Inclusion and diversity should matter a lot for any growing business, and not just because of legal compliance issues. Here’s how diversity benefits you.
Inclusion and diversity should mean more to any growing business than just legal compliance. Diversity can help you grow by allowing your business to access the best talent available, since selecting from a wider talent pool is clearly better than selecting from a narrow one. It also helps you better understand and reflect your customer base by promoting customer-centricity in your organization; driving innovation, as diversity is a key catalyst for innovation; and better engaging all your relevant stakeholders, from employees to investors to customers.
The Benefits of Inclusion and Diversity, Beyond Legal Compliance
Your business should be thinking about inclusion and diversity beyond just legal compliance or simple “fairness” issues — it can be a strategy that enhances your business. Here’s how employee diversity adds value:
1. Customer-Centricity and a Deeper Understanding of Your Market
The demographics of the U.S. are clear: We’re becoming a more diverse society over time. Women and minorities are becoming prime drivers of the national economy, and so can’t be ignored in your hiring. As an Entrepreneur article, “The Myriad Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace,” explains it, “When your workplace is home to a diverse group of individuals from different backgrounds and experiences, your company can more effectively market to all groups of consumers.” When your employees don’t reflect the market you serve, there’s a disconnect that can leave you flat-footed and tone deaf in terms of meeting your market’s needs. This disconnection can kill any business, and fast.
2. Diversity Drives Innovation
The research is clear: When you put people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse skills together in the same place, forming diverse teams that approach challenges in a cross-disciplinary way, you can create new ideas and drive the kind of innovations that will grow your business. As bestselling author and business innovation expert Stephen Shapiro explains it, diversity is a catalyst for new ideas. “Diversity can create incredible value for an organization,” he says. “It can help facilitate the innovation process. It can help increase the quantity and quality of breakthrough ideas.”
3. Diversity Increases Your Pool of Talent
Talent comes from everywhere today, from across the street to across the globe, so you need a strategy to access that talent no matter where it is. When it comes to hiring your most important assets — people — the wider the net you cast, the better your chances of attracting the talented people you need. And the more diverse your business already is, the easier it will become for you to hire, on-board and continuously engage diverse talent. It becomes a virtuous cycle.
How do you reach out to diverse communities in attracting job candidates? First, use your existing employees as ambassadors, asking them for referrals or to otherwise tap into their social and professional networks. Next, do outreach to diverse groups. As the Wall Street Journal suggests, “Talk to local organizations with community connections, including churches, cultural institutions and colleges. They can help you connect with [diverse] candidates.” Develop and leverage those connections with diverse individuals and groups to keep expanding your talent pool.
4. Being a Diversity Leader Can Help Your Brand and Image
Business leaders understand that differentiation is a core success factor for any business. While having different products or offering different services is a focus for strategic differentiation, your diversity efforts can also help you stand out from market competitors — not just with customers, but with potential job candidates, too. When you embrace diversity and leverage its many business benefits, you can attract more attention and good will in your markets. Your very efforts to embrace diversity and difference can define the way your market perceives you, enhancing your brand and business image.
Diversity can be a driver of business success, as the four benefits described above make clear. We live in a changing business landscape, and diversity gives you some of the agility you’ll need to be ready to adapt to today’s changing markets and demographics. Hiring the same kind of people who look and think about the world in the same way — who always come up with the same ideas for emerging business problems — sounds like a great formula for business failure. Being ready to embrace diversity and new ideas is one way to drive business success.