Best practices for bringing diversity, inclusion into your company
As humans, we naturally seek out others who are just like us. They’re easier to predict, understand, and get along with. In business, we often tend to (even subconsciously) avoid those who have different ideas or perspectives. This can create a work environment that lacks diversity. And in an ever-shrinking world, businesses without a diverse perspective or an openness to new ideas and points of view risk falling behind.
Diversity, by definition, is the existence of similarities and differences—both visible and invisible—found in our workforce, workplace, and throughout the markets we serve.
Smart businesses can learn from an entrepreneurial mindset.
Baltimore’s entrepreneurial community tends to be more forward-thinking, enterprising, and open to risk-taking than traditional businesses. So these entrepreneurial thinkers also tend to lead when it comes to bringing diversity and inclusion into their businesses. Knowing how to look beyond the obvious, to leverage differences, to capitalize on what others can—and, often, more importantly—can’t see are some of the driving forces behind a truly successful entrepreneurial spirit.
A diversity-centric mindset is critical for business success today. But it goes far beyond simply color and race, according to diversity and inclusion practitioner, author, and speaker Chevara Orrin. In a recent workshop with the Baltimore chapter of the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO), Orrin shared that diversity fosters creativity to generate the best ideas from people at all levels of an organization. Diversity of thought, perspective, and experience provide businesses with a real competitive advantage. Consider:
• Companies that prioritize racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry averages.
• Companies that prioritize gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry averages.
• Companies in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnicity and race are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than the average companies in their data set.
What does diversity mean to Millenials?
We can’t talk about today’s workplace without mention of Millennials. By 2025, the Millennial generation will occupy 75 percent of the nation’s workforce. And surveys show that 52 percent of Millennials feel it’s important that their values align with the brands they support. This holds true for where they work, too. Employers must articulate and demonstrate the values that align with Millenials if these employers expect to hire and retain the best Millennial talent.
Diversity is far more than how we look or act. According to a 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, only 17 percent of Millennial respondents mentioned an aspect of demographics, lifestyle, or faith when asked what the term diversity means. For survey respondents, diversity includes:
Tolerance, inclusiveness, and openness (18 percent)
Respect and an acknowledgment of the individual (17 percent)
Different ideas or ways of thinking (14 percent)
Less specifically, many spoke of how diversity involves a spectrum, a variety or mixture of multiple facets or, more simply, “differences.”
The Deloitte study also found that along with age and gender inequality, diversity of educational background (types of universities/colleges and degrees) was considered something that businesses, in particular, should address. Indeed, more people said that their own employers, rather than society in general, should be addressing educational (39 percent) and age inequality (34 percent)—one more indication of young people’s belief that businesses play a crucial role in helping to improve society as a whole.
Today, business success means much more than simply a healthy bottom line. No matter your business’ appetite for forward-thinking and Millenial attitudes, there are measurable benefits to providing a more diverse, inclusive, entrepreneurial culture. These include improvements in:
• Financial and business performance
• Customer connection and market share
• Innovation and group performance
• Talent performance and breadth
• Retention and ROI on talent
So what are business leaders to do if they truly want to up their game with regard to diversity and inclusion? They do what great leaders typically do when they want change...
• Lead by example. Hire a more diverse workforce if you want a more inclusive culture.
• Tell your diversity story. Be deliberate in the images you choose and in the language you use in branding your organization, job postings, and social media.
• Change your recruiting tactics if you want different outcomes. Try blind interviews or interviews via email to determine best fit in a way that won’t be impacted by unconscious bias.
• Look local. Start internship programs or recruitment efforts with minority educational institutions.
• Put your money where your mouth is. Invest in unconscious bias training and diversity training to show existing staff that you are committed to change.
If Baltimore’s business leaders do not intentionally and deliberately include, they will unintentionally exclude. For a thriving workforce, culture and bottom line, we simply cannot afford to be left behind when it comes to bringing diversity and inclusion into our companies.
David Quinn is the President of the Baltimore Chapter of The Entrepreneur' Organization (EO). EO is a global peer-to-peer network of more than 13,000 influential business owners with 188 chapters in 58 countries. Founded in 1987, EO is the catalyst that enables leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow, leading to greater success in business and beyond. Membership in EO is exclusive and by invitation only. To qualify, an entrepreneur must be the founder, co-founder, owner, or controlling shareholder of a company with annual gross revenues of US$1 million or more. Find EO online at www.eonetwork.org.