How to Drive Organizational Performance with Diversity


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Monday, July 13, 2020

Diversity is a necessity if you want to succeed as an organization. Find out how it can improve the workplace, and how you can harness it to boost performance.

Article 4 Minutes
How to Drive Organizational Performance with Diversity

Diversity in the workplace is something that every organization should strive to achieve. However, evidence suggests that many businesses are ages away from crafting a genuinely inclusive work environment. Not only is this disappointing, but it also holds these companies back and prevents them from performing at an optimum level.

Despite years of acknowledging that diversity needs to be reflected at all levels of a business, white men are still disproportionately in positions of power. Out of all the CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, there are more people called “Steve” or “Stephen” than there are women, and 59% of companies in the FTSE 350 don’t have a single director of color.

The same picture can be seen in the US, with black CEOs accounting for less than 1% of Fortune 500 leaders. In fact, over the last two decades there’s only been a single black female CEO. It’s clear that companies are failing to diversify, which is only going to hold them back in an increasingly inclusive world.

How can diversity help you succeed?

There are clear, tangible benefits to fostering a diverse workforce. Some of these are simple. But by not creating an inclusive environment, it can become hostile to minority groups. As a result, people will either leave or not want to work for you in the first place, causing you to miss out on top talent. This has been observed recently within the scientific community in the UK.

But beyond that, diverse workplaces have been proven to be more profitable and productive. Demographic variety leads to a wider range of backgrounds, which in turn creates differing points of view. This is essential for problem-solving, innovation and decision-making.

Diversity and inclusivity also lead to a better workplace culture, which is crucial for many organizations.

“It is clear that more and more businesses are subscribing to the mentality that a happy workplace is a productive one, with the majority of leaders actively seeking to improve culture. Focusing on enhancing diversity and inclusion is one way to achieve this.” - Matt Weston, Managing Director of Robert Half


Focus on inclusivity

Many organizations are realizing that diversity in itself isn’t enough. Simply hiring a varied workforce and leaving them to it won’t have much impact if you're not focused on promoting inclusivity; in other words, ensuring none of your employees feel unsafe or unsure about displaying aspects of their culture or who they are.

This is something that has to be incorporated into every level of an organization, with all employees understanding the importance of inclusivity and the behavior that’s expected of them. However, to achieve this, senior management must fully understand exactly what inclusivity is, which can be difficult. For example, encouraging employees to feel like one big team can lead to conformity and pressure diverse workers to align with the majority.

The CIPD identified several key aspects of inclusivity that organizations should adhere to. These include valuing employee uniqueness and providing them with the ability to be authentic in the workplace. The overall aim is to allow workers to feel a sense of belonging without the pressure to conform to the culture of the majority.

Examine inherent biases

To truly drive organizational performance with diversity, managers need to make sure they're attracting the best diverse talent available. This means examining biases that probably aren’t obvious, but can cause candidates to avoid applying for jobs. For example, inclusive language is largely missing from job adverts, appearing in only 13% of cases.

Non-diverse language can be hard to spot at first. For example, the use of words like “aggressive” or “demanding” in job adverts is more likely to put off female candidates. Then there are more obvious instances, such as referring to a hypothetical candidate as “he” or “she”. In all cases, these can make prospective applicants feel unwelcome, and cause an organization to miss out on talent.

Another common bias is against employees who speak up against harassment, which disproportionately affects minority groups. Organizations might want to consider alternative complaints systems, such as employee assistance plans, in order to prevent this bias from affecting inclusivity.

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