Just because lunchtime at your company “looks like the café from Star Wars” as a former colleague once put it, does that mean you’ve got a diverse workforce? And does having a diverse workforce positively impact a company’s bottom line? Short answer- yes. The case for diversity has largely been made and widely accepted. Diverse teams have proven to translate into higher profits, more innovative solutions, and higher employee retention. But how can companies achieve meaningful diversity?
First- we need to look at different kinds of diversity. There’s the obvious surface-level diversity, a social, bio-demographic and observable set of differences which may be visually readable such as gender, age, ethnicity and marital status. There’s also deep-level diversity, also known as psychological or information / functional diversity which refers to less observable attributes such as beliefs, functional expertise, personality and attitudes. This deep level diversity also positively impacts team performance. When a deep-level diverse team is involved in problem-solving, the divergent thinkers in the room help propel the team to more innovative, bolder and potentially profitable ideas. Apple’s diversity and inclusion website reads “We draw on the differences in who we are, what we’ve experienced, and how we think” – acknowledging the role of deep level diversity at their company.
That said, hiring and placing a “diverse” candidate into a team isn’t going to produce any benefit unless that candidate feels comfortable enough to contribute to the problem-solving meeting or feels confident enough in pitching to a client when the time comes. To ensure active engagement and participation from the entire team, we need to move through diversity and inclusion and towards belonging and equity. Belonging is the feeling of deep connection that employees feel when they can bring their whole, authentic self to work and are accepted for it. Creating a company culture where employees can be respected and celebrated for their differences leads to more productive outcomes.
The other critical piece in this puzzle, is equity. Hiring diverse candidates and making them feel welcome and enabling their participation is easier when employees are ensured of access to the same opportunities, whether it be additional training, education or correcting unequal starting places. While creating a diverse pipeline of candidates and helping them engage within the company helps, they also need to see themselves represented in the upper management of the firm.
This is all to say - hiring employees that look and think differently than your current workforce is an excellent and important starting point. However, it’s what you do next that counts. Candidates need to step into the workplace earning as much as their peers. They need to step into their position knowing that their expertise is respected, their opinions are valued, and that they were brought onto their team because they have something unique to offer the company- not to fill a quota. It is when companies make real efforts not just to hire diverse candidates- but to empower them that they really reap the benefits of a diverse workforce.
The horizon beyond hiring diverse candidates and making them feel welcome is to create a feeling of belonging and designing programs around equity. Within that framework, diversity and inclusion are inputs – more relevant for hiring candidates while belonging and equity are the desirable employee outcomes which ultimately lead to a better bottom line. At Meytier, we’re designing high-tech and high-touch programs to help balance both sides of that equation.