The US workforce is becoming more and more diverse. By 2020, the Census Bureau projects, 42% of California’s population will be of Hispanic origin. Asians will constitute 18% and white non-Hispanics will constitute only 1/3 of California’s 2020 population. Diversity of age within our workplaces will be even more divergent. Add to that diversity of social status, education, geography, and factors such as personality style and thinking styles, and the global business world becomes very complex.
What impact does increased diversity have on workforce productivity and business success? The answer to that question depends upon how well your organization leverages diversity and nurtures an environment of inclusion to ignite high performance outcomes. That’s a mouth full, so let’s dissect it.
Diversity for diversity’s sake won’t result in improved organizational performance. That’s why affirmative action programs, without cultural change, do not work. Only when an environment of mutual trust, respect and appreciation exist intrinsically within the organization will diversity initiatives result in positive business outcomes. When team members value the diversity of each other’s ideas, talents, and experiences and leverage that diversity to find customer-centered solutions, the organization thrives. On the other hand, when diversity fuels negative feelings and exclusion, the organization is choked by decreased communication, energy, morale, and productivity.
In his book the “Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures” Frans Johannson illustrates that some of the most innovative and breakthrough thinking in history occurred when talented people across many disciplines and cultures were assembled in one location and encouraged to cross-pollinate ideas. This kind of diversity, enveloped within an environment of inclusion,
birthed the fifteenth century Renaissance in Italy. The very same environment can energize creativity and innovation in your organization.
In order for 21st century organizations to leverage “Renaissance” innovation and creativity, some key foundational ingredients need to be activated. These include:
• Recruitment practices that expand outreach across diverse pools of candidates, both inside and outside of the organization’s industry.
• Leadership emphasis on embracing diversity and inclusion, in addition to recruiting and hiring diverse candidates.
• Development activities and experiences that position diverse candidates for future growth opportunities.
• Training initiatives that develop skill in managing diverse relationships, including, but not limited to, the traditional affirmative action categories of ethnicity, age, gender, etc.
• Workplaces that purposefully mine diversity of background, experiences and attributes to maximize business outcomes.
Building the right infrastructure for diversity and inclusion is the bedrock for serving your evolving customer base and expanding customer market. Innovation and creativity within your organization cannot thrive without the cultural, relational, operational and strategic skill base that allows individuals and teams to bring their full potential to servicing customer needs. In a world of globalization and customization, workplace diversity and inclusion are no longer a luxury, they’re an imperative!