Inclusiveness, Diversity Matter More Than You Think

Let’s start with a difficult truth about diversity: it is human nature to surround yourself with people who are similar to you. From cultural backgrounds to political persuasions, it’s easiest to feel most comfortable with people who look like and think like you. Similarities often grant a common ground and help establish deeper connections. 

In the workplace—and even in life itself—these tendencies can cause serious damage. When you gravitate toward people who remind you of yourself, you miss an opportunity to expand your mind and elevate your thinking. Just look at the emergence of social media’s echo chambers during the most recent election for a survey case in possible damage.  

Promoting diverse thinking isn’t just about the greater good; it’s also about good business. A recent study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) suggests that organizations with diverse leadership—in thinking style, in culture, in gender, in background—are more innovative, efficient and deliver on average 19 percent higher revenues than those without. A Deloitte studyfound that 72 percent of working Americans say they would leave their organization for one with a more inclusive culture. 

In terms of effectiveness and morale, taking a passive stance on diversity is setting your organization up to fail. Here’s how you can take a more active and effective role to promote inclusiveness:

Diversity Starts at the Top and Extends All the Way Down

While diversity is important at all levels, it starts at the top. 

Company leaders are the ones who shape an organization’s culture and processes. If those leaders all look alike, think alike and share similar experiences, they may inadvertently set expectations or policies that leave certain groups behind.

Maybe they’re not recruiting from a diverse population, or maybe entrance hurdles favor a particular type of applicant. A diverse leadership team is more likely to recognize obstacles and work to remove them.

In addition, a diverse leadership team sends an important message to workers at all levels at the company that there are no glass ceilings and no closed doors.

Recognize Unconscious Bias

Often, managers have the best of intentions when it comes to promoting diversity. They believe in the principles of equal opportunity, and they agree that a truly diverse team is a worthy goal.

Unfortunately, that’s not enough to combat deeply ingrained unconscious biases that seep into workplace environments. From performance reviews highlighting different qualities for different groups to instances where higher-ups choose mentees that remind them of themselves, unconscious bias can have real, lasting and harmful impacts.  

If your company isn’t actively working to recognize and combat unconscious bias, you’re probably suffering as a result.

Expand Your Definition of Diversity

If you think you can look around the room and decide whether your team is diverse based on what you see, you’re wrong.

Diversity is about more than just checking boxes, and it extends beyond gender or race. Those aspects are certainly important, but that’s where your diversity efforts should start, not where they should conclude.

At its core, true diversity is about bringing people together who take different approaches to the same problem. Try thinking about diversity in terms of representing different skill sets. For example, instead of siloing employees based on their main skill set, build teams that include a salesperson, a marketer, a designer and an engineer that work together.

Promote a Culture of Inclusion

Once you’ve successfully built a diverse team, you must take active steps to ensure that each team member feels empowered to speak up. Let each employee take ownership by creating clearly defined roles for each person, allowing them to serve as the true expert in what they do. 

Not only does that approach help with true inclusion, but it also helps with accountability. Defined roles mean that it will be easy to recognize a team member for a job well done. It also helps identify the specific contributions of team members so that you can ensure that you’re promoting based on contributions. 

These tips are just the beginning; fostering diversity is a continuous process. Those who prioritize it will be richly rewarded, now and in the future.

Steven R. Power is Global President of Deputy, which builds employee-management tools.

3 Responses to “Inclusiveness, Diversity Matter More Than You Think”

  1. Anonymous Whiteman

    Nonsense. They don’t do this sort of ethno-masochistic virtue-signaling in India, China, Korea, or Japan, and they’re eating our lunch.

    “Diversity” is a code word for “Get rid of Whitey.” There. I’ve said it.

  2. Dexter

    Steven you’re right on point with multiple comments in this post…many of which I have shared this week. And for many professionals change appears to be defeating, as opposed to an opportunity to elevate.

    As a Diversity and Inclusion Strategist and Speaker, I seek to build up the leaders and professionals emotional intelligence, in order to get on the path to understanding the impact of Diversity, Equity, Equality, and Inclusion.

    Be blessed.

    Dexter A. Coleman

  3. I think your perspective is “coloring” your perception of this post. The author clearly states that you can’t measure diversity what you see and finishes the article by saying, “For example, instead of siloing employees based on their main skill set, build teams that include a salesperson, a marketer, a designer and an engineer that work together.”

    The diversity that this author is talking about includes individuals from different demographic groups as well as skill-sets and judging from the roles that the individuals they showed in the example would have, it’s clear that they also mean thinking styles. Neuro-diversity and age diversity are other hot topics in team building now.

    Complaining that you ought to keep all the control and power and recognition because you are born a white christian male is pathetic. I can’t begin to unpack your statement of “ethno-masochistic virtue-signaling” — this is the only country in the world where Swedes and Italians can be lumped into the same ethnic group by people with no understanding of culture and history. The creation of a false notion of white American culture is absurd. How are folks from the Southwest similar to New Englanders culturally? How are southern people from the Bible Belt similar to folks in NJ?

    This is America and the opportunities should be equal. What people achieve should be based on merit. That’s the American way, right?

    Now regarding your Orientalism India/China/Korea/Japan have VASTLY different cultures: Right now in India there is a great push to increase diversity because they’ve seen how productive it has been in more developed nations. China is struggling because it lacks innovation which is hugely a result of cultural hegemony dominated by the government. In Singapore, they are investing heavily into bringing in more western foreigners to increase innovation and productivity.