A 2013 Harvard Business Review post points out that “companies replete with both inherent and acquired diversity, we find, out-innovate and outperform the competition.”
This understanding that diversity and inclusion are actually essential to building a strong company – and scaffolding good business overall – is still a fairly new idea in the business world. Gradually, more companies are adopting this belief and some are even committing to focused diversity efforts that take on an internal and external role for the company. Companies like Coca-Cola, Starbucks or Johnson & Johnson have public statements about diversity but more and more, you’ll see companies beginning to adopt actionable programs and goals that go beyond an “ethos.”
It’s not enough to have good intentions any longer: companies are expected to be leaders in inclusion, but should also be considering how inclusion can drive business. Having a diverse team with as many perspectives and backgrounds as possible often leads to strength, creativity, and unique problem solving with less blind spots.
To begin building a diversity plan for your company, pay attention to both the internal and external elements required to not only send a message but take action in the right direction.
On an internal level, make sure that everyone on your team understands the “why” behind inclusion efforts and can easily share those same talking points with anyone else that they might meet or discuss the topic with. Develop an internal ethos and embed that stance into your culture so that each employee is reminded that diversity and inclusion are company values and goals. Taking a page out of Coca Cola’s book, make sure that each employee understand that when it comes to building inclusion – it is everyone business – not just part of one person’s job description.
Externally, begin working to recruit more diverse talent by sharing your commitment to inclusion. Your company’s website, for example, should include a segment on culture – and a space to highlight your understanding of the value of inclusion. Enough companies are transparent about their own diversity goals now that it should become a baseline expectation, especially for job-seeking Millennials who are looking for a strong culture fit above many other factors in their job search.
When interviewing, rather than hiring for likeness and comfort, look for areas where there are differences – and see those as opportunities to grow. Equip leaders in your company to prioritize inclusion whenever possible while still hiring for the best possible backgrounds and talent. For many hiring managers especially, this simply requires an adjustment in approach: adding a segment for diversity in background as a “value add” when assessing a candidate is a simple way of practicing inclusion hiring, for example.
Ultimately, developing action and goals around inclusion should be two things: ongoing and shared. Begin the conversation today by bringing your team together to share ideas about diversity and culture. From there, approach your own inclusion initiatives as an ongoing and consistent project that requires fine-tuning regularly. If your company hasn’t put significant thought into a diversity strategy, consider 2015 the perfect opportunity to join the conversation.