By 2055, the Pew Research Center estimates the USA will no longer have a single ethnic majority, which means that creating a culture of inclusion in the workplace is no longer just a fad. If businesses want to survive, it’s an imperative.
Diversity in the workplace goes beyond simple race, ethnicity, and gender. It includes aspects related to educational and socioeconomic backgrounds, political and religious beliefs, disabilities, sexual orientation and more and that are known as cognitive diversity. But the main thing to remember about diversity is that by creating a culture of inclusion and respect, team members also get to expand their horizons significantly and, therefore, enrich your business by inundating it with a plethora of new solutions.
If a company wants to scale up in the long run, they desperately need to be diverse.
A diverse workforce allows companies to brainstorm new ideas, create new concepts, develop new products and strategies. It provides teams with a unique leverage that will encourage employees to share fresh solutions, which will enhance the output and make it stand out from its competitors. Also, a diverse business will have a higher chance of accessing a talent pool that other companies may ignore losing out on great growth potential.
As a female executive trying to carve out my own professional path, I have first-hand experience on how diversity can impact not only a company but a whole industry. As soon as I kicked off my career in the USA, I quickly learned that the best ideas come from anywhere, and when you have a variety resources reflected in your human capital, then you start finding many more new and innovative solutions, which led to bottom-line growth.
According to HBR, cognitive diversity also increases employee performance. During a strategic execution exercise psychiatrist Peter Robertson found that the more cognitive diverse a team was, the quicker and more efficiently it would tackle complex problem-solving. Turns out that homogeneity stifles creativity, as people don’t feel that comfortable being their unique selves and tend to agree with the norm.
It’s no surprise then that McKinsey found that 95% of US public companies with diverse executive boards had a higher return on equity than those with homogenous boards. To put it simply, diversity in the workplace and in upper management equals more money.
That’s why, as Blisser’s CEO, which is from its inception a global company, one of my main goals was to make sure to build us up as a diverse organization. I’ve hired people from Sweden, the USA, Canada and Mexico. We have a 50/50 split between men and women, and we’re also including different sexual orientations. But that are just our first-stepping stones.
Building this kind of culture is not a one-time initiative. It requires continuous effort for its full implementation. It might take time, blood sweat and tears. But when your business cashes in on it, you’ll see it’s 100% worth it.
Creating a diverse company comes with its own sets of challenges.
For starters, you must align your diversity goals with your own organizational goals. Analyze what is lacking in your business in terms of diversity and what you can do to improve it. And then follow through. You may need a Head of Diversity and Inclusion to help you with this, but it’s important to maintain structure and measure its performance each step of the way.
Implementation can be tricky because you may encounter bias from your existing workforce. People are by nature protective and tend to feel more comfortable among their own. So, when trying to increase diversity in any aspect, age, gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, disabilities, political or religious beliefs or even nationality, it’s important to educate your employees on why you are doing this and how it’ll impact them and the company.
Starting by getting buy-in from upper management may be the most effective way to get everyone else on board. If you get managers to understand the importance of inclusion and diversity, then you have a better chance of your ideals trickling down to their teams.
For us at Blisser, it’s important to make sure everyone feels safe to speak up and shares their point of view, and that we do so in a respectful environment even when we don’t agree with each other. But fostering cooperation, from the top-down and horizontally has led us to building a team based on trust and innovation.
However, it’s important to understand that when there’s change usually resistance follows. But don’t let that deter you. Resistance at the outset is quite common, but with time and education, people tend to adapt. So, as a leader, make an effort to educate your workforce and make them feel safe.
In the end, diversity and inclusion is a road that any company of the future will have to get on to be successful. So, make sure not to impose it, but to make the transition as smooth and pleasant as you can for your existing team members.
And remember, being different is good.
Sara Fernstrom, Co founder & CEO Blisser