The Power of Diversity in the Workplace

I was at a restaurant recently where someone flatly stated, “It’s time for us to consider moving because this town is changing…”

While attending a meeting in New York recently focused on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), John Quiñones, from ABC News, shared a heartfelt journey beginning with his early days in Texas radio to landing a spot on television network news.  Being of Latin descent, Quiñones shared challenges in his broadcasting career and provocatively explained how certain situations were handled based on preconceived notions.

To wit, while waiting in line recently to board a New York-bound with a first-class ticket in hand, another passenger said to Quiñones, “…we only speak English is this country…” and told him to go stand in another line. In his words, the comment was based on perceptions.

Today, he hosts a successful show on network TV.

These two situations happened within the last month and are examples of challenges confronting America when it comes the acceptance (and, in some cases, the lack thereof), of individuals from diverse backgrounds.

While on a New York City radio station recently, I was asked to share my perspective on the importance of diversity.  I simply said D&I is not just race and/or gender-based but is rooted in the collection of people, thoughts, ideas, lifestyles, values and beliefs which represent a wide swath of backgrounds and perspectives.  It’s these collection of thoughts which can make a business stronger.

Why does D&I still matter?

The answer is simple, workplace diversity makes sense.  It makes good business sense and is the right thing to do.

According to a global analysis of 2,400 companies conducted by Credit Suisse, Boards with one female board member resulted in higher returns on equity and net income growth versus those without women representation. And a recent McKinsey report of 366 public companies found that diverse and inclusive management teams in the top quartile outperform those management teams with less diverse organizations–specifically, these firms’ were 35% more likely to have financial returns exceeding their industry mean while those firms with gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.

D&I is not “just another training session”, but requires a mind-set and paradigm shift.  It should become the fabric of an organization.  While there are many valuable web-based and in-classroom instructional styles, it’s more than completing a module. It’s an employee experience which truly engages others while encouraging active and respectful conversations through dialogue.  Think of it as becoming a part of the “corporate lifestyle”.  Just as individuals have certain lifestyles based on health and wellness, for example, D&I should become a part of the corporate lifestyle and fabric.

Simply put, it should be lived and breathed by all involved on a daily basis.

Where do you start and how do you make it a part of a company’s lifestyle?

  • Clearly articulate a vision: the vision for the company has to be established at the top and effectively communicated to all employees. It has to communicated in a clear and concise manner.
  • Commitment:   Not only should there be a well-defined, communicated vision, there has to be a commitment.  This commitments starts from the top and should infiltrate all levels of the organization. Ask your team a couple of simple questions, how committed is the organization and how success be measured?  To those not willing to commit, alternatives should be discussed and implemented.  A business should have associates reflecting their overall values and team members don’t embrace them, change should be considered.
  • Empowerment: Are associates across and throughout the organization empowered to participate and make decisions without potential ramifications?  Are all opinions valued and respected and do employees feel as those their ideas truly matter and are empowered to make decisions, where appropriate?
  • Measurement Criteria: A business is measured by its revenues and profits and people are ultimately drive a company’s success. So ask your team, what criteria will be used and how will it be measured? Don’t just add diversity and inclusion measurement criteria in performance objectives, but it has to be more than that. It has to be socialized and embraced beyond the numbers while truly becoming part of your company’s DNA.
  • Constant Dialogue:   There has to be constant dialoguing among internal teams–at all levels. Encourage all to share perspectives, thoughts and ideas on a daily basis. Employees represent various communities and communities are more likely to do business with those representing them–and the way to understand these opportunities, is through open and transparent dialogue.

All employees, people and opinions should be valued and respected.  Your associates live and represent communities served.  In turn, those communities being served have a voice through your employees and have the opportunity to share unique perspectives.  At the end of the day, consumers are generally more likely to engage with businesses whom represent their values and beliefs. In other words, It’s a “win-win” for  all.

Let’s continue to embrace the power of diversity because we will all be better because of it.

And it’s the right thing to do.