Thought Diversity and Inclusion
Working with a team of like-minded people may seem like the best thing that an organisation can aspire to achieve. The absence of friction, the ability for all team members to work in tandem, to understand and accept the norm, go with the flow, and generally not rock the boat ensuring smooth sailing.
The above scenario on the surface would be the ideal work environment. However, research has shown that organisations like this tend to be outperformed by those that have teams with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Research has time and again shown that organisations with diverse teams tend to outperform homogeneous teams. This is a no brainer in today’s business world. Homogeneous teams oftentimes tend to have a limited perspective on issues due to the fact that they mostly share similar identities and experiences. It is vital that companies enrich their employee pool with representatives of different genders, races, and nationalities, experiences, and background, in order to enhance joint intellectual potential. This will make for a knowledge-based organisation and ensure that decision making is based on facts resulting from critical analysis. Diverse teams open up the opportunity to challenge basic assumption, encourage joint up thinking and reduces bias within the team.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace, in a global economy makes ‘business sense’. In a world where businesses are operating across borders, importing and exporting goods and services to places that most of their employees have never and may never visit, it is imperative that cultural diversity is a policy issue. Consideration must be given to gender, religion, sexual orientation, race and disability among others.
Boards and managements must be open to actively pursuing a diversity and inclusion agenda. Considering the simple fact that target markets and consumers are diverse, it is imperative that their experiences be represented at the decision-making table. There is no understanding your buyers, suppliers or end-users if you have not walked in their shoes!
7,615 firms participated in the London Annual Business Survey. This was conducted with the UK capital’s executives that asks a number of questions about their companies’ performance. Results revealed that businesses run by culturally diverse leadership teams were more likely to develop new products than those with homogenous leadership. Read more here:
Oftentimes, when we discuss diversity, the tendency is to focus on the benefits of having representation from different races, gender, religion and communities in our teams. This is in fact a vital foundation for inclusion. However, diversity goes beyond that; it is more about the “values, beliefs and thinking”. Our values and beliefs are primarily what differentiates us. They are based on our inherent make up, our environment and experiences. A simplistic view of diversity fails to recognise the fact that people belong to and identify with multiple groups. For instance, sexual orientation cuts across all groups of diversity; gender, race, ethnicity, age, and personality. How these multiple identities interact, and the importance each plays in an individual’s life, is important to their thought process. In today’s global economy, goods and services are becoming predominantly available to markets around the world, hence the need to take into consideration the values, beliefs and thought process of target markets.
Diversity as a core resource
To ensure competitive advantage, diversity of thought must be considered a core resource.
In recruiting leadership roles, it is vital that Hiring Managers are not just ticking boxes. It is imperative to explore the benefits of a diverse workforce. Diversity and inclusion should be measured against an analysis of the organisation’s strategy, current team composition, markets spread and projections and current market position in comparison to top competitors; comparing and measuring their diversity strategy against performance.
Hiring Managers must be able to argue the case for diversity of thought. They must not be closed- minded due to a fear of changing the status quo. To persuade management to be open to this agenda, facts and figures must be presented, benefits to the bottom line must be based on facts, and projections must show a positive outcome for the organisation. Highlighting to management the benefits of a properly implemented diversity and inclusion agenda will make for creativity and innovation, ensuring long term growth.
Stephanie Ryan, Consultant in the Private Sector Division at InterSearch Ireland:
“It is important that management within companies vigorously develop and implement diversity policies and strategies that go beyond documentation and filling. Given the current socio-political and economic environment, companies in Ireland are increasingly looking to engage new partners and suppliers as well as targeting new markets; largely due to the uncertainty around Brexit. To be successful in this agenda, they must be open to diversity, not only as we know it but more so in thought diversity. This is a sure way of encouraging creativity and innovation ensuring that they avail of the vast opportunities that abound in the global economy.”
Small and medium enterprises need to start vigorously exploring the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce. It ensures that they create opportunities to differentiate themselves, create new and innovative products and services, and expand into new markets.
In a nutshell, diversity of thoughts and inclusions creates opportunity for business growth. Recognising that a diverse workplace includes people with different experiences at different levels, as well as different personalities, builds creativity and presents a range of perspectives that may be absent in a homogeneous workplace.
Finally, it is important that developing a diversity and inclusion policy is not the end game. This is a process that must be continuously monitored, reviewed and evaluated. It is vital that HR carry out regular analysis of the impact of their inclusive workforce. This will ensure that gaps and opportunities are identified and impacts are measurable.
Written by Clementina Mustapha
Executive Search Specialist, InterSearch Ireland