Why Diversity Matters in Today’s Corporate Culture
Is tension always bad? We tend to think so. But healthy tension can be productive, allowing for conflict and its resolution, challenges and their solutions.
Diversity creates healthy tension when it’s managed and supported appropriately allowing for ideas to be shared freely and with candor. Differing perspectives give rise to evaluation of our own ideas and biases, which can feel uncomfortable and challenging. Becoming open to different viewpoints requires us to leave our comfort zones and consider new ways of achieving goals, moving on from the way we’ve always done things. Stagnation in approaches or guiding principles plague both people and organizations alike. When organizations have a healthy culture of candor, trust, belonging and openness, each person can give voice to their views and invite the opinions of others for consideration. It is in this culture, and through a process of examining what is absolutely necessary to achieve business goals, that each person can move from their own individual perspective into a third and mutually agreed upon space at work. This is where two ideas meet to become the best solution. Diversity and inclusion enable the meeting of different viewpoints without any repression or relinquishment of individuality.
As a parent of young children learning mathematical concepts, I think about the different ways we work with numbers and what they mean beyond equations. Division creates separate groups. Addition creates one united group. In this way, I view addition as stronger than division. We are stronger when we have disagreements about issues but seek to find mutually beneficial solutions together, as a group. We are stronger when we acknowledge hurt and suffering to heal wounds together, as a team. Organizations cannot function at their highest level when they are divided against themselves with infighting, turf wars and exclusions from access, promotions and advancement.
The question becomes: What does an organization look like when diversity matters? In a company where Diversity & Inclusion efforts are successful, we would see higher representation of non-majority team members, including women and BIPOC at all levels of seniority, in all functions and in the talent pipeline. We would see increased company financial performance and customer satisfaction. We would see increased candor leading to better and faster decision-making. And that’s just the start. Based on the many organizations with which I’ve worked, and those with significant D&I programs that publish their results, we see positive changes like:
- More highly developed business skills among team members
- Stronger team member performance scores
- Better team member ability to embrace change and differences in colleague work styles
- More collaborative working relationships across business segments, geographies and functions
- Lower attrition of key talent
- Higher levels of trust among colleagues, as evidenced by reduced CYA activities, fewer meetings required to move projects forward and less personal agenda-driven correspondence
What are the daily behaviors that foster an inclusive working environment and lead to superior business outcomes? In my corporate engagements, I see success with practices like:
- Managers asking for candid team member input, rather than only providing top-down feedback, and using what they hear to improve processes.
- Consistent review of performance ratings to see employee evaluations are fair across demographic differences.
- Recruitment of candidates from diverse talent pools with evaluation of their skills against job requirements.
- Fostering a culture that encourages mutual adaptation of all members of the organization instead of requiring certain groups to assimilate or conform to the preferences of a few,
- Ensuring all members of the organization are performance managed, coached and provided increasing levels of responsibility,
- Examining external relationships to ensure that vendors and partner organizations are diverse and strategically aligned to both support the company’s mission and provide access and opportunities for team members.
Creating an environment with a culture of healthy tension isn’t a “nice to do” effort. All team members should be encouraged to remain authentic, collaborate and achieve while being challenged and tested by new ideas and perspectives. A diverse culture is a top-line benefit to your organization that has implications for not only your current workforce, but also your future employees.
Diversity matters because when we work together effectively, we achieve more collectively.
Are fresh voices and ideas emerging in your organization? Ensure that they do.