It’s now well documented that diversity is a key to business success. There’s a bunch of great facts backing that. For example:
McKinsey noted in a report they released in 2015,
Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
The quoted diversity metrics are positive but seem to cover a fairly traditional scope. Typically, organizational diversity officially encompasses people of color (aka not white) and women. But why is that diversity so helpful to the bottom line? These populations being in different perspectives than the traditional white, male leaders of most organizations. And that’s helpful information. How could companies succeed better if they widened their definition of diversity even more? How about including more diversity? How about changing our own personal definitions?
For understanding real diversity, let’s analyze the typical organizational leader. They are typically understood to be: male, white, CIS gendered, straight, graduated from a top school, middle class to upper class background, typically have an MBA, from the country they’re working in, extroverted, lacking a disability, did really well on standardized tests and think that way, have deep experience in whatever industry they’re leading, are baby boomers, Republican or a Moderate Democrat, and Christian. So with that analysis, there’s a whole lot of color being missed. Why not redefine diversity to include:
Various generations, various sexualities, more than just female genders, other fields of study, people who got experience outside of the classic top school formula, those from other types of degrees, are of different religions, and politics. AKA making sure that our teams aren’t just a reflection of ourselves?
What do we hire on? I’m gonna say values. Good, solid corporate values matter more now more than ever. Really well defined values can help your populations find commonality beyond their age, gender, academic background, socioeconomic class, and schools of thought.
Another ramification of this is learning about other populations and viewpoints of populations different than our own. Some places I like to learn about other populations include:
- Lindsey Pollak, who is a female, white Gen Xer writing about Millennials and other generations in the work place. I liked this article she posted about what’s really going on with Gen Z (it’s not what folks think).
- Reading about other’s experiences being what they are at work. I personally got a lot out of this HBR article about being a black woman in the workplace.
- Watch this TED talk about introverts (I’m an extrovert and don’t always remember to make space for those who aren’t).
- Read a book about cultural communications. My all time favorite is When Teams Collide by Richard D. Lewis.
And if you don’t have time or the inclination for this kind of research (I realize we don’t all have an undergrad degree that ends in the word “studies”), some basic parameters:
- Don’t assume that everyone you’re talking to has had the exact same experience you have had in life.
- Understand what your privilege is. If you’re not sure what I mean by that, this is a great video that really explains the concept well. (And don’t forget to add the international component.)
- Don’t assume everyone understands whatever slang term you use. Better yet, don’t use non-company slang in meetings with folks you don’t know yet. Slang frequently doesn’t translate across cultural groups.
- Ask anyone who’s been quiet what they think.
- Ask others of different backgrounds from your own what they’d do for a particular communications occasion. And do so in a manner that is discrete and respectful.
- Be open to feedback about your inclusion of others. If someone goes to the length of telling you they don’t feel included because they’re different, hear them out. It took a lot of courage for them to speak up!
Do you have any other blogs, websites, videos, books, other sources, or other ideas for learning more about other groups?