Not only does workplace diversity enrich a company, with today’s globalization it’s just plain smart. Solid organizations are reporting that embracing diversity gives them a stronger footing in the marketplace than others; that it brings out creativity and innovation, and even enhances productivity and staff retention. For some leading firms, it’s the secret sauce for success.
A Forbes study polling 321 enterprises with more than $500 million in revenues reported that 85% agreed or strongly agreed that diversity is key to driving innovation in the workplace. The Center for American Progress also reports that in an increasingly competitive economy where talent is crucial, “pooling from the largest and most diverse set of candidates is increasingly necessary to succeed in the market.” Ford Motor Company’s diversity makes them “better” and “stronger” by “bringing in fresh ideas, perspectives, experiences and life responsibilities, and by fostering a truly collaborative workplace.” Indeed, this top ten Fortune 500 company hails more than 200 awards recognizing their diverse and inclusive culture.
So what is workplace diversity? It encompasses the inclusion of people across racial, cultural, age, gender, and sexual orientation lines; as well as people with disabilities and varying socio-economic and religious backgrounds. Embracing the unique contributions each part brings to the whole makes for greater problem-solving, productivity and adaptability to change. As it generates respect and equality within the organization, it also enhances the company’s relationship with, and responsiveness to, the local community and beyond–ultimately helping the bottom line.
Geting started, and a tip from Ford: If you’re ready to expand your company’s horizons, diversity trainers can help develop recruitment and retention strategies and break old mindsets that hinder progress. For example, think about how many movies, TV shows and ads cast their main talent as white/Caucasian, adding just a token “ethnic” person in a supporting role, or only in the background–and worst of all, negatively or ignorantly stereotyping them. Whether intended or not, bias, fear and exclusion have been perpetuated through all forms of media since their inception, influencing generations of people and business leaders who might otherwise be more embracing of others. From the C-suite to support staff, it is not uncommon for a diverse hire to leave or dismiss a job because of perceived biases and cultural breakdowns. When diversity trainers help open the lines of communication and collaboration, everybody benefits, because diversity is more than adding a token touch of “color” or estrogen. It is about proactively engaging a variety of others, instilling an attitude shift that enhances personal and professional growth at all levels. At Ford Motor Company, inclusion involves engaging “all employees deeply, thoughtfully and broadly… respecting each other and listening to each other… one global team working together,” according to CEO Alan Mulally. “The closer you get to their emotional and intellectual roots, the better you’re going to communicate with them.” Making the business case for diversity, he states, “the only way to satisfy diverse customers is to include their perspectives inside the company. This is especially true for Ford, because we probably have the most diverse set of customers in the world.”
By Marisa Arbona-Ruiz