When companies first began working on diversity initiatives, the attitude was often more one of checking off a required box than it was genuinely embracing diversity and seeing its value. But times have changed. Increasingly, businesses recognize the value brought by a variety of viewpoints and a workforce that better reflects the world and their consumer base. But there are dangers inherent in treating diversity as an obligation or buzzword rather than a strategy. It’s best to consider the hidden dangers, and proactively address them in order to create a truly diverse business.
Consider these points:
Diversity drives innovation and innovation means survival
When you have people on your team that have different perspectives, business experience and personalities, your business has the opportunity to grow and innovate naturally. There is a Chinese proverb that demonstrates how a culture of diversity may help to balance your business and maybe position you to survive the ups and downs. “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” Those walls may be important, but the windmill may be what truly keeps the business alive and well.
Avoid Recruiting to fit Culture Only
Hiring to fit the company culture has become a popular business strategy. At first glance, it seems innocuous. Add more “suits and scotch employees” if that reflects your culture; look for “hoodies and Red Bull” candidates for your startup. It can mean you are all on the same page and speak a common language. You have similar attitudes and values and can easily work toward common goals. The danger? If your workforce is a monolith, where is there room for diversity? Hiring more people who are “like us” means you never hear fresh ideas or see new perspectives. “Outsiders” are unlikely to be attracted to apply to your business, further isolating you. It can also limit your customer base if people can’t relate.
It’s Not A Checklist – It an Investment
It takes more effort to build a more diverse workplace, but it pays off in the long run. If you are just checking off boxes, talent can end up siloed. Technically, you have hired for diversity, but your workplace is not truly integrated. You place this gender in that job, that ethnicity in another. Take care that you do not see people as types rather than as individuals. The diversity of skills, experience and vision is where the true value lies.
Provide Support To Each Team Member to Draw Out Their Best
For diversity to be a true business strategy, every individual you hire must feel supported and valued. If there is harassment or exclusion, take quick action to address it. Solicit new ideas and welcome diverse viewpoints. If you force people to fit into the same mold as other employees, you will not benefit from the advantages of diversity.
Hidden bias is Everywhere – Be Willing to Address It.
Everyone has implicit bias, but the more enlightened and successful work to overcome them. You may not be aware of your bias, or think that positive bias is acceptable, such as believing a particular race or gender is more skilled in a specific field or job than others. This can be just as damaging because you are not seeing them as individuals.
Partner with a diversity-focused staffing firm
The Panther Group is minority-owned and certified, giving us unique insight into the value of diversity and inclusion. If you need assistance in establishing and encouraging a diverse workplace, contact our team at The Panther Group. We’re here for you!