How do people respond when you say diversity? If you’re getting eye rolls and long sighs when bringing it up at the office, know this….it’s not them, it’s you.
Only 9% of the population rejects diversity. Because HR and employment attorneys have historically misused this term, workplaces are now desensitized. We’ve long known the advantage true diversity plays in a company’s success. Better results, start with better discussions. Immediately increase the role of diversity in your workplace by eliminating these two words: should and required.
Stop “shoulding” on everyone
There are a lot of things in life we should do. We should…eat healthier. We should…..drink less caffeine. We should….save more for retirement. But, what we actually do is much different. We eat (too much) pizza, cake, ice cream. We treat ourselves to sugary and expensive Starbucks. When someone tells us what we “should” do…..we hate it. “Should” is loaded with judgment and invokes the feeling of being judged. When discussing diversity, instead use words like need, must, critical, vital, and essential. Truthfully, these words are more accurate. Data shows with diversity comes better company performance. Research by McKinsey & Company in 2014 and 2017 attributes diversity to higher profitability. A 2017 study by the Boston Consulting Group found a correlation between diversity and innovation. The Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Index by Thomson Reuters, published annually since 2016 also provides similar insights. Even still, this research does not do the topic of diversity justice. The term diversity is not unique to workplace culture. We talk about diversity in science, finance, and even agriculture. There is a common theme, diversity is a function of survival. Without diversity, extinction and failure are inevitable. Diverse perceptions, skills, and ideas drive success for any company. When talking about diversity in your workplace, are you using the word should, implying it’s a nice thing to do and about keeping up appearances? Or are you talking about diversity as we know it to be….the key to survival?
“Requirement”……code for something you HAVE TO do.
Why do you pay taxes? Most of us pay taxes because we have to. Most of us also don’t see much value in paying taxes. This is no coincidence. When we only talk about the legal requirements and risks of not incorporating diversity, we devalue the concept. We’ve made diversity an obligation. From a compliance perspective, we’re typically talking about protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when we talk about diversity. While ensuring protected classes are not underrepresented in your company is important, diversity does not stop there. Embracing true diversity is to appreciate differences in others – understanding that varying perceptions within a team makes the team stronger. While demographic information may play a part in our experiences and as result perceptions, to say that an entire demographic group has identical experiences and perceptions is ridiculous. The more variety we have in interests, backgrounds, education, experiences, and passions around us – the more perceptions we have to make our group stronger (than any one of us alone). This is the true strength that comes from diversity. It is not about “looking” like you’re committed to diversity. It’s about utilizing our differences (in perceptions and skills) to offset one another’s weaknesses, creating collaboratively for a common purpose. Diversity is synonymous with healthy – so the healthier your company goals and values, the more diversity you will attract. The more you commit to true diversity, the more valuable your goals, purpose, and company. Diversity can be hard to manage because you are deliberately seeking out others to challenge ideas and groupthink. The reason diversity is more challenging to manage however is the same reason it makes a group stronger. The outside world is diverse. A diverse company understands the importance of reflecting the variety of the market they serve. What fails to survive within a diverse company will fail to survive outside of it. Uniform companies made up of biased, like-people lack this advantage. Concepts and ideas pass easily in a like-minded group – but fail when tested in the diverse market of consumers.
Next time you are with your team, look to your left and look to your right. How different are they from you and each other? Do they have the same experience and skill sets? Are they the same age? Do they have similar interests? Are they similarly educated? The more different they are from you and each other, the more likely you as a team are to survive. This is the advantage that is diversity. Who couldn’t benefit from this type of advantage?
About the author
Teresa Marzolph is the Founder and Head People Strategist for Culture Engineered believing success is rooted in feedback. In her career she’s helped both small businesses and large corporations attract, develop, and retain top industry talent through effectively capturing and using employee feedback.