Many companies nationwide have stated a commitment to diversity, yet that commitment, and how it’s exercised in the workplace, varies. One way to uncover a company’s true understanding of diversity is to visit their website and review their statement on diversity and inclusion. Check to see if the company has a page dedicated to diversity efforts, programs tailored to those efforts, and departments or executives leading those initiatives.

Much of what is (or is not) found there identifies why diversity and inclusion strategies are important for business success. As individuals and as organizations, it’s important to understand that decision-making is best served when there is a diversity of input in the process. That’s where inclusion comes in — because diversity alone is not enough. Once our personal understanding is deepened, we can move forward in our efforts to impact others.

This approach can be effective from the top down as well as the bottom up. If our presidents and CEOs are expanding their understanding alongside individual contributors and middle management, an organization can work toward a healthy and productive environment together.

The United States 2010 Census projected that the U.S. population will be more racially and ethnically diverse by 2060, and current demographic trends suggest the same. As our nation becomes more diverse, businesses and organizations should move in the same direction. Your goal is to reflect the populations you wish to serve.

But why should we pay attention to diversity and inclusion efforts in business? Why should this be a main topic of discussion as businesses are developing strategies in our ever-changing economy? Let’s look at a few reasons:

 

  • Diversity will increase the bottom line. One business case for this comes from McKinsey & Company, a trusted leader in global management consulting, that has developed research and initiatives on the topic of diversity in the workplace for years. In “Diversity Matters,” published in February 2015, they reported many reasons why diversity has a positive impact on productivity. In research of 366 public companies, key findings showed that 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. On the other side of that scale, companies in the bottom quartile, both for gender diversity and for ethnic and racial diversity, are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than the average companies in the data set. Those companies are falling well below the power curve.

 

  • A commitment to diversity and inclusion efforts assists in cross-cultural promotions. If we know the goal is to increase business productivity, then marketing across cultures in a responsible way is important. It’s imperative that any business venture or marketing initiative be free of preconceptions about what others value — respect cultural language, gestures, context, and even how people negotiate or approach new opportunities.

 

  • Recruitment and retention of diverse talent is instrumental to achieving many multicultural business goals. This is a two-part objective. It’s important to have recruiting initiatives that focus on getting more people from underrepresented groups in the door, but doing that alone will not serve a company well — a simultaneous effort must be made to ensure that talent is retained. Executives should ask, “How can we ensure upward mobility for our diverse talent and not stagnation in long-term positions?” and, “How can we ensure that our diverse talent is being heard around the table when key decisions are being made?”

 

What questions will you pose in your next staff meeting? How can diversity and inclusion strategies help improve your organization’s culture and performance? If you need help, reach out — I’m excited to do this work with you.

 

Nikki McGruder is the regional director of Diversity Awareness Partnership – Columbia.

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