The topic of workplace diversity is getting heavy rotation for good reason; there is a tremendous amount of work to do. According to recent Bersin by Deloitte research:
“71% of surveyed organizations aspire to have an inclusive culture, but only 12 percent have achieved this objective. The research suggests that organizations should consider a new way of thinking about diversity and inclusion to build a successfully inclusive culture.”
In following Josh Bersin’s advice, I’ve been thinking. In fact, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about why this is not just an important topic to discuss, but a critical business challenge to solve. Unfortunately, what I’ve noticed is that the conversation tends to center mostly around the number of women in leadership roles or the percentage of people of color in tech roles or some black and white measure like that (sorry, not sorry). But to me, distilling the conversation to numbers feels shortsighted. It doesn’t address anything much deeper than why correcting the ratios on paper is good for the corporate rep.
We all know there’s so much more to it.
Diversity does not mean hitting minimum/equal ratios of POC & gender, because that should be a logical by-product of hiring properly in the first place.
Diversity actually means pulling together enough points of view to get out of your own echo chamber and have a chance at building or doing something more people will love or benefit from.
Instead of thinking of diversity as a math equation, we should be thinking about it as a perspective equation. How we can hire and empower enough diverse points of view to reflect our customer base, and in turn thoughtfully build products or services that continually delight or solve their problems?
Here are three compelling reasons why this is a better way to think about diversity:
1. The Math is About to Get Super Hard.
Just when you think you’ve #nailedit, your diversity numbers are going to be sort of useless. The way the workforce self-identifies is changing — fast. What constitutes “racial diversity” is going to keep getting harder to define as the millennials and post millennials pour into the workforce to create the “majority minority.” They are the two most racially diverse generations in our history, and they create the next two generations — so do the math (or don’t, because calculus was hard enough).
“Overall, millennials are 55.8 percent white and nearly 30 percent ‘new minorities:’ Hispanics, Asians and those identifying as two or more races.”
What does this mean for your diversity recruiting? It means you should stop asking about race — it’s not a useful question and just asking it in the first place is asking for bias.
2. Your Customer Tribe S̶h̶o̶u̶l̶d̶Must Be Your Hiring Vibe.
You can’t serve your customers if you can’t relate to them.
Just think about the diversity of your customers for a minute. The innovation required to keep up with their expectations will change constantly.
What drives innovation? Diversity of thought.
That doesn’t just come from the difference between men and women, or people from different races; it comes from your experiences, socioeconomic factors, education, region, and other life circumstances. There are multiple studies that prove this — this one from HBR explains how diversity beyond gender and race makes a huge difference in innovation.
Bottom line on innovation: A groupthink session in the echo-chamber won’t vet all the different needs, desires, and challenges of your customers. For that, your team make up will need to reflect your customer make up.
Or, as Tristan Walker, the Founder and CEO of Walker & Company puts it (better than I do):
“The diversity of our employee base should reflect the diversity of our consumer base… the ideas that are coming from this very diverse employee base are going to be very relevant and authentic to the folks we are trying to serve.
A lot of the folks we’re competing with aren’t diverse al all. The bet is, who’s gonna win over the long term when this country is a hell of a lot more diverse than it is today? And the world is more diverse than people actually think it is. So for us, our company make up is our strategic advantage. That’s very hard to compete with.”
3. Trust Issues.
If the two reasons above weren’t compelling enough, let me appeal to your shareholders.
Consumers care about the values of your brand, the integrity of how you source and build products, the diversity of your workforce, and the fairness with which you treat your employees. What’s more, they won’t hesitate to wield their spending power to make sure you understand the importance of getting it right.
But here’s the tie back to diversity: Your customers have trust issues.
According to the Edelman Trust Index, people now trust someone like themselves more than they trust a technical expert — and certainly more than they trust a CEO.
So if your customers can’t relate to anyone inside your company, what makes you think they’re going to trust what you say about your values … or the sustainability of your sourcing … or the diversity of your workforce… ?
You see where this is going.
If the above three reasons for thinking differently about diversity have resonated with you, let me leave you with a few execution tips. These can help you remove bias, increasing your success rate for hiring people that come from different perspectives: