse team on the surface, if they’re all trained to think alike when it comes to tackling new, uncertain, and complex situations, there may not be any quick or innovative solutions waiting in the pipeline. In fact, in a study by the Harvard Business Review, teams with the highest diversity of both knowledge processes and perspectives completed their challenges the quickest, while the less cognitively diverse teams either took significantly longer, or timed-out of the exercise all together.

But cognitive diversity has to be actively sought out, encouraged and preserved. Avoid functional bias, by not always hiring “culture fits” for your organization, but “culture additions” instead. Understand also that cognitive diversity can quickly be stifled by the pressure to fit in. So, fostering psychological safety in every team is vital if you expect people to have the confidence to be themselves, bring unique perspectives, and uncover the angle no one else can see. Or as HBR authors Alison Reynolds and David Lewis propose:

…make sure your recruitment processes identify difference and recruit for cognitive diversity. And when you face a new, uncertain, complex situation, and everyone agrees on what to do, find someone who disagrees and cherish them.

Increase team performance

The combination of diversity, inclusion, and belonging has the ability to yield remarkable outcomes for companies embracing these mindsets. As outlined in this study of team performance:

2 different bird looking at each other

A 2009 analysis of 506 companies found firms with more racial or gender diversity had more sales revenue, more customers, and greater profits.

different birds in a nest symbolizing the diverse teams in a workplace

A 2016 analysis of 20,000+ firms in 91 countries show companies with more female executives were more profitable.

different birds together illustrating the benefits of diverse teams

A 2011 study shows management teams with wider ranges of educational and work backgrounds produced more innovative products.

Part of the reason for all this success is because while members of homogenous teams may agree more quickly with one another, arrive at solutions more easily, and feel more effective on the surface – all these things actually tend to result in worse overall performance.

Being confronted with diversity of thought and culture on a daily basis forces us to reframe, reconsider, and rework our approaches to overcoming challenges. And that effort and debate, when undertaken productively and with consideration, is specifically what drives diverse teams to produce better results for their companies.

Tips for managers:

  1. Plan non-work-related activities outside of the office (during work time) that everyone can comfortably participate it. Or try setting up revolving 1-on-1 lunches once a month for team members to learn more about each other’s lives.
  2. Make it ok to disagree. When a unique perspective brings your team a win, celebrate it. It will give that person the confidence to keep speaking up and encourage others to do the same.
  3. Rotate who runs a recurring team meeting. Align on the meeting goals, and then give people the chance to approach it with their own unique spin. There’s something to learn from everyone.

3. Nurture better connections to your customers

In the same way that it’s important for a diverse workforce to see themselves represented and spoken for in your company’s leadership group, it’s just as important for your customers to feel understood, catered to, and represented by your brand whenever they deal with you.

No matter your product or service, diversity exists in your consumer base (and is continually growing) whether it exists in your organization or not. In other words, when it comes to your customers, a one-size-fits-all approach is a thing of the past.

To help put this into perspective, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2060 minorities are projected to make up 56% of the total American population. We also live in digital global economy where people from every culture can find and interact with your business from any corner of the world.

It takes diverse thinking and backgrounds to authentically understand the different segments of your own market, while having the potential to open up new ones, and there’s no better way to do that than by making sure those segments have a voice throughout all levels of your own workforce.

And while a common refrain is that companies have a hard time finding diverse candidates for certain roles, initiatives exist that are working hard to make sure that’s not the case forever.

For example, while the design field continues to thrive, minority representation of Black and Latinx professionals in it remains low. Non-profit group, the Inneract Project (IP) points out that Blacks and Latinos currently account for only 6% and 10% respectively of all design school graduates, versus 52% of Whites.

Their solution? Create a more diverse community of designers in tech by starting early and connecting underserved youth to a pathway of skills, resources, and opportunities necessary to one day work in the field.

The depictions we see on TV, in ads, apps, and design across the world […] shapes the way the world sees and forms opinions about race, ideologies, and life – and more importantly, the way marginalized groups see themselves. Diversity in design is a big deal.

Inneract Project founder, Maurice Woods.

And this all goes back to connecting with your customer. The more your customers have the opportunity to see themselves authentically represented within and by the brands they come into contact with, the more they’ll be able to relate to those brands, driving meaningful connection and better business results.

Just as importantly, they’ll also see clearer pathways for themselves professionally, creating a more diverse pool of candidates, and making recruitment easier for companies in the future.

“It’s one thing to tell an underrepresented kid they can grow up to be whatever they want,” underlines IP community partnerships manager, Ieeshea Romero. “It’s another when that kid can actually see designers like them working in the field they’re interested in, making good money.”

Get everything from understanding to action planning in our full Diversity & Inclusion content series.