Feb. 12 2021 06:00 AM

Encouraging diversity in the workplace leads to a high-performance business.

When I was barely 18 years old, I joined the United States Air Force Reserves. As part of that process, I was required go active for six months. The first part was to go through six weeks of basic training at the Lackland Air Force base in Texas. For me it was the first time away from home. Immediately upon arrival, I was immersed in a sea of diversity and uncertainty. Coming from a mainly white section of Detroit, I quickly came to recognize the hidden bias I had unknowingly possessed of other human beings due to their race, creed, color, age, education, abilities, cultural background or location of the world where they had come from.

In my group, we had airmen from the South, West Coast, East Coast, Midwest, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Some of my fellow airmen, no matter what their ethnicity, spoke different languages. As I looked around, I was struck with the impression of how different we were from one another.

After six weeks of living and experiencing each other in this most unusual environment, something magically strange and wonderful started to happen. Our walls of prewired bias, prejudice and misunderstanding started to crumble. When I looked at a fellow airman, all I saw was another human being with a shaved head, dressed in a green fatigues uniform and combat boots, just like me.

Although there were differences, I realized we were so much more the same than different.

Many years have passed since that long “vacation” courtesy of Uncle Sam. But one of the main lessons I learned remains. As a human race, we are so much more the same than different.

When one stops to consider the diversity we have as a human race, this very ingredient strengthens our businesses.

Looking at the research

Today, we are living and working in a global village. Diversity abounds. As you read that last statement, stop and look around at the team in your company.

Do you have a truly diverse workforce? Do you have a diverse management team? If you don’t, it could be costing you money.

Let’s look at some statistics. Boston Consulting Group reports that companies with a more diverse workplace make more money.

They go on to say that companies with a more diverse management team have 19% higher revenue. What would 19% higher revenue do for your bottom line?

According to Josh Bersin Research, “Workplace diversity leads to innovation. Inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market.” Do you have any business challenges that you can’t resolve, i.e., hiring qualified employees? Would having a more diverse leadership team help you come up with an answer to that conundrum? It might.

A white paper from online decision-making platform Cloverpop reported that “workplace diversity leads to better decision-making.” As diverse teams made a business decision, they outperformed individual decision-makers up to 87% of the time when it came to making business decisions.

As I have told my green industry clients, if you are the smartest person in your company, you haven’t hired enough of the right people. With a more diverse set of frontline employees and a more diverse leadership team, as a whole, your decision-making IQ goes up exponentially.

Here is another interesting set of statistics. According to Glassdoor, “Workplace diversity generates higher job acceptance rate. 67% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers.”

In other words, people like to know that the place where they are seeking employment is open minded and accepting of all types of people. They avoid biased or prejudiced employers where they feel they would be treated less than equally. Wouldn’t you? Can you think of the last time you felt prejudice or someone’s bias in a negative fashion? Maybe it was because of your weight, age or education level.

Building business

Here is the last statistic to drive home the point I am trying to make about diversifying your company.

McKinsey reports that, “Companies with a diverse workforce outperform their competitors. Racially and ethnically diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35%.”

Take a moment and think of your nearest competitor. Could you imagine if your company could outperform that company by 35%? What would that be like? How much would that equate to, in terms of dollars and cents to your organization’s bottom line? As a business owner or a member of your company’s leadership team, how would that affect your sense of pride? How about your own personal annual income or bonus for the year?

It doesn’t stop there. One small business owner I was working with shared a comment from one of his clients. “I noticed that you don’t have any employees that work here that are of the same ethnic group that I am.” Think about it. Your customers like it when they see that you employ team members who are of the same ethnic group that they belong to.

Andra Picinu writing in smallbusiness.chron.com stated, “Diversity and inclusion go hand in hand. An inclusive workplace is one where every person is heard, valued and respected. As a manager, you need to prioritize inclusion — not just diversity — to engage and empower your team. A strong diversity and inclusion program can improve knowledge sharing, decrease turnover and increase loyalty.”

Hold a meeting with your entire company. Discuss the advantages of having a diverse team. Cite some of the statistics I have listed above and look for other forms of evidence through your own research. If you need some help in running a meeting like this, let me know, I would be happy to help facilitate it for you.

Conduct a thinking session and ask your team these questions:

1. How diverse are the members of our leadership team?

2. What can we do to make our leadership team more diverse?

3. What can we do to increase inclusion for all of our team members?

4. Are the people on our front lines as diverse as they could be? Why or why not?

5. What do we need to do to increase the diversity and inclusion levels of our front-line employees?

With the right guidelines and initiatives in place, diversity can help power your business’s growth.

Tom Borg is a business consultant who works at the intersection of leadership, communication and culture. As a thought leader, he works with his green industry clients and their leadership teams to help them connect, communicate and work together better without all the drama. To ask him a question please call (734) 404-5909 or email him at: tom@tomborg.com or visit his website at: www.tomborgconsulting.com.